OPINION: Lemonade Stands are Just Panhandling with Props
There are a few good things that come with the end of summer. Fall weather is the best weather. Cooler than Summer, but warmer than winter, and it's not as muddy as spring. The bugs start to die off. Plus, I can stop mowing the lawn. By far the best part of the end of summer though is that we finally stop seeing lemonade stands in commercials, TV shows, and feel-good news stories.
I have come to detest the lemonade stand. Whenever I see one in real life, I feel bad for those kids. They always look like they'd rather be cleaning their rooms, or taking out the trash. You know that anytime you see a lemonade stand, it is the unintended consequence of that kid asking their parents for something.
"Hey dad, can I have this video game, please?"
"Why don't you do something to earn the money sport, learn a life lesson."
Well, the kid is eight, and the mines aren't hiring right now. So, what happens? The youngling is sat in the front yard, facing traffic. They have a table, a sign, one of mom's good pitchers, some leftover birthday cups, and a can of lemonade mix. In other words, they are sent out to panhandle, but with props.
What life or business lesson is a lemonade stand supposed to teach.? Especially in a non-walking city, like every city except Chicago and New York? Is there a demand for sun-warmed, store-bought drinks? Is the customer service given by the overbearing parent via the dejected child that good that it justifies all this pageantry?
There are no business lessons being learned here. A lemonade stand is not filling a void in the market. It is not offering a superior product or an average product at a lower price. It is not convenient for the buyer or the seller. There is no demand for drinks sold from a card table on a neighborhood street.
The only lesson being taught is that begging works. Especially if you use set decorations.
The reason any lemonade stand grosses its two dollars (net about seventy-five cents, dad charges for table rental) is because people feel sorry for the kids.
"Oh honey, I'm sorry you're having to sit out here. Let me give you a quarter. No, No, No I don't need a drink, let me buy you one."
I know it's hard today for a kid to make pocket money. You can't really knock on doors, mow lawns and get a fiver in a world where few people have cash on hand. To do most anything now takes an infrastructure that we didn't have to deal with in the 80s. Newspapers, where they still exist, are delivered at 3:00 AM by full-time professionals, not 12-year-olds on bikes.
If we want to fan the entrepreneur flame in young people, why don't we guide them to discover a service they could provide that is actually in demand? We may have to sacrifice hovering over their every move, so they can move about the world. Or maybe give them allowances.
I don't know the answer to teaching kids about money. But can we please stop trying to force this manufactured, fake nostalgia on kids? Now, if you'll excuse me, I need something to drink.
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