“She Was Walking to her Car in the Parking Lot When the Unthinkable Happened”

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A couple of you have sent me this ad that is making the rounds:

It was just a normal day at the mall for Jennifer Dellert… until everything went horribly wrong.

Sigh.

 
She had just left the mall carrying her shopping bags, and was walking to her car when the unthinkable happened.
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“I wasn’t parked too far away, and was busy on my phone texting my daughter.
 
“It was about a 60 second walk or so to my car from the mall,” she remembers, “and I kind of had that feeling I was being watched.”
 
Right as she was unlocking her car, a man quickly came up behind her and tried to grab her.
He told me ‘don’t fight, you’re coming with me!‘ as he tried to wrestle me towards his car! I was in shock.” 
 
Luckily for me I remembered I had my Siren Song alarm on my purse, and since I was too scared to scream for help, I quickly reached for the alarm and pulled the pin.
 
“Immediately my Siren Song alarm started just screaming. I mean it was REALLY SCREAMING. He didn’t know what to do! He froze for a second, then ran away like a bat out of hell!” 
“He” by the way does not exist. Nor does Jennifer Dellert. Read the fine print at the bottom of the ad and it says:

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE.

In other words, it’s fiction.

THE STORY DEPICTED ON THIS SITE AND THE PERSON DEPICTED IN THE STORY ARE NOT ACTUAL NEWS. RATHER, THIS STORY IS BASED ON THE RESULTS THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THESE PRODUCTS HAVE ACHIEVED.

Um, like they turned on the thing and it made noise? That’s a result. Then again, so is the fact they attached it to their key chain.

THE RESULTS PORTRAYED IN THE STORY AND IN THE COMMENTS ARE ILLUSTRATIVE, AND MAY NOT BE THE RESULTS THAT YOU ACHIEVE WITH THESE PRODUCTS.

Maybe because the story of a creep coming up behind a woman in the parking lot is one of the laziest story telling tropes around?

It always amazes me, how eager we are to believe the craziest, scariest stories — stories of people being thrown into trunks by strangers.

These stories don’t just sell products, they reinforce the idea that no one is ever safe from the menacing men lurking in our otherwise boring lives. I actually have no problem with a keychain item that makes a loud noise. I have a big problem with normalizing the idea that we need something like this because it’s so unsafe to walk to your car in the Macy’s parking lot.

Fear, fear, fear. People ask what this blog is about and sometimes I say that I’m just trying to point out how we are stuck breathing fear into our lungs all day long.

So don’t worry about Jennifer Dellert. Worry about what happens when we stop feeling safe, ever, anywhere. – L.

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The crime as it didn't happen!

The crime as it didn’t happen!

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41 Responses to “She Was Walking to her Car in the Parking Lot When the Unthinkable Happened”

  1. elizabeth November 14, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Ugh. Just…ugh. No words.

  2. Anne November 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    The fear you talk about underscores the current political results. it is all of a piece, one is not separate from the other.

  3. Reziac November 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    So, everyone gets a personal alarm, and what happens?

    Instead of a mugging and all that screaming, you get shot in the back and voila, no screaming!

    Yeah, progress.

  4. Denise November 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    They should have had her whisked away to a waiting alien spaceship. If you are going to write fiction, make it interesting.

  5. Chris Goosman November 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    A friend of mine was actually kidnapped and forced into the trunk of his car. They indicated they had a gun, but that later appeared to be false. He spent several hours in there while the two kids who did this drove all over town. They made him take cash out of an ATM, but ultimately left him and his car on the side of a highway. He was understandably freaked out for a short time. However, he (and I) took it for what it was: a rare event.

    I don’t think twice about parking in a grocery store lot, and getting bags in or out of the trunk. As far as I can recall, that’s the only incident of its kind in this area I’ve heard of since it happened some 20+ years ago. And crime has of course gone down in this area since then.

  6. pentamom November 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

    Even if this is a real fear, most people now have panic buttons on their car keys that have at least a 50 foot range. Others, or those who frequently have to walk extended distances across otherwise deserted parking lots may wish to invest $80 in this thing.

