Pimping Kids and Selling Crap

3 Sep

In  general, I consider myself a rather reasonable person. I don’t call the homeowner’s association when people leave their Christmas lights up until after St. Patrick’s Day, do not yell at neighborhood kids to get off my lawn, do not suffer apoplectic fits when people cut me off in traffic.

But you want to see my head spin around and fire shoot out of my eyes? Hide in the bushes and watch when the kids bring home their schools’ fundraiser packets.

Listen, I know the schools are underfunded, education is devalued, extra-curricular activities cost money blah, blah, blah. I KNOW. I am back in college at 41 to become a teacher, for crying out loud, even though my previous career paid better and was cooler to discuss at parties. 

But I hate the great American educational tradition of pimping out our kids to raise money selling overpriced useless crap.

This year, I was thrilled when my daughter’s middle school PTA sent home information saying “no fundraiser, we’re going to have ‘greenback night,’ just send cash or checks in whatever amount you like.”

The angels sang.

No stupid coupon books, no stale popcorn in tins, no wrapping-paper catalogs, no shortening-rich nasty frozen cookie dough, no candles to shill. No awkward hitting up of grandma and grandpa and co-workers.  No racing the other kids in the neighborhood to get door-to-door and see who could hit up the neighbors first. No apologetic, “hey, I know this stuff is lame, but my kid can’t go to the popsicle party if she doesn’t sell 5 things.”

Just, “hey, we need money for extracurricular stuff. Send in what you can.” I wrote a check, praising Jesus and the PTA all the while.

Then yesterday, my daughter came home, with that all-too-familiar brainwashed Children-of-the-Corn look in her eyes. And a freaking packet in her hand.

“Mom,” she said. “I need to start selling magazine subscriptions.”


I called the school “Oh, the greenbacks is the PTA fundraiser. The magazines are the school fundraiser. And yes, choir will have its own fundraiser, too. They’re optional, of course.”

Oh sure. They’re totally optional. Except that they herd all the kids in a stupid sales pitch pep rally, where they serve fundraiser Kool-aid and get the kids all pumped up like a Tony Robbins seminar.

If you bring something back tomorrow, you get a cool plastic space alien slingshot! If you sell 2 things, you can watch the BMX stunt show pep rally! Sell 10 useless things and get out of class to play in the video game bus and roll around in giant hamster wheels! Guilt-trip grandma into buying 15 magazine subscriptions and bring a slacker friend to the party! Harass 30 neighbors or your parents’ co-workers, and you can spend 20 seconds in the cash cube, grabbing all the money your little hands can hold!

Someone’s making big money off these things, and guess what? It’s not just your kid’s school.

From a Minnesota Public Radio report: “The average fundraiser nets the school about 47 cents for every dollar of merchandise sold. The association says school fundraisers grossed well over $3 billion in 2000, the last year the industry group attempted to estimate the figure.”

Running school fundraisers is big business. “Just like any other business,” one fundraiser organizer said in that radio report.

 Except no, not really. There aren’t kindergarteners stocking the shelves at HEB. No 10-year-olds on the register at Target. No middle schoolers at Papa John’s selling pizza. 

My kid’s job is to go to school. Not sell overpriced things people don’t need so some knick-knack seller can turn a profit. Not to encourage the ridiculous consumer mentality of “we must buy stuff we don’t need to make people happy.”

You need money for extras? Just explain that to me. We’re not rich, but I’d rather come up with the cash than pimp out my child to a tchotchke-maker.

Now, does anyone need any magazines?

18 Responses to “Pimping Kids and Selling Crap”

  1. The Delicate Flower September 3, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    WORD, girlfriend. I reserve my most seething of hatred for those #&@* things. The good news is, I haven’t seen any since Mr. Personality got to high school.

  2. KathyCalculates September 3, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    It will end when the parents ban together and just say “no”! The kids will survive…mine did.

  3. PromoGeorge September 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Excellent points! We almost took our business down this road years ago, I am sooo glad we didn’t. Providing items for parents proud of their kids is one thing, but sending kids parading around town asking for money is another. Our oldest is already selling advertising for theater trips, the youngest has yet to bring anything home…BUT, she’s only been in school a week and the PTA meeting is in 5 days. *sigh*

  4. Jennifer September 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    With 2 kids in 2nd and 3rd grade we were hitting up the same poeple twice. Got pretty annoying really quick. What gets me is not only do we have to push the crap for our kids to attend the popcorn and movie, I still have to deliver all that crap when it comes in.
    So here is what I did. Whatever crap they promise the kids for selling I give to them for not selling ie. popcorn and movie night, or pizza night or even a $5 toy. As for the school money seems to have to keep flying from my pocket with or without fundraiser.

  5. Jill September 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    How about putting kids to “work” doing things, instead of selling things? Around here there is a great fundraiser called Highway Cleanup, where the provincial transportation dept. pays groups (school, club, etc) to pick up trash by the side of the road. We earn $1000 a day with 10 kids, imagine what a school full of kids could do. It’s above board with insurance and everything too (because everyone’s afraid of these things.) I’m sure there are other things kids could do like… hand raise birds? make license plates? shovel old people’s walkways?

