Local Retailers Sell Adult Content to Minors Despite Policies That Say They Won’t
New Jersey (July 25, 2008) – The New Jersey Chapter of the Parents Television Council™ (PTC) released the results of its local Secret Shopper Campaign, which revealed that Toys “R” Us, K-Mart, Target and Circuit City all violated their own internal policies and sold adult games to children. Nationally, PTC chapters found that video game retailers sold Mature-rated video games to minors 36% of the time. In New Jersey, four of the eight stores visited ignored the age restrictions and failed to card a child for adult entertainment. At the Toys “R” Us in Totowa the manager herself sold Grand Theft Auto to a 15-year-old.
“The national failure of these companies to take seriously their role in protecting our youth is appalling. I am ashamed of the retailers in our area that failed our community. Adult games with sexual scenes and acts and extreme violence that the player doesn’t just watch, but participates in should never be near a child. Similar to age restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other products that are potentially harmful to children, parents deserve a reasonable expectation that age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level in our community. Sadly, this is not the case,” said New Jersey Chapter Director Crystal Madison.
“We need meaningful consequences for retailers who ignore their duty to our community. They have internal age restriction policies at every one of these stores, but without fear of penalty these retailers are not taking this issue seriously,” Madison said.
On two separate occasions in the past year the PTC New Jersey Chapter conducted a total of eight Secret Shopper visits as part of over 100 Secret Shopper visits by chapters nationwide. PTC chapters sent children between 11 to 16 years of age to attempt to purchase M-rated video games, which are classified by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as inappropriate for anyone under the age of 17.
The retailers visited have company policies that require that video games not be sold to people outside of the ESRB assigned age classification. The children were told to enter the chosen store, find an M-rated game and attempt to purchase it with cash. They were instructed to never lie or misrepresent themselves during the process. When games were purchased, the adult who had waited outside the store would return with the game and ask for a refund.
Further details on the results of the national campaign are available upon request or at www.parentstv.org. The stores that were visited in New Jersey were in Wayne, Paramus and Totowa. More details on which stores were visited both locally and nationally are available at www.parentstv.org/gr/nj.
The PTC’s national headquarters in Los Angeles has established a direct line of communication with senior executives at Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., regarding the findings of the national Secret Shopper Campaign. Wal-Mart has expressed urgent concern and has promised a swift and thorough review of the age verification shortcomings in New Jersey and at other stores across the country. The PTC applauds Wal-Mart for taking this immediate action.