Oct 3, 2007

Paying the Danegeld

Michele has a nice rant about school fundraisers.
I do not like to be almost forced to buy stuff from your kids. I know, your kids are cute, your kids are unique and special and amazing and those beautiful little dependents of yours are trying to raise money for a playground/school supplies/field trip/scout troop/whatever. The thing is, your kids are not the only kids who are doing this. Everyone's kids are selling something. So when you bring their catalog of goodies into the workplace, you are about the 100th person this week alone to do so. How much wrapping paper, mixed nuts, cookie dough, magazines or pizza mix can a person buy? Apparently, not enough. Because you keep bringing this stuff in. And you keep expecting everyone to buy it from your little snowflake.
This parental peddling for prizes is a relatively recent phenomenon. As is the proliferation of these fundraisers.

Back in the olden days, when I was in school, I sold Girl Scout cookies and only Girl Scout cookies. My friends who went to Catholic school would occasionally be called upon to sell something, but we public school kids didn't have to sell anything. That changed by the time my son was of school age. Now everyone at school had at least one fundraiser plus one for each extracurricular activity--we had band.

I also grew up somewhere between the "Leave it To Beaver" era and the "razor blades in Halloween apples" era; a time before playdates and Amber alerts. It was also a time of parental neglect. A very benign neglect.

Back then I wouldn't have dreamed of asking my father to sell the cookies at work. No one else's parents sold them either. Most parents bought a few boxes and left it at that. Except maybe the Grand Prize winner--the girl whose mother wore a grown up version of the scout uniform. And no one really wanted to be her, even if she did win a trip to Florida.

So, after we'd exhausted the family resources, we went door-to-door for customers. It generally worked like this: One day Beth or Elena or Eva would come by and we'd go door-to-door in my neighborhood; the next day we'd continue in Beth's or Elena's or Eva's neighborhood. I'm guessing we were allowed to cover the trick-or-treating perimeter set by our parents--I don't remember--but I doubt we even got that far. We were indifferent salespeople. A couple of Nos in a row and we were ready to throw in the towel. And I'm not even sure we even made it to Eva's neighborhood most years.

When cookie sales results were announced we'd be somewhere in the middle, probably nearer the bottom than the top. We never won anything, but at least we didn't have to suffer the indignity of seeing our mom in a girl scout uniform. And that was enough for us.

Today's Girl Scout cookie saleswoman is a hardened professional. And her mother is even worse. Girl Scouts and their mothers have commandeered the entrance to all the local supermarkets around here. They pounce on you as soon as you get out of your car. And they'll block the doors and hogtie you if you don't give in and buy at least one box of Thin Mints.

It's a different world.

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