  7. Beanie November 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    Recently on a neighborhood social site, a woman was advertising an alarm like this. Her pitch was all about fear, and when I called her out on it, she argued with me, saying that kids were getting snatched at bus stops, but was unable to cite any sources. She got very defensive. I couldn’t tell if she really believed what she was saying (she did contradict herself by saying her neighborhood was safe), or if she just was trying to sell something. Either way, I thought her pitch and responses were totally irresponsible on a site that is supposed to build neighborhood relationships.

  8. MichelleB November 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    It makes a noise. So does the panic alarm on my car. I’m pretty sure I could make a lot of noise myself, if I needed to.

    But how does noise make you safer? Either there are people around and the screaming/panic alarm might help…or there’s no one to hear and their magic device won’t accomplish anything.

    I can’t remember where we were (probably the vendor area at the pumpkin patch) but I overheard a woman going on about her latest self-defense gizmo and how she was going to buy more of them as Christmas presents. Because she’d lost the Tiger Lady she bought. That’s the last thing I’m thinking about when I’m out having fun with my children.

    Are these things on the rise? Or am I a hypocrite because I used to own pepper spray. (Got rid of it after I decided that the risk of a toddler getting his hands on it was higher than the chance that I’d ever need it.)

  9. lollipoplover November 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    “I wasn’t parked too far away, and was busy on my phone texting my daughter.”

    I don’t want to victim blame our imaginary victim of the fictitious crime, but behaviors like texting and walking in busy parking lots need to be called out it’s sheer idiocy. Getting hit by a car because that text was more important than paying attention??

    So a scream siren? Why not just carry a fog horn? I have a whistle on my keychain (because occasionally have to ref games). Whistles are fantastic ways to get attention.

    My nieces both attend college in a very high crime area. They love the urban environment but take basic precautions (like not walking with a $600 smart phone, completely oblivious) and are very street savvy. We spoke what they carry for safety- one said a taser. The other has a keychain of pepper spray. I asked if a taser is illegal and she said, “Yeah, but so is mugging.” Point taken.

  10. Suz November 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    I did carry pepper spray when I worked in a county jail in a rough part is town. I worked a very early shift and it was still dark when I parked and walked a long block. It was because 2 nurses had been robbed in this parking lot earlier. I don’t carry it anymore. Just be aware of your surroundings and be confident. I’m not afraid,.

  11. BL November 14, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    @lollipoplover
    “I don’t want to victim blame our imaginary victim of the fictitious crime, but behaviors like texting and walking in busy parking lots need to be called out it’s sheer idiocy. Getting hit by a car because that text was more important than paying attention??”

    Good point. Being hit by car in a parking lot is a lot more likely than encountering a Jennifer-napper.

    Especially when not paying attention while walking across the parking lot. I’ve had to honk my horn at people like that quite a few times, because I’m not quite sure where they’re going and I’d like to make sure it’s not a sudden swerve in the direction of my car.

  12. Kirsten November 14, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    I think it’s always a good idea to keep one’s wits about one in a parking structure mostly due to people backing out suddenly or whipping around the corner. I.e., I wouldn’t be on my phone walking around. Then again I’m never on my phone walking around because I don’t like it. But that doesn’t mean living in fear, expecting something terrible, investing in panic buttons, etc.

    I remember as a child and teen in the 1980s there were these rumors that at the local mall when you park your car to walk in criminals will come and hide under your car with a switchblade and knife your ankles when you are opening your car door. You then are supposed to drop your purse and bags in pain and the thieves quickly snatch your stuff. I spent years being scared to go near our car when we went to the mall. Turned out this was an urban legend and never happened anywhere.

  13. Workshop November 14, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    If the fictional victim would have had a firearm on her person, it’s likely that the fictitious criminal wouldn’t have the chance to fictionally attack another make-believe victim.

  14. pentamom November 14, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    “Either there are people around and the screaming/panic alarm might help…or there’s no one to hear and their magic device won’t accomplish anything. ”

    If it’s loud enough to reach to people who might not be visible, then it’s probably going to make the perp not take the risk of finding out that there ARE people in range. That’s what any kind of alarms are for — to make enough noise that the criminal can no longer be sure that he’s unseen because attention is unmistakably drawn to the area. If you were in the middle of the Kalahari, than that wouldn’t help. But in any populated area where there *might* be people, this does have positive value.

    That said, the pitch is stupid, I’m not defending it.