  6. kristy - wheres my damn answer September 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    hahaha … OMG … I totally get where you are coming from. I used to buy a bunch of stuff that I’d never use just to NOT have to sell.

    At the freshman orientation this year they announced that the high school does NO fundraising besides their ASB card, plus donations for science and art (if you want) – we gladly wrote a check for three ASB cards and the class donations … and I certainly hope they stick to their word.

  7. Mike McClain September 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    You are spot on. Fortunately, our kiddies are outta that world and into the college scene where is checks, checks, and more checks. There is one advantage to turning students into little hawkers of all things no one wants and needs. They are learning sales skills. Some of ’em will probably grow up and become very gifted Madoff’s, Stanford’s, and such.

  8. KatFrench September 4, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    Right there with ya, girl. My youngest started kindergarten this fall, so now I’ve got two packets from two different schools coming home.

    I will say, the middle schooler brought home a sheet where they are selling mums (which I was planning on buying anyway) which they’re getting from a local greenhouse and selling at least close to market price. So I’m down with that.

    But the kindergartner brought home the Standard Catalog O’ Crap, and I am just NOT going there…

  9. Kami Lewis Levin September 4, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    As I child I always loathed fundraising time. I hated the idea of having to talk my neighbors into buying stuff. (Now the girl scouts on the other hand, those cookies sell themselves.) Now that I’m on the other side, as a teacher in the system, I still hate it and wish the PTA could come up with something better, but the lack of school funding is so painfully obvious. This year because we got federal stimulus money, the city withheld their usual school budget, so instead of getting way more money than usual, we got half of last year’s budget. Just sayin’.

  10. ingrid September 4, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    I’m right there with you sista! I don’t do school fundraisers though I will buy a coupon book as I have gotten my money back outta that one. My children already know and don’t bother with it anymore.

  11. Donna Tuttle September 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    Oh, but those $20 rolls of wrapping paper, apple-shaped fuzzy dice and combination holiday bath mat/toilet seats are the bomb.

    How about saving all those Campbell soup labels? And spending 20 minutes to wrestle a tiny box top label off a giant cereal box?

    Although I’m fresh out of indignation over this, there was a time when it sent me over the edge.

    With four kids, my husband and I got so fed up with fundraisers and the guilt trip the school put on the children that we would keep them home on the big rally days, where students were essentially rewarded for their parents’ obnoxious begging and selling.

    We refused to participate in the racket, too.

    By the way, anyone need a crocheted tissue box in the shape of a holiday bell?

  12. shaye3 September 5, 2009 at 7:36 am #

    My choir/drama teacher husband hates them as much as anybody, but he’s contractually obligated to put on a spring musical and a fall play with any sort of budget.
    He has very specific criteria for fundraisers though. He refuses to deal with any company that doesn’t give the department *at least* 50%, and half the money the kids raise goes into their account to pay for their choir outfit. After their choir costumes are paid for, any leftover money in their account can be used toward an end-of-the-year trip to an amusement park one state over. (A trip that a lot of the kids wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.)
    The school district is in a farming community; and even though he tries to keep their expenses as low as he can, a lot of the parents appreciate the fact that they don’t have to pay choir/drama expenses out of pocket.

  13. J.Lewis September 5, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    OMG! I think my school has the exact fundraisers! I am a fourth grade teacher, and while I can appreciate the PTA and all the good it does, I know that Children-of-the-Corn look. I have tasted that cookie dough. I have said “No, I cannot buy wrapping paper/cookie dough/poinsettias/flower baskets from you because then I would have to buy something from each of you!” I have experienced the tear-stained cheeks of the children who do not get to go in the “cash cube”. I am the bad guy when those same sad kids forget their envelopes at home on the day they are due and I have to say “Sorry. Can’t do anything about it. If you forgot it, those orders don’t count” Hey, I have to give my kids enough bad news. Now you are going to pile this load on me? Umm…….no thanks! Spot on, Sister. And thanks from the teachers, too.

  14. Melissa September 15, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    I will swipe my card at the grocery store for the school.
    I will clip stupid box tops and soup labels.
    I will collect sticky juice pouches.
    But I will NOT under any circumstances take part in those stupid fundraisers.
    I told my son’s teacher that it is against our religion and haven’t heard anything from them about fund raising since.

  15. Pete Laner September 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I thought I was the only wicked non-PTA loving mother out there. I can’t take it anymore! The PTA begs for $$$$, pump up the kids with sales pitch and then go send them on their pimping way. Guess where the money goes to parties, carnivals, ice cream socials you get it………………..! But guess what there is not a miserable dime for my son to get help in math until he fails the grade 4 standard state test. he is now in grade 3, and is trying so hard. So……… any $$$ the school would have recieved from me now goes to the tutor. Oh Lord I could vent for hours.

  16. WatchTNAOnline April 23, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    Hello, good blog post.


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