The neighborhood children returned to school on an August Wednesday, but they didn’t even make it to the weekend before their conscription into indentured servitude brought them to my door peddling items they hoped would offset the school district’s expenses.
I can still recall the overwhelming odor of “fine chocolate” as we entered the band room each morning during the annual candy sale. The event lasted for weeks, and there were prizes offered by the chocolate company for anyone who sold enough. The bars, which contained nuts, cost over twice as much as one paid for “not so fine” candy bars at the store. Kids couldn’t readily afford what we were selling, which meant preying on sugar loving adults after school hours if I were to achieve second category status and trade in my points for a chemistry set.
We were told that the product sold itself, but that wasn’t true. I still had to pull people aside like Lucy Ricardo with a baby stroller full of beef. The chocolate bar’s outer label came with a coupon for A&W, and I’m sure I mentioned to someone that for all the trouble we were going to, the chocolate company could have saved the money on the prizes and whatever they were paying A&W to discount their burgers, and then just give our band program the cash. We could, it seemed to me, continue to play our instruments and let commerce take care of itself.
I rejoiced the year we were told we no longer had to sell chocolate, but when crates of glass banana split dishes containing hard candy arrived, I learned my first lesson in product appeal. A nearsighted Victorian grandmother with a penchant for lemon drops and low end cut glass might be thrilled to buy our product if only it hadn’t been priced beyond her fixed income budget. One thing the band boosters failed to consider was the disaster of turning kids loose with all those glass dishes on school buses that traveled across neglected county roads.
Aside from paper cuts, decorative stationery was safer than glass, but such frilly notepaper wasn’t for everyone. People still wrote actual letters in 1979, but most men were loath to send short notes to their bowling buddies on paper with ivy and oversized daisies along the border. That was my second lesson in product appeal.
After much complaining to the band director, the boosters heard the students’ cries and came up with the idea for us to sell shampoo. There were protests even before we learned that each artificially fruit-scented bottle, which came in three varieties, was large enough to last a family of five for almost two years. You couldn’t possibly get repeat business, and since the texture of one’s hair felt funny after using the stuff, sales fell as limp as the hairs it washed. We were back to “fine chocolate” the following year, but not until I had come to terms with my discomfort with asking people to buy what I’m offering.
Now you understand why it took over 500 words for me to mention that I have temporarily transformed my office into a small warehouse for selling, signing, and shipping autographed copies of my books in time for the holiday shopping season.
While I’m not selling chocolate bars, I do think I’m offering something more lasting, which includes laughter, entertainment, a touch of mystery, and an opportunity to get a copy of my signature in case there is a forger among you. Furthermore, I’ll be so bold as to point out that if you already have your own copies, you might have people in your lives that need their own. I’m encouraging generosity, but not sharing.
If someone you know is difficult to buy for, get them a book. They don’t read? Perhaps the person on your list has a wobbly piece of furniture or a bed that slants. My books are different thicknesses and can work for a variety of furniture repair needs. If an entire leg is missing on their favorite table, you’re in luck! I’ve written more than one book, and I have several copies of each on hand.
My Facebook page offers secure checkout so that I never see your credit card information. While this is comforting to the purchaser, it certainly doesn’t help me complete my shopping. You don’t have to have a Facebook account to purchase books, and I can explain the various ways in a private message. My fingers are crossed for good sales, as I really want to get that chemistry set.
© 2017 by Patrick Brown
To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1