  15. pentamom November 14, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Workshop, I fully support those who choose to carry for self-defense but it will always be the case that not everyone will or should do that.

  16. Beth November 14, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    I kind of hate that when it’s suggested that a person could have taken basic safety precautions (like locking your door at night, or not texting while walking in a busy parking lot, etc.), it’s now always called victim-blaming. You can bet that I’ll be blaming myself if a burglar enters through my unlocked door and steals the electronics.

  17. Curious November 14, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    Is this what we have become?
    Everything is a virtual circus.
    We believe actors and liars and we mistrust those who check the facts.
    Crazy as loony birds!

  18. Shannon H November 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    “I was too scared to scream for help,” but “Luckily for me I remembered I had my Siren Song alarm on my purse”

    Is it just me or is the likely-hood of remembering AND finding something in my purse when I am so scared I can’t even scream just seem.. silly??

  19. lollipoplover November 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    @Beth- agreed, but personal responsibility seems to be in short supply these days, sadly.

    Random crime is just that…random. You can take general precautions, but it’s often a crime of opportunity. My goal is to try and victimproof myself and teach my kids good habits to lessen our odds, but not being afraid of the world and relying on gadgets and doo-dads to feel safe, but our savvy and common sense. Maybe it’s just easier to buy a Screaming Siren Song Alarm and skip over the common sense part. Frankly, I think blasting Celine Dion on repeat would be more effective.

    I remember when we had a random shooting of a mom outside of a grocery store in our area. All of the news channels spoke of the dangers lurking in shopping center parking lots and how to protect yourself. One of the tips was that women with pony tails had assailants pull their hair and get them into cars. So they suggested NOT wearing your hair in a ponytail when going to the grocery store. Wonder with all of the men with manbuns if this applies to them as well?

  20. Papilio November 14, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    Siren song? Weren’t those meant to LURE innocent people, not scare them away? Maybe the perp should carry one.

    @Workshop: “If the fictional victim would have had a firearm on her person, it’s likely that the fictitious criminal wouldn’t have the chance to fictionally attack another make-believe victim.”

    Clearly in this fictitious situation, all she needed was an L-shaped poptart.

  21. Papilio November 14, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    “She had just left the mall carrying her shopping bags, and was walking to her car when the unthinkable happened.”

    She finally found out who had stolen her daughter’s favorite home-made red T-shirt.

  22. Dean November 14, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    What a coincidence. Among my incoming messages, just ahead of FRK, was one in screaming CAPITAL letters about a “dangerous child molester” in my neighborhood. It was announcing nothing about sex criminals, rather, for proving a lot of personal info, I would receive a $3,000 television set, and opportunities to date some “really hot chicks”. I guess those rich African princes have given up on me. I have reported this new scam.

  23. Bob Cavanaugh November 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    Re: car panic alarms
    My question about this is, how many people will actually respond to that alarm? It seems they’re bumped so often that everyone will think it’s just been bumped. That being said, it may do just enough to scare off a kidnapper, but if you really need someone to help you, is the alarm on your car going to be effective?

  24. Jill November 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    She was walking to her car in the parking lot when the unthinkable happened. A white guy wearing a hoodie came up behind her and said, “May I have your attention please? May I have your attention please? Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”

  25. SKL November 14, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

    Irresponsible. :/

  26. MichelleB November 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    >I kind of hate that when it’s suggested that a person could have taken basic safety precautions (like locking your >door at night, or not texting while walking in a busy parking lot, etc.), it’s now always called victim-blaming.

    Does it count as victim blaming if the advice is given before anything bad happens?

  27. pentamom November 14, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    I would think the panic button would at least draw attention, and, as I said, make the bad guy think twice about whether it’s a good idea to stick around doing something obviously illegal when attention is being drawn to the area.

    Alarms at least make people look, if for no other reason than to make sure it’s not their own.

  28. Barry Lederman November 14, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    Shannon H November 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm #
    “I was too scared to scream for help,” but “Luckily for me I remembered I had my Siren Song alarm on my purse”
    Is it just me or is the likely-hood of remembering AND finding something in my purse when I am so scared I can’t even scream just seem.. silly??

    I agree Shannon H, I was thinking the same thing as I read the ad.

