Stripes Addresses Picture of Employee's Child Handling Cigarettes in Store

Stripes Addresses Picture of Employee's Child Handling Cigarettes in Store

By Geena Martinez

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - A Midland man came across an unusual scene while making a quick stop at a local gas station.

He took a picture and it's making the rounds online. The man, who wants to remain anonymous, said he witnessed a young child stocking cigarettes behind the counter at a Stripes convenience store.

"When I actually looked up, I seen a little kid back behind the counter," he said. "I didn't think much of it but then he turned around and had a carton of Newports in his lap."

The incident happened Thursday morning at a Stripes convenience store off Garden City Highway and Interstate 20.

The man said he was waiting in line when he noticed a young boy handling boxes of cigarettes behind the counter.

"He opened the box up and started putting them in their slots and I was like 'oh, that's not cool," he said.

He admits he laughed at first glance but worried it was illegal. He eventually snapped a picture.

"What got me was that everybody thought it was cute and was working around him as he was stocking these cigarettes and I was like 'yea, that's not cool," the man said. "He's a minor. He couldn't be more than four-years-old."

NewsWest 9 reached out to Stripes for a comment. We're told the child was brought to store by a babysitter as the parent, who is a Stripes employee, was getting off work.

A spokeswoman said the incident was brief and a general manager put a stop to it as soon as they became aware of the situation.

"They grabbed the kid and said 'hey, no you're not supposed to be doing that. Take the cigarettes away from him,' and they pulled him around the counter," the man said.

Still, officials said it shouldn't have happened.

In a statement, Stripes said, "We have very strict policies regarding the handling and selling of restricted sales merchandise and we were appalled and saddened to learn what happened in our store today.

 This is an isolated incident and our management team has taken the appropriate disciplinary actions against the employee who acted on her own and violated the company's policy. We want to ensure our customers that we take this issue very seriously."

As for the man who saw it, he just hopes it doesn't happen again.

"Stripes is a good store. I shop there all the time," he said.