The Boy Scouts of America Should Stop Selling Popcorn [OPINION]
I realize that this is going to upset some people, but just know that this is coming from both a former Boy Scout and a recently disgruntled customer.
Yes, I was a Boy Scout. I was a Boy Scout for a long time. I went to Boy Scout camp. My parents were troop leaders at one point. I took second place in the Pinewood Derby like two years in a row... my stepdad helped both me and my best friend build our cars one year and my best friend took first. I'm still kind of butthurt about it, so let's not discuss it again.
The point I'm making is that my opinion on this matter doesn't come from a place of cynicism or disrespect, but a place of empathy. In fact, that's how this whole thing started -- during a rare moment of introspective thought.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I was by myself, heading out to grab some groceries from the Davison Kroger, which is my new favorite spot because I just learned that I love sushi and theirs is good. Anyway, as I entered the store, there was a young Boy Scout, maybe 9 or 10-years-old, around my boys' age, standing by a table full of assorted popcorn with his parents. He asked if I would like some popcorn and I said "not today, thank you," as I casually strolled by.
Usually, I wouldn't give this interaction a second thought, but before I even got to the carts I had a flashback. I remembered having to do stuff like that as a young scout and how much I hated it. I wasn't the most outgoing young man, and I really disliked starting conversations with random strangers. It's probably why working in sales was never my thing. Usually in those situations, my mom would do all the social heavy lifting, and I would stand there being cute or whatever. Long story short, I instantly remembered two things -- how much my mom rules and that fundraising sucks.
I couldn't have bought any popcorn from the kid even if I wanted to because I didn't have cash on me. I rarely do. Right there I said to myself, "you know what? I'm going to get cash back at the register and buy some popcorn from that little dude." Not only was I empathizing over how much selling stuff sucks as a kid, but I was impressed that he stepped up and pitched me on buying the corn himself.
Roughly an hour later, after one of the most disorganized, indecisive, and zig-zaggy trips through a grocery anyone has ever made (never shop hungry) I was at the checkout getting $20 cashback from the clerk. I then went outside quickly scanned the table and said I'd like some popcorn. The bag of white cheddar immediately caught my eye, and it was the only one of that flavor. I said "I'll take the white cheddar," the kid grabbed the bag and said "$20."
I gave you a paragraph break there so you could fully appreciate the pause that this shocking revelation gave me. TWENTY F***ING DOLLARS? For some popcorn? I would have felt less attacked if the kid pulled a shank and said "run your pockets, grandpa."
Yes, I could have walked away at that point. However, I already had the $20 bill in my hand, there were some bees buzzing about, and I noticed someone I had met in a professional setting once or twice was standing nearby waiting to approach the table next. All of that, coupled with my anxiety over disappointing a kid who was actually trying and the embarrassment I'd feel over potentially looking like a cheapskate in front of a vague acquaintance caused me to surrender the bill without much pause. I grabbed the bag of corn, and quietly walk away.
Now, just so you're not under the conception that this was a giant 12 pack of poppable corn -- this was one 9-ounce bag of fully popped white cheddar popcorn. Like the size you can get from Dollar General for couple bucks. I thought to myself, "this better be the best f***ing white cheddar popcorn" I've ever had as I loaded my car with my rapidly thawing frozen goods and a random bee took inventory of my cart.
Unrelated side note to Davison Kroger -- what's up with all the bees out front? You should look into that.
I decided to give the bag to my boys, who love white cheddar popcorn. I even told them how much it was, which actually prevented them from opening it for a bit. When they did, I asked them how it was. Instead of saying "good" like they do in response to virtually everything vaguely chip-y or snack-y, they said "okay." I walked over and grabbed a handful of the popcorn for myself. It sucked.
The white cheddar flavor wasn't popping like it usually does and the kernels were fairly stale. I couldn't believe it. This was the worst bag of popcorn I had tasted in a long time. I reacted impulsively, thinking, "this is why they're going bankrupt." In retrospect, I realize that fundraising is not at all why they're having monetary issues. However, they could do much better than this.
Think about it, leadership at the BSA. I just paid $20 dollars for a $3 item, at best. The bag says, proudly, in the corner "over 73% stays with the scouts." Yeah? What about the other 27%? There's still like an extra $2.50 per bag unaccounted for by my math. I'm fine with donations, but just call it that and keep your insultingly mediocre popcorn if that's what you're looking for. Either that or get a new product that's good.
If you need an example of how to fundraise -- look no further than the Girl Scouts. They kill it every year with very little effort for two reasons. First, the product rules. Everyone loves Girl Scout cookies and looks forward to buying them every year. Second, they're not wildly over-priced. I could have bought four boxes of delicious Girl Scout cookies for the price of one terrible bag of Boy Scout popcorn. FOUR. This happened two weeks ago and I'd still have cookies left. The bag of popcorn was gone that afternoon, some of which was donated to the garbage can in my kitchen.
I realize that there are other, much bigger and more polarizing issues that are causing issues with the Boy Scouts. While I don't care to speak on that, nor was that my experience as a Scout, I can confidently say that they should sell better stuff. If you're going to make these kids go out and fundraise, set them up with a product that gives them a chance at success. That's the very least you could do.