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I Don’t Want My Kid to Sell Chocolate

Photograph by Getty Images

The other day, my 3rd grader came out of his classroom with a gleam in his eye and excitement in his voice.

“Mommy! We’re selling candy bars!”

“Mm, hmm,” I say without looking up. “That’s nice.”

“Can we go get a box? RIGHT NOW? You just need to sign this paper and then I can get a box to take home.”

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I wanted to read the fine print before signing, but this 9-year-old was so persistent. With the confidence of a multilevel marketing recruit, my child is ready to sell.

I imagine the assemblies for these fundraisers must be like timeshare presentations, only without the alcohol. Sometimes these motivational speakers offer trinkets for the high-performing sellers, such as decorative rubber duckies that they can wear around their necks, like so many notches on a lipstick case. A few years ago, the 1st graders nearly rioted over the last ninja duck. But there were no prizes for this latest fundraiser, so if my kid wanted to sell candy bars for his personal satisfaction, who was I to stop him?

So I signed the permission slip and sent him off to wait in line to claim his cardboard suitcase filled with the World’s Best Chocolate. On the walk home, I offer to carry the box, but no—my boy has a spring in his step, swinging the case in his hand, like a runaway with his suitcase.

These candies are going back to the school, unopened.

“Which house should we go to first?” he asks. He lists off all the names of the neighbors we know. The same neighbors we have already hit up for magazine subscriptions, overpriced wrapping paper, and even pricier cans of roasted nuts. We have a ground rule that families with school-age kids are off limits. Of the rest, some are public school teachers while others are retired, but none of them is jonesing for a $3 bar of milk chocolate—even if it is the best in the world.

“Maybe we should wait until the weekend, when Ah Ma comes over,” I gently suggest. Ah Ma (my mother and my kids’ grandmother) is always game for a school fundraiser. But no. What’s the harm in knocking on a few doors?

Then I read the fine print on the note that came home with the candy bars. If my son doesn’t sell the all of the packages, I must pay for all the leftovers. Yikes. Unless, I turn in the entire unopened carton. The Girl Scouts don’t even make families eat the cost of unsold cookies, and I’d rather be stuck with boxes of Thin Mints, rather than the world’s most mediocre chocolate. Not that I don’t want to support the school. I bid hundreds of dollars at the silent auction each year. I even bought a few rolls of extra-premium wrapping paper. I just prefer to give cash. Not because I’m lazy, or because I want to protect my children from pounding the pavement. It’s really about cutting out the middleman.

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Even some of our friends and relatives agree. When I took my little one to sell nuts and tchotchkes last fall, one lady asked, “Can I make a donation instead?” and reached into her purse for a $20 bill.

So I intercept the box before he sells a bar of dark chocolate to his older brother. These candies are going back to the school, unopened. Perhaps my son does have a knack for closing the deal, but he’s too young to deal with sales quotas just yet.

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