Cleaning up After Your Child in Fast Food Play Area?

Updated on July 25, 2019
J.P. asks from Sunland, CA
18 answers

Hello mothers

I was at my local fast food play area in the morning with my 4 year old meeting another mother friend. While my child was seating in the high seat in play area she reached for my soda drink while i wasn't looking and it got spilled on to the table and floor. I went to tell the staff what happened and manager handed me 2 wet towels and pointed to the corner and said you can get mop and broom there if you need it. Then she went back to doing whatever she was doing. Basically i ended up cleaning up the table and had to wring out the mop and mop the floor myself instead of manager doing it herself or sending an employee to do it. My friend didn't see any issue with it saying it's "unwritten rule" that if your child makes a mess it's your responsibility to clean it up. I am thinking of filing complain with corp office but decided to first ask other mothers if i am overreacting? Yes it's my child that made a mess but should employee not be the ones cleaning it up? Am i wrong in expecting someone else to clean up the mess that my child made as a paying customer?

edit:i should have mentioned that after i cleaned up the mess and was talking to my friend, another child dropped a drink and mom grabbed the mop and cleaned it up without even going to the staff. So maybe my friend is right about the unwritten rule?

edit2:I feel like i need to clarify my statement and address few replies. I have no problem cleaning table with cleaning towels or even cleaning after my child and myself. While it would been nice if staff did it for me, i did it gladly and would not even made a post if that is where it stopped(i have cleaned tables with a rag many times before sitting down at fast food as they are usually dirty anyway). However the fact that they expected me to mop the floor is what made me a bit angry. Yes i am fully capable of ringing out a mop and mopping a spill. While on this topic, i got sent a link to webpage called thebitchywaiter with title your kid, your mess, no my job. So maybe its a trend?

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So What Happened?

I stopped by this fast food and talked to manager of the restaurant. According to her, they leave out mop, broom and rags right outside of play area for parents to use because many parents like to clean up after their kids. She did also say that they are often understaffed so if parents are capable of cleaning up they should just do it. However she added that if customer reports it to employee, employee should offer to clean it up if parent do not want to do it themselves. I guess if i visit this business, i should be prepared to clean up after my child if there is significant mess including mopping the floor if needed. I guess this is one way to safe on payroll.

Featured Answers


answers from New York on

I worked fast food. Never would I ever point to a mop and tell a customer to clean it themself..
If you do contact corporate about this ask first what the policy is on customers using the mops.(where I worked it was policy to never let a customer touch a mop or any cleaning supplies due to the dangers of chemicals and the liability that comes with that)

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

It does seem odd; I've seen parents help wipe up spills on the table, but not grabbing a mop. Tadpole's response makes much more sense to me. However, perhaps they were really understaffed that day and just couldn't spare someone to clean it up? I wouldn't put much weight on the person afterwards who mopped up their kid's spill. She probably saw what you did and just followed suit. In any case, I personally wouldn't bother reporting it to the corporate office, but that's just me.

10 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes when my kids spilled something on the table I did my best to clean it up, with napkins, and I alerted the staff if anything got broken or the floor was wet, etc. for safety reasons. No one EVER offered me a broom or mop.
Instead of complaining to the corporate office just SPEAK to the manager about it. Why go over someone's head without at least trying to work it out first? And what exactly are you looking for by complaining? I mean if you speak to the manager and you don't like what she says, or what their policy is, just don't go there anymore. Problem solved.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I usually clean up my kids’ messes, but never grabbed a mop before! That’s a new one for me.

From a legal standpoint, it’s in the restaurant’s own interests to make sure the mess, especially a wet mess, is cleaned up properly as it could become a liability if a customer slips and falls.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

ETA: It's interesting to read how other peoples' interpretation of questions can sometimes change how you see the situation.

I would absolutely grab napkins and do my best to clean up a spill on the table. I would never grab a mop or assume that the floor is my responsibility. I'm not above mopping, but I wouldn't think it was my place under these circumstances.

I probably wouldn't complain to the corporate office. Rather, I would go back to the restaurant (ideally, without my child) and ask to speak to the manager. I would just let him/her know what happened, assume it was a mix-up and let them know that they may have staff members who were unaware of policy. I do try to always assume there's been a misunderstanding rather than just complain. It's the kinder way to handle it, and it usually gets the best results. I say try because I really can think of a few times when I went in fuming and didn't even bother being nice. Hey, I'm human :-)

Original Answer:
I have never seen that happen. Both of my kids have spilled things from time to time. I have always done as you did and simply (nicely and apologetically) informed and employee. Never once have I ever been expected to do anything about it. In fact, the employee almost always very nicely says, "It's no trouble at all. I will take care of it for you."

I am not usually the type to complain, but this time I would. That is really unacceptable!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think your attitude is correct as a “paying customer” to the degree you spent. Fast food can be so cheap so unless I ordered a lot, I’d raise an eyebrow but not complain about cleaning up my child’s mess if employees seemed busy. It’s a pretty lousy job. Do I need to make it worse? I also like to set an example for my children to not act like a spoiled princess even if my being a customer justifies it. So two sides in this debate which both have merit. A mop is a bit extreme but I’d not make a big deal of it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My question is: why did you mention the spill to an employee?

I think by telling the employee about the spill, you were acting like you thought it was an emergency, when - to the employee - it was not.

Sort of like saying: "Sir! My son just dropped a fry on the floor. Can you come and clean it up?"

It was still not right to offer you a mop, but I bet the employee was thinking: "calm down,'s just a spilled yourself to the mop if it is stressing you out that much".

