Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I'm No Business Man
We get a lot of kids selling things around here where we live. It's always to help fund a program to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.
I have to admit to buying the worthless trinkets and half-melted chocolate on a 95 degree day just because one of the kids might be a good salesman. If he's presentable, clean, polite, etc., I just might buy something I don't need or won't eat, but the sulky ones can forget it.
When I was a kid in Vidalia, Louisiana, my best friend Rocky and I decided to open a Kool Aid stand.
We pooled what few dollars we had, went across the highway to the Sterling's dime store, which had a great candy section, as well as the grocery store, and bought Kool Aid, Super Bubble bubble gum, and a few other candies.
You know how there seems to be one house in every neighborhood that people only live in for a short period of time and then it's empty for a while, then the cycle repeats?
In our neighborhood, that house was next door to Rocky's house.
The previous tenants had left the small utility/storeroom at the end of the driveway under the carport open. It had a window facing out and down the driveway toward the street.
We made a small sign and put it out by the road, and as kids would come along they would either see our sign and come investigate, or we would yell at them.
They could buy a cold glass of Kool Aid from us, and they could save a trip to the store to buy their gum for the day by buying our Super Bubble for a mere 2 cents.
We sold a few cups of Kool Aid, but when we offered them the gum or other candy, our friends would say, "why should we buy gum from you for 2 cents when we can go across the highway and buy it from the store for only a penny a piece?"
They had a point, and, in the end Rocky and I sold all of our Kool Aid and candy, but we sold all the candy for what we bought it for ourselves, so that we wouldn't end up with a ton of unsold candy.
I think we made a small amount on the Kool Aid, but it sure wasn't enough to make up for all the trouble of buying the stuff, setting up our store and trying to attract customers. Especially our sour and cynical friends.
But, I guess that is a lesson almost every kid has to learn the hard way.
One thing was for certain. Our parents didn't help us. They didn't build us a stand. They didn't buy out our stash to sooth our feelings. It was a hopeful business venture that didn't make it; pure and simple.
I think that I'm fortunate that I lived back when a piece of Super Bubble or Double Bubble gum cost a penny each. And I still remember the horror we all felt when the price doubled to 2 cents per piece, cutting our take in half when we went to buy ourselves some gum and candy.
It was my first lesson in inflation. One day, ten pieces of gum for a dime, the next day, five pieces of gum for a dime.
Life can teach brutal lessons at times, can't it?
That's probably why I never went into sales.
I'm much better at selling my own hard earned skills and knowledge than I am trying to conjure reasons from thin air as to why someone should buy something from me that they need about as much as another hole in the head.
I have to admit, that I'm personally a soft touch for kids selling things.
Just after Lovely Wife and I got married in 1984, and we were living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, we were leaving our apartment to go to the beach and we passed some kids in our neighborhood that had set up a Kool Aid stand on the street corner of their home's corner lot.
As we approached, the crushing disappointment of Rocky and me's Kool Aid failure hit me with unexpected force and I quickly told Lovely Wife I was going to stop.
I pulled the car off the road and hopped out and asked how much for a glass of Kool Aid. I think they were asking for 15 cents for a cup. I gave them a dollar, and they gave me a cup of luke warm cherry Kool Aid while they started digging through their meager earnings for my change.
I killed the whole cup of Kool Aid right there, gave a satisfying "Ahhh" and told them not to worry about the change, just keep it.
They just looked at me stupefied, and I told them that I'd had a Kool Aid stand when I was a kid, that I knew how tough it was to make a profit.
That small cup of luke warm cherry Kool Aid was one of the best single dollars I've ever spent.
And to this day, whenever I pass a Kool Aid or lemonade stand, my foot involuntarily lifts off of the gas pedal and I think hard about whether to stop or not.