Getting Every Penny on the Table

In my younger days I was a member of the Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce). Membership at the time was limited to young men 21-35. In Tacoma, our largest fundraiser was the yearly fireworks stand.

Near the end of June we would sign a contract for an order of fireworks based on the previous year's sales. The fireworks company would deliver the modular panels of the fireworks stand to its location (the same street corner each year), and we would screw and wire it together.

The fireworks chairman would schedule husbands and wives for their shifts and we would all do our duty. It wasn't hard work. Actually, it was fun. We talked and joked with each other as we waited for customers, just like most businesses. We cleaned up our messes and sometimes like little children we would set off a few fireworks from time to time to alleviate boredom. The last crew would generally close up and then cross the street to the Mountain Tavern for a beer or two and a game of pool.

In selling fireworks we would see single adult males, parents, grandparents and children . . . lots of children. The fireworks were labeled "safe and sane" so we could legally sell fireworks to any age. Most of us had grown up playing with fireworks both legal and illegal.

It didn't take me long to develop my sales attitude. Having worked at my parents' motel from the seventh grade up to college, I knew about selling to the public. And as the son of small business owners I knew how important each sale was. For the Jaycees this was the fundraiser that allowed us to run many of our projects during the year, and we had a whole bunch of community projects.

When kids came up to the stand they would usually take all of their money out of their pockets. With money in hand they would make their purchasing decisions. Since I could easily see what they had to work with, I could put together special packages for them that magically took every single penny from their eager little paws. They were thrilled. I was thrilled.