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This Day in My History


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DOOR TO DOOR

2 February 2006

This morning I read this journal entry by "Undercover Mother," which is an entry for this week's Everyday Hogwash, a fun site where people can express their frustrations about bad experiences with customer service, and maybe even win a prize.

(The exact explanation by Everyday Hogwash goes:  Hidden fees. Really tiny fine print. Overbooked airplanes. Hypnotic hold music. Ah, what companies force us to put up with everyday! If we didn't laugh at these itchy little grains of sand in the bathing suit of life, we'd have to cry, or perhaps even scream in the grocery line. But we all know screaming doesn't get you invited to many parties. So let's kick back and have some therapeutic yuks at the millions of little ways companies stick it to us.)

Undercover Mother takes on the issue of fund raisers by her kids' schools and outside organizations.  These days it seems that a lot of kids' activities center around raising money--or getting your mother to raise it for you.

Three of Undercover Mother's kids were selling gift wrap, one was selling magazine, two were selling Girl Scout cookies, one was raising funds for a school Marathon,  and then two nieces and a nephew showed up selling stuff for their own schools.  She is also expected to sell:  chocolate bars, raffle tickets, classroom theme baskets, nuts and candy, and support for the American Heart Association.

When I was growing up, I only remember selling Girl Scout cookies and Christmas seals.

It's a shame that things have changed so much these days.  There are too many wackos out there to let your kids go out selling alone (maybe there were wackos out there when I was doing it too, but we didn't know it).  It's also a shame that there is such a need for money to continue the activity, so the bulk of the selling doesn't go to the kids themselves, but the expectation is that Mom will sell, or Grandma will sell.  Some businesses refuse to allow parents to sell their kids' stuff at the office, which I think is a good idea.  

It's a good deal for the kid, who only has to collect the money raised by Mom and turn it in.  I'm not sure if the kid learns as much that way, or has the pride in actually raising money to help the activity they are involved with.

(This is not a complaint about grandmothers who take orders for Girl Scout cookies, by the way...just want to be clear about that!  I like Girl Scout cookies and am always happy to buy some to support a kid I know.  The point of this is showing how things are different today than they were when I was growing up.)

Fund raisers were absolute hell for me.  For one thing I was even more shy then than I am now and having to approach a friend, much less a total stranger, and ask them to buy whatever it was that I was selling put me through the tortures of the damned.

For another, there were prizes for who sold the most, and kids like Dominic Manzoni (the "Nellie Olson" of my day), who came from a more wealthy family, always seemed to win.  I desperately wanted to be a top seller, but never came close.

The Catholic school I attended sold books of Christmas seals each year.  They came in a sheet of 10, with 10 pages in a book.  They were 1 cent per stamp, 10 cents per page, or $1 a book.   (Yes, you could buy one stamp.)

My job was to walk door to door in my neighborhood trying to get my neighbors to buy stamps from me...and hope that I got there before Stephen or some other kid in the neighborhood hit that particular neighbot.  I remember that there was one woman who bought ONE stamp from me each year.

fuchia.jpg (20676 bytes)It was a huge deal for me to knock on a door  to ask if someone wanted to buy stamps.   I remember the home of the one-stamp woman.  Her front door was up a long flight of stairs and there were fuschias growing along the steps.  I always put off knocking on the door as long as I could and would stand there for a long time making fuschia ballerinas (you take a fuschia blossom, cut off the stem that holds it to the bush, and then thread it through the center, "body," portion of the flower and voilą...a fuschia ballerina.  I got real good at making them, especially since it put off the inevitable moment when I had to climb the stairs, knock on the door and ask the woman if she wanted to buy her usual Christmas seal.  (I seem to remember the year when buying one stamp was too much for her.)

When it came time for Girl Scout cookies, now groups of kids set up stands in front of supermarkets, but in my neighborhood there was no supermarket.  There were the corner market, or the bigger store down on Polk Street, which had no parking lot.  To allow groups of kids to hawk their wares in front of the grocer would be impractical.

So again, I trudged door to door.  We didn't take orders like they do now.  We had the real deal.   Boxes of cookies that we carried with us (there were only a couple of choices, not the plethora that you find today--and they were more affordable, too!  Do you know how much a single Girl Scout cookie costs these days?  Those chocolate covered peanutbutter ones are more than $1 a cookie, it seems I figured out once!)

My big deal was setting up a stand at the bus stop.  The 41 Union bus stopped at the corner near my house, so I would set up something that resembled a lemonade stand and sit there with my boxes of cookies.  Of course I would never actually ASK someone getting off the bus, but the hope was that they would see me sitting there pathetically and take pity on me.

Our neighbor's husband used to come up and give me a pep talk, try to encourage me to be more aggressive in accosting bus patrons.  I hated those times!

I have nothing but sympathy for the parents of kids who are involved in activities that require the kid to sell year-round, and I'm jealous of those kids who don't have to deal with the big knot in the stomach as they force themselves to go up to a total stranger and ask them to help support the activity and buy whatever it is that they are selling.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

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This is a picture I pieced together from two different pictures.
it's St. Patrick's church in SF, surrounded by all the
modern high-rises.

 

 
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