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The politics of neighbors and your kids selling stuff

Published: Sun, April 26, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

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.


1Lifesnadir(164 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

Schools shouldn't send home anything to sell, unless the SCHOOL OFFICIALS go out and sell the product.

A. People hate random door-knockers;

B. Kids should not be used as any free labor for a school; if the child belongs to a club or group such as The Scouts, I'd be more apt to buy;

C: PARENTS, not the kids USUALLY, get saddled with making sales;

D. Neighbors should not feel "indebted" to buy from each other (I bought your kid's school junk; now you buy my kid's school junk.)

E. The products are often awful. Just think of the multi-pack peanut butter cups, half melted because the kid held the same one for hours, going door to door.... to door... to door.. to door....

F. It sets unpopular and very young kids up for failure; maybe failures result from these kids (or their parents) not knowing enough people, the parents having poor networking, or the kid being too shy to be a "sales-kid".

G. These programs give a prize to the TOP seller. What about the kids who worked equally hard but didn't bring in the dough because they weren't good at sales.

In my opinion, instead of selling candy or all the other assorted wares, parents should donate at least $3.00 to "the kitty" once a year -- or maybe once a quarter. The school should then split that fund among all the "clubs", "programs" and "groups" within the school.

Otherwise... it's like neighborhoods are beseiged several times a year with "candy sales" and "card sales" and "wrapping paper / gift" sales. Halloween should only visit neighborhoods once a year; leave our doorbells alone!

And as a last comment, maybe you think it was funny to say / imply that neighbors must buy or risk having kids steal items from the neighbor's garage. But, that isn't funny, nor should it be accepted in any community-- even if it's Poland, Ohio.

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2gmann415(268 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

with that said, THANK YOU.

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3projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

Ugh! I have THAT to look forward to? Can't we parents just write a check as a donation, get a tax write-off and be done with it? What are all the $ of those sales going towards anyway? If this is the most creative PTA's can be these days, no wonder we have so much junk in our homes and have obese children. I've written about the great re-sale events that the Cleveland area PTA's run. They make a good $3,000 (if not more) on these events. Why don't the PTA's do something like that instead of placing undue pressure and burden on children and parents for junk(food) no one wants? Same goes for all the Boy/Girl Scouts, little leagues, etc. I think parents need to stand up and fight back against all these piddly fund raising efforts. Just make an accurate budget for your organization and market to parents that you won't torture them or your child with a fundraising effort.

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4Level_Headed(30 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

It is not the job of the PTA to raise money for the schools. Go to a meeting and find out what the PTA is there for.

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5projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

Well then, why do schools always raise money? I'm not going to a PTA meeting before I have to. My child is 2 years old. But, the PTA's do raise money in Cleveland. I don't know for what purpose - band? a trip?

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6MB(2 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

It still surprises and frustrates me when I see people who insist on posting comments when they have no idea what they are talking about. I have had children in school and participating in extracurricular activities for over 25 years and I have put in more volunteer hours than I want to remember. The schools and organizations need quite a bit of money to function, there never seems to be enough. Most organizations, i.e., little league, scouts, use fundraisers to help offset the cost of running their programs. Many families have children involved in these programs who could not afford to foot the entire cost to include their child(ren), fundraising is a way to ensure that every child has an opportunity to participate. Many costs associated with youth sports are safety-related and required and equipment can be quite costly. Some might say that if those families can't afford the costs of having their children participate then the child should sit out - but many of those same people will also be complaining about those children roaming the streets looking for something to do. And, I would hope that those same families never find themselves in the position of having to tell their child they can't play ball because, perhaps a parent has lost a job and now can't afford the fees. Many (perhaps all) of these organizations have silently funded the fees for children who cannot afford the cost, and those funds come from fundraising. PTAs help keep the costs down for field trips and senior class awards and breakfasts, etc., they pay for holiday parties, skating parties, and other events that children look forward to.
No one wants to send their children out to hit up the neighbors, after all that's what relatives are for, but some have no choice - they have no relatives in town or perhaps they simply can't afford to just write a check. Those who can afford to, often do and those who can't also often find other ways to do their part to ensure to success of the schools and other programs.
And then there are those who wouldn't dream of spending their time attending a PTA meeting or a booster meeting or serving time on a board - but they are ALWAYS the first ones to have a negative comment or tell those who are trying their best what they are doing wrong and how they think they should be doing it.

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7gmann415(268 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

who cares what the money is used for or why it is needed. thats not the point. the point is, is why is it always passed on to kids. why should our kids and us as parents have to be the ones to do the schools dirty work. if any of the school staff is too good to do it. so is my kids as well as myself. i mean common have you seen the prizes these kids get for selling. they get junk. not alone the pressure to be the top sales kid in their class and then comes the let down, when tommy or sue out sold them.

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8irishfan91(97 comments)posted 7 years, 3 months ago

I understand most of the posts here. I have 3 kids and I hate the school sales gig. Look, it is not that I don't understand the need for some $$$ for some of these activities. It is just that it seems like the number of organizations requesting funding grows more and more each year to the point where sometimes the kids need to sell on behalf of more than one organization and there are only so many neighbors and relatives you can hit up as they have kids too. Another issue I have with it is that sometimes only a small percentage goes to the band, scouts or sports team. I would rather hand a child $10 or something so that 100% goes to that child and their activity.

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