The other day I wandered into the vending room at work, eager to satiate my hankering for M&Ms. I paused in front of the vending machine, dollar in hand, ready to buy my M&Ms for $0.75 when what should I see reflected in the glass of the vending machine? A small cardboard box with candy in it.
Upon closer inspection, there was a sign attached to the cardboard box reading “Support the [insert random high school name here] soccer team. Candy for $1.00.”
Now here was a conundrum. Either I could spend $1 for a bag of M&Ms from the cardboard box, or $0.75 from the vending machine. Or, I suppose, I could steal M&Ms from the cardboard box though that hardly seemed a sporting solution.
So I did the obvious thing; I bought my candy from the vending machine. And here’s why.
I have no reason to believe that the money actually goes to support the soccer team.
I work surrounded by engineers. You might think that well paid engineers would be above trying to steal from their colleagues, but reality is a little different.
Food routinely disappears from the community refrigerators and I’ve heard of more than one engineer fired or disciplined for selling company property on Ebay.
So I wouldn’t put it above a supposed “professional” to buy candy bars for $0.25 at Costco and try to sell them for a 300% markup to his friends and coworkers. And what better way than to pretend it’s for a good cause?
Even if it did go to the soccer team, why are you selling it?
As I mentioned before, I’m surrounded by engineers. There is nary a soccer player in sight. I remember as a young lad going door to door trying to hawk cheap wares to support the activities I was involved in, so why aren’t the players doing that?
You see, I don’t think the point of “raising money” is really to “raise money”. If that’s all it was, the players’ parents could each chip in $20 and probably make more money than they do by selling candy. I think the point is for the kids involved to decide that their activity is worth their time and effort.
I feel the same way about parents selling girl scout cookies at work. I refuse to buy them. And believe me, it’s tough for me to turn down a box of girl scout cookies, but it’s the principle of the thing.
If I really wanted to support the girl scout organization, I’d give it money. I have no desire to support the organization. However I’m all for supporting individual girl scouts, which is why if they come door to door I’ll certainly buy a few boxes of their delicious calorie-laden cookies.
I already gave.
We give to various organizations throughout the year. Of course we take advantage of the tax breaks that result. But if I buy an overpriced candy bar to support soccer players, I get no such tax break. What a silly thing to do!
If the players came door to door to ask for money, I could give them more money because I could write the donation off on my taxes.
So you see
It’s not that I’m an uncaring person. I once read, and I generally believe, that whenever you see kids selling anything (legal, and for a reasonable price), you should buy.
I make a habit of stopping when I see kids with a lemonade stand. I think that encourages entrepreneurship. I buy when kids come door to door. I think that rewards initiative.
But I think that buying from parents rewards laziness and bad parenting. Parents should not be selling their kids wares for them. That’s the kids’ job.
Selling raffle tickets or candy is only partly about raising money and mostly about teaching kids that they can achieve something if they’re willing to put effort into it. But when parents put forth the effort, the kids learn nothing. And that’s not a lesson I want to be a part of.