From time to time, I will be approached by kids at my door, at work, or at the store who are selling various items for fundraisers. I always say “yes” before they have to go through the same old spiel that they probably hate giving and are usually embarrassed to give. Well today I even said yes sooner than normal solely because I was once in the exact same position as the kid who was selling to me.
A few minutes before getting home today, I was approached by a young man trying to sell an item to raise funds for his team. As he started to talk to me I had one of those “some things never change” moments. He was selling the classic $20 coupon book. Well, actually it was a coupon card but it for the most part was the exact same thing I used to have to put under people’s noses. Man, how I hated doing that.
I played high school football at Mead High School in Spokane from 2002-2005. Every single year we had to sell coupon books for $20 a pop. I genuinely enjoyed doing our conditioning sessions out in the 90 degree temperatures more than soliciting people to purchase those coupon cards.
It started at the beginning of football season each year. Before one of our practices we would huddle into our school’s theater and this guy who looked less respectable than a used car salesman would get up in front of us and give some unmotivated, standard talk that he gave to probably 50 high school football teams before us. He would give us his best strategy to sell the books (it sucked), point out the best deals to highlight when talking to people, and then he would explain the incentive program which was the absolute biggest joke in the world. I will get to that incentive program later.
After he gave his slimy talk, our head coach would get up and tell us how important selling these coupon books were to the program. He would then set rather ambitious quotas for all of us to reach. He made it clear that everyone had to sell ten cards. Ten cards! Keep in mind, this was ten years ago. Back then $20 meant a whole lot more than what it does today. He really expected all 120+ kids in the whole football program to be able to con 10 people each out of $20 to buy a coupon book? I actually always made the quota because of a great family and a very generous street that I lived on but not everyone had the same resources. If we sold the ten cards, we were promptly given ten more cards and told to go out and sell those.
I hated pitching these cards to people. The whole “you can save up to $5,000 with this book” is a complete scam. No one would ever in a million years exhaust every single coupon on the book/card. If you did so you would be all of three things: 1. Broke. If you really used all the coupons it meant you spent a lot of money initially to get the extra savings. 2. Fat. You obviously ate out a lot. 3. A loser. Do you have anything more productive to do than use two hundred different coupons within a year?
The deals on the coupons aren’t even that good. In my experience, there would always be a few legit buy one get one free deals that were enticing but all the other ones were only good for $1 off or you had to buy two drinks and a side to get a free item. By the time I graduated in 2005 the coupon book was complete crap because all the decent deals that existed when I was a freshman and sophomore were now discontinued because people actually used those and the participating businesses no longer wanted to offer the discount.
The fundraiser would always end with a big “BLITZ” night. As a whole football program we would get together one night after practice, split into small teams, and overwhelm the north Spokane community with high school boys trying to scheme citizens out of $20. We worked hard for three hours trying to make money for our program while our coaches probably went to a bar and drank beer.
Probably the worst part of this whole thing was the timing. Going through two-a-day practices is exhausting. Trying to find time during that to go out and sell a product that you hate is a nightmare. Let’s see…would I rather lay on my couch and rest in between practices or would I want to hit the hot pavement and go door-to-door selling coupons? That right there just made me want to buy four of those cards from the kid I talked to today. Although of course my bank account would not appreciate it, the thought just briefly ran through my mind because I know how much it sucks.
Oh yes, let me hit on the incentive program we had real fast. We didn’t get cool prizes if we went above and beyond and sold a lot of tickets. We got, get this, coupon books as our reward! Yes, we were rewarded with the same product that I thought was garbage for all of our hard work. This is how the coupon contractor rationalized it: “It is a great deal! Take the extra coupon books that you earn and go back out in the community and sell them and keep the full profits for yourself!” BUSH.
The experience did teach us some redeeming values. It taught us how to sell, it taught us how to talk to people, and it taught us how to work hard and deal with rejection. I just wish we had a better product to give to people, such as something that I didn’t hate and something that didn’t make me feel like I was ripping someone off. I also wish the fundraiser didn’t take place during the most physically draining time of my athletic career. Oh well, I will never have to sell another stupid coupon book again. I just have to make sure to buy them. Don’t Blink.