If you have a cub scout in your life, you know it is that time of year again. The time when those cute little kids in blue uniforms, and their older counterparts in tan and green, can be found at store entrances all across town selling overpriced popcorn and nuts.
How overpriced? Around ‘$25 for one bag of salted caramel popcorn’ overpriced. At least the nuts are the crunchy, Virginia roasted kind, which are always a bit overpriced no matter where you buy them. But yeah, those are still overpriced, too. However, in the land of scouts, the Fall Product Sales fundraiser is about more than just popcorn and nuts.
I Hated Selling Popcorn
It’s dumb, right? You spend hours on end in the heat outside a store selling an overpriced snack no one wants. Sure, some will stop out of kindness. Many other will ignore the kids and rush by, doing anything they can to avoid eye contact. And surprisingly, some will even buy your scout’s popcorn and nuts. Though, let’s be honest, no one gets excited about about popcorn and nuts like they do about cookies – cookies people actually crave and look forward to every year.
But all those hours spent selling popcorn… for what? From that $25 bag of popcorn, how much goes to your individual scout’s expenses? Anywhere from 30% to 35% goes towards the scout’s dues, camping fees, and pack expenses (like trailer maintenance, special events, purchasing awards, and Pinewood Derby materials). About another 30% to 45% goes to the local council and National BSA (and I’m pretty sure the bulk of that goes to local council but I really don’t know the detailed breakdown).
Okay, so a good amount actually goes to supporting things like BSA camp facilities and insurance, but it’s still just overpriced popcorn and nuts, right?
But It’s About More Than Popcorn
This weekend, I spent 6 hours across two days doing popcorn Show and Sells with my scouts and another 3 hours doing door to door sales. Maybe it’s the Florida heat getting to my brain, but I no longer hate popcorn and nuts. Something hit me, somewhere between the 4th hour of Show and Sell and the 16th visit to a neighbors house… it really is about more than popcorn and nuts. This weekend, my scout learned and experienced so much.
It Takes Hard Work
No, our popcorn sales will not cover his dues and campout fees for the entire year. We are really active in scouts and hardly ever miss a campout. It would take an insane amount of popcorn to pay for all that. But that’s not what my scout sees.
What my scout sees is hours of work put in going towards his scout dues. He is paying his own way. The amount he earns should at least cover his pack dues for the year and maybe even a campout or two. He earned his place in scouts by paying for it himself.
He also earned funds for the pack, which benefit his fellow scouts as well. Those funds will help pay for each kid in the pack to get their own Pinewood Derby kit at Christmas. The pack funds cover needed repairs to the trailer and the grill we use at campouts. He did his part for himself and for his scouting community.
Sometimes You’re Going to be Ignored
He learned that people are going to ignore you, no matter how hard you try, and that is okay. After about a dozen people briskly walked by and didn’t even glance over to acknowledge the 8 year old talking to them, I pulled him aside for a quick conversation.
It went something like “Bud, some people are just busy. They have jobs and projects and kids and dogs to get home to and chores to get done, and they just can’t slow down. And some people can’t or don’t want to buy popcorn, but it makes them uncomfortable to have to tell a little kid ‘no’ so they just don’t say anything. And that’s okay too.” He thought about it, said okay, put a smile on his face and went right back to work.
Does it hurt to be ignored? Yes. But it is okay and it does not have to ruin your attitude or enthusiasm.
No is Okay
A lot of people said no or no thank you. And a lot of the time, it takes a lot of No to get to one Yes. But if you hear that no and give up, you will never get to a yes. Talk about a good life lesson. Just because one person isn’t interested in what you are saying or doing or selling doesn’t mean no one will be interested. All you can do is put in the work and keep trying. And with some luck, you just might find the right person and get a yes.
And how you handle that no matters a lot too. No doesn’t mean beg and plead or harass someone. No simply means no. So you say thank you, have a nice day and keep going. I’m sure plenty of people can agree that “No means no” is a valuable lesson for a person at any age and one that everyone should learn.
Your Neighbors Actually Might Like a Visit
As we did door to door sales, aka wagon sales, I was pleasantly surprised by the response from our neighbors. Many were delighted to chat for a bit about when they or their kids did scouts. Others shared stories about camping trips or how they earned Eagle Scout many years ago. Others never had anything to do with scouts, but complimented him on looking sharp, doing mental math for their popcorn order, or just chatted for a bit about everything and nothing, sometimes while their dog joined us for a pet and a cuddle.
These are not neighbors we know well. They are strangers that live right up the street or around the corner and were just happy to say hi to a neighborhood kid. At one house, a teenage boy even greeted us then ran inside to grab his own wallet just to buy a bag for caramel popcorn.
None of it was about the popcorn. It was about people being nostalgic, kind and, if even for just a few minutes, sharing a connection with a neighbor. It was showing support for another family like theirs doing a fundraiser, just like their kids have done, and sometimes striking up a nice conversation along the way.
It was Never About the Popcorn
Let’s be honest, no one that ever buys scout popcorn does it because they love scout popcorn. Cookies, sure, we crave them all year (and you can bet I have a standing order for thin mints with my local supplier), but I have never met a soul that craves scout popcorn.
Neighbors buy popcorn to support scouts. They support Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA because they did it when they were a kid, they remember when their kid was in scouts, they never see kids go door to door anymore, and, my personal favorite, just because you asked.
Funny thing these days. In a world where it feels so disconnected, a lot of the time, if you ask your neighbor, they will say yes. Just because you asked. And it doesn’t hurt if the one asking is a cute kid in a smart looking uniform with a big smile on his face.
Why should you consider buying overpriced popcorn and nuts? Cute factor aside, funds from popcorn sales help pay for:
- 💵Annual Pack dues to participate in scouting
- 🛠Maintenance and repairs for the pack trailer
- Fun activities for ALL the scouts in Cub Scout Pack 484 including 🏎Pinewood Derby🥇 and holiday parties🎃🎄
- ⛺️Much needed refurbishments for camping equipment
- 🏅🏆Scout awards and more
There are two ways to order…
- Order popcorn online that will ship straight to you (free shipping available on most products if your order is over $70) https://www.trails-end.com/store/scout/ID2GHJQ6 (Make sure it says Dustin F at the top)
- You can also purchase popcorn and nuts to be donated to local military personnel. Simply use venmo to send to @jfowler621 and mention popcorn or nuts. You can do that through the website for popcorn only (nuts are not available for purchase online).
Popcorn Isn’t Perfect
I know from scout leader and volunteer groups I am in that a lot of people hate popcorn. They struggle with it because it can be a difficult fundraiser. There is a lot of work with what feels like little cash payoff. A lot of packs have big expenses, ours among them, and fundraisers like these can feel like a drop in the bucket.
In some of the lower income communities where they need those funds the most to supplement their programs, the popcorn is just too expensive for people to successfully sell. For others in more rural areas, there are no stores with enough foot traffic and neighbors are too far apart to do wagon sales. Those Packs usually end up skipping popcorn sales all together and finding other ways to raise funds. In those cases, I do think it is sad and Scouts BSA needs to find ways to better support those Packs and Troops. I wish there were better options to help financially support those scouts.
And when I think about that, I find myself strangely grateful for the fact that we are out there selling our foolishly overpriced popcorn and nuts, meeting our neighbors, hearing old men reminisce about “When I was a scout…” and seeing my scout learn how to gracefully handle rejection.
And all because of some stupid, overpriced popcorn and nuts.