  29. baby-paramedic November 15, 2016 at 2:36 am #

    In a crisis people respond in bizarre ways. A very common response to being attacked is to freeze (this seems to be especially the case for women).
    One way to overcome this “freeze” is to believe you can do something about the situation you find yourself in. Although self-defense courses of a few hours will rarely teach you many practical skills (it is unlikely you will learn much just going over something once), it does convince people they are able to do *something*, and believing that is often all that is needed to overcome the freeze response.
    So, in this example, the person has experienced the freeze response (“unable to scream”), but remembers they can do something about it. They have a plan in place for this situation. The body goes into a sort of auto pilot. “Right, we have a plan, let’s action the plan”. In this case the plan is to activate a noisy alarm.

    I was attacked at my car once. On a suburban street in a relatively safe area. I did experience an initial freeze response (“what the hell? Why is this happening, oh my gosh this is BAD, oh dear”), before being able to overcome it (“no, I’m not going to take this, I’m not going to be like , stuff that, I’m going to fight.”). I was convinced of my ability to hold my own in a fight, and that helped me overcome that freeze response.

    This doesn’t just apply to being snatched. It applied to all sorts of crisis situations. Like coming across a car accident, or the house starting to flood.

  30. sexhysteria November 15, 2016 at 3:29 am #

    A good example of what J.K.G. says modern culture calls “innocent fraud.”

  31. Todd Edelman November 15, 2016 at 4:40 am #

    Well, at least the guy was not Black…

  32. MichaelF November 15, 2016 at 6:06 am #

    Arms with shopping bags, phone, and then keys. Where is the empty hand to pull the pin?

    All of it seemed too contrived. As anyone knows, someone texting another person on their phone is aware of NOTHING around them. Why else would it be banned when driving? pfeh

  33. Gail Colletta November 15, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    Thank you Lenore, you bring reason to those who view everything around them so unreasonably.
    We are safer here than anywhere. We should always be diligent and aware of our surroundings, that’s just common sense. I for one refuse to live life panicking from all the hysteria surrounding us perpetuating fear at every corner.

    God bless you.

  34. Derek W Logue of OnceFallen.com November 15, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    So what, are Americans to friggin’ lazy to scream on their own when in danger? Geez, how fat and lazy have we gotten? (If you’re fat, it does make being dragged away a little harder for kidnappers, you know.)

  35. BL November 15, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    “She Was Walking to her Car in the Parking Lot When the Unthinkable Happened”

    Donald Trump was elected President?

  36. Cynthia812 November 15, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Is it really likely that someone “too scared to scream” would have the presence of mind to find their little doohicky and pull the pin?

  37. lollipoplover November 15, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    This fear-around-every corner message certainly isn’t good for our mental health, especially young women:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/depression-worsening-teens-especially-girls-n683716

    What have we become as a society when our suicide rate is one of the top causes of death among our youth?

  38. James November 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Car alarms were supposed to make us safer, too. Now, when a car alarm goes off everyone just looks to make sure it wasn’t them that accidently hit the “panic” button. I’ve yet to see one person actually worry when it happened.

    If this becomes popular, it’ll do the same thing: just make a lot of noise at random times, eliminating any potential utility (not that there was much to begin with). What I mean is, even if we assume that everything in the ad is true the product still won’t work.

    It’s simply insane all around.

  39. Becks November 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    It’s just complete bullish*t advertising and it’s everywhere. Any and every tactic is used to get us to buy stuff. Take the Oral B advert I saw recently…the woman at the end says something along the lines of ‘Britain’s dentists are using it’ – in the small print it days 34% of 456 (roughly) dentists were asked. That’s not even half of the ones asked nevermind many dentists.

    I see this ad campaign as the same. I’d like to believe most people can see past it but unfortunately I don’t think they can.

  40. Papilio November 16, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    @BL: ““She Was Walking to her Car in the Parking Lot When the Unthinkable Happened”

    Donald Trump was elected President?”

    Heh heh. I considered that joke, but thought it too soon…

  41. invader November 17, 2016 at 7:36 am #

    I will say as someone who actually works in a parking lot for up to eight hours a day. In fourteen years I have yet to see a single kidnapping, or mugging in broad daylight. You are more likely to be hit by a car, while being a pedestrian, or get into a fender bender with someone in a hurry. As i have seen both many times, and my self got hit by a mini van almost two months ago.