Thursday, September 13, 2012

Damn You, Otis Spunkmeyer

So school is in full swing, yes?  Have you been hit with the first fundraiser of the year yet?  Well, it’s coming, baby.  School started the second week of August around here and we the first fundraiser has already come and gone.  One primary school received the materials on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.  Damn, that’s a tad early, isn’t it?  And what were they selling?  Cookie dough.  Tubs of cookie dough.  I hope I’m not the only parent that saw this and said “…why?”

I remember getting the catalogs for fundraisers when I was in the third or fourth grade.  I didn’t ever really pass them along except for the sporadic half-hearted sales pitch to a grandparent.  It was usually a Sally Foster fundraiser and the items for purchase were shiny foil wrapping paper bedecked with snowmen, sometimes some candles, and of course the tins of little chocolate teddy bears and peanut butter cups.  There was always a little flip-through of samples of the wrapping paper so that you could see what you were paying $38 for, although they didn’t tell you that it didn’t come on a roll and that it was about six square feet of paper folded into a square.

I can remember going through the catalog and circling the tins and boxes of ‘gourmet’ chocolates that I wanted.  There were usually those peanut butter cups that just never did taste like Reese’s, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered peanuts, maybe buckeyes, and those chocolate turtles.  They just looked so good surrounded by holiday décor on their cut glass pedestals.  Sadly, though, when they finally came 6-8 weeks later they were sealed inside their plastic bag inside the tin, each about as big as a silver dollar, and there were only eight of them.  It only left you to wonder, what did I (my mother) pay for this?!  And they were gone before the first commercial of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Sigh.

Throughout my school years I saw a few different fundraisers, even fewer that I actually participated in.  In middle school band the big money maker was always the candy sale.  Once a year or so each band member was given a cardboard briefcase with an assortment of chocolate. To be sold at one dollar a piece.  I don’t think any adult saw just quite how dangerous this was.  You’re giving a bunch of 12 year olds one hundred candy bars and telling them to sell them.  Not once on the box or the paperwork does it say “Do Not Eat Your Fundraiser.”  Generally, that’s how the majority of this gets sold.  Perhaps those in charge knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

We were given this haul to sell, presumably door to door.  I know of very few people who ever did that.  Your biggest sales demographic was in the cafeteria.  After having eaten what they could of that day’s soy burger, your classmates would turn to you, the peddler of the only known REAL food in the room.  Once word got out that the band was selling candy again, kids would come at you as though you were a crack dealer.  Hands full of spare change were offered up, crumpled dollar bills, and occasionally tens and twenties as well.  Then the school passed the rule that you couldn’t sell at lunch so it was back to eating it all yourself.  Except for the Zero bars, those were the ones you either ate last or not at all.

High school band fundraisers started to get a little weirder.  Once our band partnered with an independent candle maker.  For just five dollars you could have a candle that reminded you of Christmas snow, a rendition of a Victoria’s Secret perfume, or your Grandma’s apple pie, provided that she ever made one.  Around Valentine’s Day we had to volunteer to sell heart-shaped fudge in an abandoned corner of the mall.  After I graduated, they started hocking cheesecakes and then, of course, the cookie dough.  The same damn cookie dough they told my kids to sell just a few weeks ago.

My niece goes to the same school as my boys and word had gotten to my mother about the cookie dough sale.  She demanded to know why I had not asked her to buy some as I stood with my hetero life-mate perusing razors at Wal-Mart. Uhhhh…I don’t know?  Actually, I did know.

When each of my sons brought home the order forms for the cookie dough I told myself right then that this was not something I was going to do.  Why, you ask?  Why would I not take advantage of the opportunity to help out my kids’ school?  Well, friend, I’ll tell you why.  Because I’m not going to ask, let alone insist, that anyone buy a product that I myself would not buy.  I would not pay $16 for a container of dough that would make just 36 cookies.  That’s $2.25 per cookie, as my handy calculator tells me.  Just…no.  I can make them a lot cheaper than that.  Granted, they would not have the Otis Spunkmeyer brand of approval, though.

My mother then informed me that it was the grandparents’ job to buy from these fundraisers.  I countered that I wasn’t about to try to convince her to buy two pounds of raw cookie dough; it’s inane.  I won’t do it.  I went on to say that when they sell something that someone might actually want I will get in on it. 

That’s the thing, too.  If you work in an office setting, you will eventually be accosted by a coworker whose kid is selling something.  I always hated the kids whose parents did that.  I wouldn’t ask my mother to do that; I felt like it was cheating.  I was under the mistaken impression that this was something we were supposed to do by ourselves.  No, no, the real goal here was to sell as much of that crap as you possibly could, no matter who was asking strangers to buy it. 

I never want to be the parent who starts sentences with “My kid is having this fundraiser at school…”  Maybe that makes me a bad parent.  I remain firm, however, in that I will not advertise a product that I myself would not buy.  Unless there is a great deal of money involved.  For me.

  Has your child already been given fundraiser paraphernalia?

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