Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Popcorn, Cookies & Fundraising...Oh My!

“If you sell enough popcorn you can earn an iPad.” I said, only to regret the words the minute they escaped my mouth.  I knew that it was a mistake.  For a split-second, I had forgotten who I was dealing with and my “tech-addicted’’ 7 year-old quickly spun around.
“Really!” he cried.  “Let me see!  Let me see!”  As he grabbed the order form from my hand, my husband glared at me from the other room and gave the cut throat sign.  I stared back at the bigger “tech-addicted 7-year old,” who was watching football on the 60 inch HD flat screen:  new digital remote in one hand and his omnipresent iPad and iPhone close to the other one. At least they are both predictable, I thought, as the apple doesn’t fall far from the Apple store.
While the fall brings many wonderful things:  a new school year, changing leaves, football, crisp weather, Halloween and pumpkins.  It also signals the start of the academic fundraising season:  Girl Scout Cookies, Cub Scout Popcorn, High School Band pies, elementary school Walkathon, miscellaneous magazine/wrapping paper drives and my favorites, the to the point “just write the darned check” campaigns.
I understand the importance of fundraising and realize that it is all in the name of many wonderful, civic causes.  However, by the time I am encircled by the eighteenth Girl Scout troop on my way into the local diner or market, it is hard muster a polite “No thank you,” or my usual, “I’m so sorry girls, I’m a troop leader, good luck.”  Well, I was a troop leader, for over 4 years...but that ended 3 years ago.  Am I wrong to say that?  Maybe, but it’s the best excuse in my arsenal that doesn’t leave me looking like Cookie McScrooge amid crestfallen Daisy Scouts.
As this school year rolled around, my second grade son, a cub scout, was foaming at the mouth to sell something.  Last year, as first graders, his den was excused from fundraising.  For months afterward, I kept fielding questions from him regarding his selling status:  “Why can’t I sell the popcorn?  I’m a cub scout, too.  Our den could do something good with the money.  This isn’t fair.  Can’t I just sell some cookies?”  This line of questioning followed every scouting event that he participated in and tempted me to wonder about the legality of setting up a rogue sales stand somewhere in the vicinity of the gazebo in the town center.
He had patiently and not-so-patiently at times, sat through years of Girl Scout meetings and events as a default “junior brownie.”  Now that he had moved up in the “official” scouting ranks, he was not going to let his “sales” moment slip by.  
“Ugh, but the popcorn is awful, mom.” my twelve-year old daughter said as she shook her head in disgust.  “Why do they have to sell that?  And, why do we have to buy it?  Why can’t they just sell cookies?  At least, the cookies are good.  Shouldn’t they sell something related to the outside or nature or camping?”  
“Hmm,” I thought, “Lawn darts would be a good purchase right about now.”  But the former girl scout was off on one of her “I know it all” eye rolling, quick paced, adolescent diatribes.  “Are you going to dress up like a big popcorn?” she teased.
He pinched up his face, turned red and yelled, “MOM!”
“Because.  Because.  They don’t.  Yes, the cookies are good, but what do you think they should sell, tractor equipment?” I answered her questions in one long breath and the arguing temporarily stopped.  “The popcorn, by the way, is really very good.  You’ve never even tried it.  And no, he will not dress up like a piece of popcorn.”
“Whatev....Kernel Boy,” she said as she stuck her tongue out and retreated to her room and her iTouch.  
Now that she was gone, my industrious scout could focus his attention back to the order form and the potential iPad.  “How many popcorns do I have to sell to make the $3000.  Selling that much will get me the iPad.”  He was already hard at work, paper and pencil in hand, trying to find the median value for the various popcorn product price points, then attempting to divide that number into 3,000.  I vaguely heard my husband grumble that $3,000 would buy 6 iPads and it would be cheaper to just buy one for the kid, instead of using twice the amount of money to stockpile popcorn so he could reach his goal.
Watching all of this unfold made my head hurt.  “I only need to sell like 250 boxes of the regular popcorn.  But, if I sell more of the chocolate covered pretzels or that other stuff...”  I tuned him out as I reached into a cabinet for aspirin.
“Okay, can we go sell now, on our street.”  He was now calculating potential earnings by the number of houses in the neighborhood and children per household. It was 9 pm on a school night, scout uniform still on, he had just gotten back from a pack meeting. 
“No, not now. “ I said
“Tomorrow.” he countered.
“Probably not tomorrow.”
“This weekend.?” he asked.
Maybe.” I said herding him up the stairs to bed.  
“Well, when?  Maybe means no.  Don’t you want me to win anything?  I thought you liked popcorn?”
“Look, bud, let me talk to daddy, first, ok?”  That seemed a sufficient answer, but more importantly it bought me more time. Tucking him in that night, I’m sure he had pleasant dreams of popcorn, iPads and magic marketing algorithms that would get him to his “promised land.”  I, on the other hand, could only conjure up visions of scouting past and a twelve-month supply of Thin Mint boxes in the freezer.
The following morning, my son was eager to bring his order form to school.  While he and his sister were finishing their breakfast and packing their backpacks, I put on the morning news to check the weather forecast.  The upcoming story, however, was on the Girl Scouts.
“Turn the volume up, mom,” said my daughter, “Maybe they’re gonna talk about how awesome the cookies are.” she smirked at her brother.
“A woman who managed money for the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York was arrested yesterday, accused of stealing over $300,000 from the organization. Sources say she used the money to purchase herself groceries, train tickets, gym memberships and expensive cosmetic procedures.” the newscaster said.
“That’s not fair,” my daughter said.  “Somebody had to sell a lot of cookies for that lady to get all that Botox.”
“Yeah,” my son said, slowly nodding, “I don’t think that’s gonna work with popcorn."

No comments: