Late last week, we received an envelope in the mail from a nephew. It was a solicitation to purchase a magazine subscription. It was the much dreaded SCHOOL FUNDRAISER.
I remember these stupid things from when I was a kid.
If it’s possible, I hate them even more now that I’m an adult.
At what point in time did society determine it’s a good idea to make kids sell stupid shit? I see absolutely no up-side. . .
Here, Johnny, you’re an adorable 8 year-old, why don’t you wander aimlessly around the neighborhood knocking on doors. I’m sure the registered sex offender eight houses down, would love to purchase a shitty frozen pizza from you.
I don’t care how cute these kids are when they show up at the door, I don’t want their gift wrap, popcorn, frozen cookie dough, candy, magazines or newspaper subscriptions.
But how do I say no?
Here’s some poor kid, lured by the promise of some unattainable crappy prize (In my day it was frequently a Walkman or a teensy TV), who has taken the time and initiative to go door to door, hawking useless crap to strangers.
If I say no, am I killing a bit of their entrepreneurial spirit?
I myself vividly remember all the fund-raising sales of my own youth. Along with the new school supplies and clothes came a new product to sell. And each year, I’d promise myself I’d work really hard and that mini-television wouldn’t go to the kid whose parents worked shifts at the local prison and just left the sign-up sheet in the break-room for weeks on end.
This year, I was going to WIN. The glory of stepping up on the stage in front of the entire student body to receive a special certificate and the mini-TV (squeal!) would be MINE!
I’d gather my sign up sheets, glossy product catalogues, and pen and put on my jacket and head towards the door. At which point my Mother would start rattling off the list of neighbors I shouldn’t “bother.” It became readily apparent, I could only sell something to my Grandparents. But they lived across the street and even this was an issue because I wasn’t allowed to cross that damned street by myself.
Undeterred, I’d start working the phones: Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles. I’d beg my Mother to take the sign-up sheet to work with her, but to no avail.
She knew what I now fully understand: No one wants this shit.
Plus, the market was completely saturated. We lived in a small town. At any given time, every kid was trying to sell something. . .There were soggy hoagies, and bake sales, and girl scout cookies. . .The sales force far out-numbered the number of willing buyers.
For weeks I’d lie in bed at night scheming, dreaming about the day when I’d be able to fall asleep to the glow of my very own black and white mini-TV. I thought about marketing tactics. I read and rehearsed the suggested sales pitches that came with the fundraising packets. I’d obsessively add my totals over and over again.
And every year the result was the same: No Glory. No prize.
When I started Middle School, I had high hopes that all that selling shit was done. I was a serious, “grown up” student now with a locker and a separate gym uniform and surely grown up students didn’t have to waste their precious time doing door to door sales.
I was sadly mistaken.
But at least by then I had wised up: Let the glory go to some other sucker.
I was never going to get a prize; yet, no one ever “punished” me for my lackluster sales in the past. I always received the same benefits of the fund-raiser as the kids who sold way more junk than I ever did.
These days when I kid comes knocking, I happily say NO. I’m not killing their entrepreneurial spirit, I’m teaching them a valuable lesson: Why hustle, when you are still going to reap (almost) all the same rewards as the kids that work five times harder than you? Do yourself a favor and focus on your Algebra worksheets. . .Let someone else do the hard work. . .Learn this lesson early and you’ll grow up to be a corporate rock-star!
And we wonder what the hell has happened to our society. . .