The politics of neighbors and your kids selling stuff

By Todd Franko

There are tags for condemned homes.

There are tags for housing code violations.

What is the tag to identify which neighbors are prone to sell kitschy or fattening stuff?

My family has that tag.

I did not know it until one bright, sunny Saturday morning when we bumped into Boni.

Or maybe it’s Bonnie.

Hell, it might even be Bon with one of those fancy punctuation marks on the “e”. We do, after all, live in Poland where such distinctions are birth-given or the subject of village council proclamations from Mayor Tim Sicafuse.

She was out on a morning run. A bright, cheerful and energetic soccer mom, if you will.

And then she saw the Franko clan trudging over lawns still damp with morning dew. I was outfitted in my “Saturday suit,” which is sweat pants and a sweat shirt — possibly paint-stained, possibly not; possibly torn with holes, possibly not. I never know what I grab on Saturdays. I never really care what I grab on Saturdays.

Boni/Bonnie/Bon lost her smile. She groaned, “What are the Frankos selling now?”

How dare she not think we were out for morning exercise like her — a stretch of the legs, a full gasp of weekend air, sun on our faces. Don’t mistake my nearly 300 pounds as unhealthy. I’m merely an economic stimulus for doctors and Pizza Joe’s.

She was likely tipped off by the minivan behind me driving 10 mph with the side door open. That’s the universal symbol in suburbia that someone’s selling something.

Yet on that particular day, we weren’t selling.

We were picking up food for the local pantry, organized by the Boy Scouts.

But we have been sellers, too.

Gas-card raffle tickets for youth hockey and popcorn for Boy Scouts have been the most recent schemes, er, sales opportunities.

It hasn’t all been sales, though. We did request empty cans from our neighbors to help fund hockey. (One neighbor has the distinction of sustaining youth hockey and Anheuser-Busch with a single act of weekend partying.)

And it hasn’t all been taking. We’ve solicited neighbor kids to play kickball and hosted a backyard party.

So I think, overall, we’ve been equal-opportunity neighbors.

Have the rules changed regarding selling to your neighbors?

Everything I know about retail and economy I learned growing up in Buffalo.

One fundraising staple back then was when the Boys & Girls Club did the monthly run to Freddie’s Doughnuts. Freddie’s was as much a Buffalo staple as Handel’s is here. Those Saturday mornings, neighbors couldn’t give us money quickly enough for one dozen glazed doughnuts as we’d drive through the streets at 10 mph.

On the downside, we also sold those lame plastic Christmas wall decorations of Santa and Rudolph — the ones that looked like colored rice cakes. They cracked after one holiday season in the cold. They were the most failed crafty things around my house next to my mom’s macram projects.

There were two essential rules that guided neighborhood purchases when I was growing up:

UWhen a kid comes to your door, you buy from him because it gives your kid a door to knock on when he’s selling something. (Assuming you’re keeping a list.)

UWhen a kid comes to your door, you buy from him because it’s one less kid likely to break into your garage and steal stuff. (Know that he’s keeping a list. Fools assume.)

Maybe neighborhood selling is not what it once was.

According to my wife, the schools send home more neighborhood kitschy or fattening sales programs than any school we’ve seen.

She said she rarely pushes that stuff off on our neighbors, and I’m glad for that.

I was careful in selecting my neighborhood, and it’s not because of Poland’s test scores or that our subdivision has a great mayor in Kevin Dailey.

I picked it because when you type into Google maps “neighborhoods within three miles of dollar stores, cash-advance joints and expensive jewelry stores,” my neighborhood was not one of them.

The other area that popped up on that search was LaFarge landfill – but there are no houses there for my kids to sell stuff.

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