I’m a sucker for a kids’ lemonade stand. The lemonade stand is a ritual of childhood, and I usually don’t pass one up.
Not only will I buy their lemonade, I’ll make sure the kids make a little money.
“How much? A quarter? Well, I only have this dollar bill, but you just keep the change. Having this cold lemonade on such a hot day is worth it!”
Something like that.
I pulled into my friend’s driveway as her kids were setting up shop on the side of their neighborhood street. I had gone there to talk a little business, unaware that this other business was in its start-up stage.
A sign was being made and a table was being set up. Lemonade was being prepared by other children in another house. This was going to be big. In all, five or six kids were involved in this operation. A real citrus syndicate.
My friend’s oldest son was making the plywood sign. He was struggling with the spelling of ‘lemonade,’ but I could see that, as usual, a cup of cool refreshment would be a quarter. Some things never change.
Our conversation was interrupted by her 6-year old son.
“We’re going to tell them it’s a quarter, but if they don’t have a quarter, we’re just going to give them some, anyway.”
His mom hugged him and said, “Of course you are, because it’s the right thing to do.” She kissed him on the top of his head.
It was a sweet gesture, but the capitalist in me bristled. Lemonade is not expensive, but it’s not free. The table you dragged out of the garage, the plywood for the sign, the markers used to letter the sign, the pitcher from which the lemonade will be poured… all bought and paid for at some point in the past.
I held my tongue and smiled. It was a sweet gesture. And it didn’t surprise me. This is a very open family with very liberal values, and I would have expected nothing less.
Still, I wanted to grab both mother and son by their collective collars and holler. “Nothing is free! You hear me? It may be free to you, but somewhere, somehow, somebody paid for it!”
But I knew I’d be back. “Text me when the stand is open for business,” I told her as I left.
An hour later, my phone dinged. I had a few errands to run, so dropping by to support the team was happily added to the agenda.
On the way over, I hatched my plan for helping them. In the truck with me I had a larger cup, and I would ask them to fill it up. That would be more than a standard cup, and I’d simply give them a dollar for their trouble.
Trouble began as soon as I pulled up.
“What happened here?!”
The mom laughed. “There’s bit a bit of inflation since you left.”
I’ll say. Spray paint has been used as Wite Out, and a cup of lemonade was now up 300% to a dollar!
Furthermore, her feisty 4-year old red-headed girl-child that never – never – speaks to me had decided to break her silence. “If you don’t give me a dollar, you won’t get any lemonade.”
Extortion as a sales pitch. Clever.
Imagine going to buy a car and being told, “If you don’t give me $30,000, I’m not going to give you a new car.”
Then, to top it all off, the little socialist who was perfectly willing to give away his product brings me half a cup. A paper cup, half full.
In my case, half empty. I had to give him another dollar to fill it up.
There’s a lesson here, and I’m not sure what it is. But I think I’ve figured out how Bernie Sanders was able to buy a $600,000 summer house after he dropped out of the 2016 presidential race.