A mother who feared for her child's safety at a Costco in Greenville, South Carolina, has warned other parents in a Facebook post.
In what Julie Stroup described as a "very scary experience," the mom took her 4-year-old daughter shopping at Costco before she noticed she was being followed by two men, according to her post. With some quick thinking, Stroup said she was able to avoid what could have been a dangerous situation.
"Once at Costco, we headed for the pizza and had a leisurely lunch," wrote Stroup. "When we were done, we headed over to the clothes."
Her daughter pointed out a sparkly ballerina tutu she wanted, and as Stroup looked through the sizes, she noticed a tall man in his 40s going through the little girls' dresses by himself.
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"At first I didn't think anything of it," she wrote, "but it wasn't long before something about him didn't feel right."
She said that she instinctively put her hand on her daughter and moved to the other side of the dress rack, waiting for the man to leave, but she said he soon appeared there as well.
"My mommy radar told me that something was definitely not right," she wrote. After deciding to go to another part of the store, she said she saw the man again.
"I tried to shake this feeling off, but the longer I looked on this aisle the long he picked up random items to look at and put back on the shelf," wrote Stroup, who said she became worried and decided to leave.
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After she had checked out, she noticed him again, this time with another strange man.
"I saw him motion to another man a few feet away who was also there alone," said Stroup. "When the two men met up, they threw us a glance so quickly that had I been distracted in any way would have missed."
Stroup said she was worried the situation could escalate, so she waited for the two men to go outside. She asked a Costco employee if someone could walk her out to her car in case the men tried anything.
"I am extremely grateful for the young man that escorted us outside," wrote Stroup. She added that she believed the employee made the difference between her daughter being chosen by these men or not.
"I really feel I avoided something today," wrote the mom, mentioning another mother who had a similar experience at IKEA, who had felt that it may be related to human trafficking. She warned other parents to be aware of their surroundings, pointing out that if she had been on her phone, she may not have noticed what was going on.
"My message is about women having the confidence to listen to their own intuition to keep their children safe," said Stroup in an interview about the incident with the Independent Journal Review.
Others on Facebook thanked Stroup for sharing her story, and echoed her advice.
"Smart thinking on your part," said one user. "Glad everything turned out OK, but it will surely make us more aware of people when shopping, or any other place as well."