A children's bookshop is working with security staff of a nearby tavern and casino over the growing problem of parents leaving children to read while they gamble.
"If a child becomes distressed we will find out where the parent is and return the child to them," said Mary Sangster, who is office manager of The Children's Bookshop Christchurch, which also owns Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop in Ponsonby, Auckland.
"We work with security people where kids have been left in the shop.
"We will do our utmost for it not to happen because we are not a baby-sitting service."
The stores have a playpen and a train table.
"So children are left playing while they whip out next door or to the hairdresser, bank or the post office. We have seen them come in and say 'you just play here and I'll be back in a minute'.
"Our primary concern is for the good of the child; it's illegal to leave a child unsupervised and we would have liability if anything happens to the child."
Some Auckland booksellers contacted yesterday agreed with a complaint in the Side Swipe column in Monday's Herald from a worker at a suburban mall bookshop, who had found children as young as 4 or 5 years old left in the store, on their own.
The writer asked not to be named or the store identified. But the Herald learned the problem was not confined to that store, which was in a wealthy suburb of Auckland.
Yesterday, Paperplus Meadowbank had this sign at the entrance: "Parents are requested not to leave their child in store while shopping elsewhere."
Store management declined to comment.
Paperplus Remuera had no sign. Manager Scot McLanachan said it was not a major problem for him but he sympathised with those who were giving "a bit of a free baby-sitting service".
"It's a bit dangerous because we can't keep an eye on them but usually parents are not far away."
Tom Beran, of the Booklover stores in Takapuna and Grey Lynn, said parents would go for a coffee nearby.
"We make it clear to them as soon as they come in that the children must sit down and read or play with the toys and if they are not treating the books properly we will ask them to leave the shop."
Dymocks Newmarket floor manager Gail Woodward said children between 7 and 9 years old had been left for up to 30 minutes.
"Usually, the ones left here really like reading and are well behaved."