One reason that many people have never grabbed a mop in a restaurant like that is because they have never gotten into a conversation with employees that could go that far!

I think, next time a soda spills, just grab some napkins and dry the spill to your comfort level - it's nice to not leave too much mess as a customer - but, beyond that, know that the staff are busy but will mop the floor at their regularly scheduled time.

The only time you need to jump up and talk to an employee is for an *emergency*, like if a glass breaks and then the broken glass could be dangerous.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think parents clean up what they can with napkins and so on. I agree that many people leave way too much stuff behind, not picking up their own trash, and even diapers. Notifying staff is sensible so they see that there is a big spill which will be sticky for the next customer.

But the mop? That's going too far, for several reasons:
1) This is a staff function. It's not fun but it's part of the job.
2) A parent who is mopping is not watching the child, who could stand up in the high chair or run off or whatever. That's an emergency waiting to happen.
3) A freshly mopped floor is a slip hazard, and the staff should put up "caution, wet floor" signs.That's a lawsuit waiting to happen if it's not done right with signage displayed.
4) A food business has standards to maintain per the Board of Health, and they are responsible for appropriate cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces. Letting untrained people (customers) do it instead is most likely a violation and could result in fines.

I'd write to management - but find out whether the individual restaurant is owned by the corporation (with a corporate-hired manager) or by a franchisee (who hires/supervises the staff and meets corporation standards). It might save you some time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

When my child made a mess, I cleaned up. Simple.

Why go to the management to ask them to stop what they are doing to go clean your mess?

Now, "most" places I have been to would not hand me a mop. That could get them in legal issues if someone slipped, fell, or in general these days.. sue happy people are everywhere.

As a paying customer, I still do not expect someone else to clean up my mess. I am no better than the employee who is behind the counter working on food orders.

I think you are out of line to complain to corporate office but then it is the typical behavior seen these days. I am not surprised. You were in a children's play area, not a 5 star restaurant where things are handled differently.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Oh wow. I can’t believe she assigned you mop duty. Totally overboard. There’s a vast difference in napkins and mopping. I have cleaned after my kids more times than I can count. But there’s no way I would be mopping in a restaurant. Unwritten rule? Come on! Your friend thinking you should be mopping because of an “unwritten rule”? I’m gobsmacked! And the other lady did it because you did it, not because of an “unwritten rule.” Make that phone call.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

While I wouldn't go so far as to expect a customer to pull out a mop, I do think it's fair and courteous for the customer to get some paper towels and contain the spill as best as possible, so other customers don't end up slipping, or the mess gets worse. Like tadpole mentioned, I'd be worried about a customer touching a chemical, having a skin reaction, and suing the company, and me, for telling her to pick up the mop. On another note, I think it's absolutely disgraceful when I visit restaurants and find balls of napkins, pieces of meat, smashed sushi on the floor, sugar packs, salt packs and rice all over the seats. I don't care how old your child is, or how many kids you have, have some pride and consideration for yourself rather than proving to the world how self-absorbed, inconsiderate, trashy and thoughtless you are to leave a huge mess behind because "someone else gets paid to clean up tables." Makes people wonder what kind of filth you live in at home.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'd have been a bit surprised too- i've never been in a restaurant where the patrons were expected to clean and mop.

but i can see it- if it's a busy play area, there's probably not staff available to do the constant cleaning that little kids necessitate.

while i do understand being a bit put out, i think filing a complaint in the corporate office is a bit much.

if it's that big a deal, take your kid to a different playplace after you first ascertain if their clean-up policy meets your expectations. or watch your kid more closely.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

When my kids made a mess I always cleaned it up as best as I could. Although depending on the restaurant, usually staff swoops in and insist they help or they do it. The fast food restaurant staff might not have had the time at the moment. I don't think it's fair to ask a server to clean up that kind of mess on top of their normal duties. So, yes, I believe it is an unwritten rule that you clean up after your own kid.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I personally always clean up and will ask for paper towel.

My kids have worked in service/fast food. They do clean up on rotation. So no, they don't come and clean up messes (or a messy table left by customers) each time. ETA: Just asked my kid how it's handled - if someone comes to the counter and says there was a spill/mess, the most junior person goes to handle it. Generally, manager not involved (just counter staff is notified). They would never tell someone to wipe it up or mop it up. That's at a large fast food chain.

You could call and ask for the manager to voice your concern (how I would put it) if you want. If you don't want to do that and go higher, you can contact the regional branch.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

In the end, you get the service you pay for. You were at a fast-food restaurant, not a full service restaurant with constant attendants clearing dishes and tables. Handing you a mop was overboard, but my first thought was "understaffed" and that is exactly what the manager told you is the case. Nobody wants to do the dirty work, I don't blame you for feeling EXACTLY the same as all of us. But running to corporate is too much.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

While it might be an unwritten rule I would still notify corporate about the lack of courtesy employees exhibit. I do find that rude and having been on both sides of the fence, as a worker in a restaurant years ago and a mom kindness always wins out no matter what. Anyone in corporate knows that kindness keeps the customers coming. There are a lot of places one can take their children and a bad reputation will follow them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

While I always clean up after my kids, there's no way I am going to do their job and mop.
I always round up my plates, trays and trash putting them in their respective places.
I try to leave tables cleaner than I found them but again.....I am not going to do the job they get paid to do. That's ridiculous.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

This is pretty funny that you got put on mop duty. Contact corporate office and ask to be employee of the month. I would be more freaked out about wringing out the mop off a fast food restaurant.

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