Monday, November 16, 2009


I hate school fundraisers. Why do schools expect kids to become door-to-door junk salesmen?  Wait, that would be unsafe for the kids.  No, they expect parents to be the hawkers.  Even better.


I think my biggest complaint is that the stuff that they want the kids to sell is overpriced crap.  Crap that no one needs, and no one wants. Face it, we buy the stuff out of pity for the kids, not because we want it.


There are a few fundraisers that make money, and aren’t outright consumer rip-offs.  Girl Scout cookies.  Granted, by only selling them once a year, the girl scouts create scarcity and increase the cookie-buying public’s anticipation.  And their prices are a bit on the high side compared to grocery store cookies, but not outrageously so.  Last year they were what, $3.50 a box?  Not Walmart prices, but not bad either. 


The best fundraising item I ever sold as a kid was trash bags.  Laugh all you want, but everyone needs trash bags, and the rolls were enormous, lasted the buyers forever, and were good quality.  I still get the occasional comment from some of my mom’s friends about that trash bag fundraiser.  That was almost 25 years ago.


And then there is the pizza and cookie dough that Trystan’s preschool encouraged us to sell this fall.  Last year, out of pity, we bought both a box of cookie dough and a pizza for ourselves.  Yuck.  The pizzas were the equivalent of the cheapest discount store cardboard crap. And cost almost $10 apiece.  I can buy a 3-pack of leading-brand, rising-crust pizzas at Sam’s for $10.  The cookie dough was just plain scary.  First off, it was marked “no refrigeration required.”  How do you make cookies without perishable ingredients?  Like butter? And eggs?  What was in this stuff anyway?  As you might guess, the cookies themselves baked up badly, tasted oily, and were just plain unpleasant.  And unlike the grocery-store kind, it wasn’t even tasty to eat raw.  We declined to order this year, and didn’t bother attempting to guilt our friends into buying either.  It amused me that the school had a “tasting” day to kick off the fundraiser where they baked up some of the cookies and pizzas for the parents to sample.  I laughed with my husband that they were more likely to turn parents off the fundraiser than on to it.


Charlotte’s school sold a mix of cookie dough (different brand), pretzel kits, wrapping paper, magazines, and knick-knacks.  Also overpriced.  I did take that order form to work, and a couple of co-workers bought wrapping paper.  I bought some flower bulbs (we’ll see in the spring how well they worked), and a magazine subscription that was a couple of bucks more expensive than I could get online.  For my efforts, Charlotte was rewarded with a pencil topper.  Ya hoo.


I totally understand why schools do fundraisers.  My daughter goes to a private school.  It’s a catholic school, but not one supported by the local diocese.  Every dime that we help fundraise is one that won’t be on our tuition bill.  And public schools can’t simply raise tuition to pay for new equipment or raises for their teachers.  If a kid comes to my door with a fundraiser, I almost always order something.


I think the problem is that the products our kids are supposed to sell come from commercial companies.  The company has to make a profit before the school can.  So they lower the quality and jack the prices.  Although I have also donated my time to my daughter’s school, I can’t spare enough to replace the labor of the commercial cookie-dough manufacturer. 


The problem is us, the parents.  If we had more free time, we could invest our labor into creating products or services worth selling.  But we can’t.  We don’t.  So we’re foisting $10 buckets of sugar-and-shortening off on our neighbors and coworkers.

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