Convince me!


Last night, a kid came to the door with one of those school fundraisers–you know, stuff you neither want nor need, but which a mixture of pity, guilt, and awkwardness compels you to buy anyways.  His sales pitch: without making eye contact, he thrust a catalog at me and mumbled, “Want to buy something?”

I declined, and closed the door.

I used to feel guilty whenever I’d turn away door-to-door saleskids.  What kind of a person doesn’t support childhood education?  But that all changed a few years ago.  A group of young girls attempted to sell us a subscription to the local newspaper, in support of some school club.   We weren’t particularly interested in taking the paper, but the Man and I were so impressed by their sales pitch and attitude that we bought the paper.  They obviously cared enough about what they were doing to try.

The more I began thinking about it, the more I realized: most kids aren’t trying to make a sale.  They don’t care, don’t understand, don’t know how, or all three.   If I capitulate out of guilt every time, doesn’t it contribute to an entitlement mentality?  “I don’t have to try, because I know I’ll make the sale anyways.”  Small wonder young adults are becoming less and less able to function on their own.

I understand that schools traditionally have raised money through these fundraisers.   But wouldn’t it be more effective if they taught the kids tactics of persuasion or salesmanship first?  Sending clueless nine-year-olds up and down the streets selling items they don’t care about to raise money for reasons they don’t understand, seems pointless to me.  In fact, it almost smacks of using kids—relying on their cute factor (and the guilt of their customers) to make sales.  On the other hand, kids attempting to persuade would probably sell more items, and they’d learn some valuable life skills.

Life skills? That’s right.  Life is all about selling.  Why should you get this job, rather than Joe waiting in the lobby?  Why should the cheerleader date you and not the football star?  Why should you get this promotion or bonus?  Why should the seller lower the price of the home you want to buy?  Why should your daughter not wear those clothes or go out with that boy?

The Man and I have agreed that when the Maiden’s time comes to sell items for school, she has to sell them, not just stand on the doorstep, mumbling and looking adorable.  That doesn’t mean we won’t help her out by offering whatever she’s selling to our friends and coworkers—but if they express interest, she still has to follow through.  That’s what life is about.

We feel so strongly about this that we’ve already made salesmanship part of our daily lives.  Although the Maiden’s only three, she’s learning that if she wants something, she needs to sell us on it first.  It sounds like an odd way to parent—but I know the benefits will pay off.  More on that tomorrow!

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One response to “Convince me!

  1. I think the only devil’s advocate type of comment I can think of is: what if the child is painfully shy and is being “forced” into it by the parent? I was horrifically shy as a child and when it came time to sell honey roasted peanuts for summer camp, it was agonizing for me to have to knock on my neighbor’s doors, asking them for money. It became so painful that my parents finally took the blessed peanuts to work…placed them on a counter and put a sign out that said what they were being sold for and if you’d like a can, then take a can and stop by said parent’s desk with the money. I feel bad for the poor kids sometimes. Some of them truly could care less, so I totally get your mentality there. 🙂

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