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  • Required Minimum Popcorn Sales?

    We have boys who have been active in our pack and have never sold Trails End popcorn... which we don't feel is fair. We have heard about packs who require the boys to sell a minimum or else the family has to pay the pack the money the boys would have generated. Has anyone ever tried this? Did it work out? What were your minimums and the consequences for not meeting them? And how did it go over with the parents? Is it something you'd recommend doing?

  • #2

    I'm not a fan of minimum requirements or else the parent pays. Often, there's a reason the boy isn't selling the product, and especially at the cub level, it may be something he has no control over. For example: parents can't take him around the neighborhood during reasonable hours due to work schedules or other responsibilities; relatives live far away and the family lacks a social network to solicit; parents work in places where they can't leave the form in the break room, etc.. Then there's also the saturation of the fundraising market, what with school, sports, clubs, etc..

    Furhtermore, I have personally seen that when parents can just whip out the check book, those who can afford to will - which means only those who can't afford to pay upfront have to do the leg work to sell the product. And I think this sets the wrong tone, as well as short changing the boys whose parents would just rather write a check than have to participate.

    Consequently if you're going to set a minimum, does your pack or troop currently do any group activities like show & sells, so that boys whose families can't (or in a few cases, won't) help them sell have a reasonable shot at meeting that goal? If so, consider how to increase participation in those events - if not, consider introducing these to your pack or troop as a way to boost sales and increase the likelihood of all the boys being involved.



    • #3
      The Pack we used to be with did have minimums. They required that each Cub sell $80 worth of popcorn. They also had a "buy-out" option whereas a parent could just pay $25 (the equivalent to the Pack's take from the $80) instead of selling popcorn. There's really no excuse for not being able to sell $80 worth of popcorn as, with Trails End prices, that's a pretty trivial amount. We had Cubs that regularly sold upwards of $1000 worth (one even topped the $3000 mark). The unfortunate side effect of having a "buy-out" option is exactly what Lisa states in her second paragraph. Lazy parents or parents of lazy kids just whip out the checkbook and the Pack only pockets the minimum whereas if the kid would even try to sell, they'd most likely easily surpass that.


      • #4
        Yep, Booth Sales (Show & Sell) work well for families who do not want to go door-to-door. If a boy helps out for an hour or two and can get credit for even $40, it's better than nothing. Trails End also has the ability to take orders from folks online (they pay with a credit card) with the profit going to the unit & the boy getting credit for the sale.

        With those 2 options, there is really no reason for a boy to do no work at all for the popcorn sale.

        We set a Pack sales goal per boy (not family). Last year it was $350. Some make it, some don't. Some go way over & some do the least possible. It evens out in the end & we very seldom have any boy who does not get credit for ANY sales at all.

        We also do extra incentives. If the boy makes the goal he receives a rocket kit. The top 10 sellers get to throw a whipped cream pie (paper plate w/whipped cream) at the leader of their choice at our December holiday Pack meeting. Last year we had a 4th grade boy who had us give his 1st grade brother credit for all of his sales so that his brother would be able to be in the pie toss. The little dickens hit me square in the left eye!


        • #5
          My CS days are dim as far as recalling popcorn sales. I know we did them, and for the most part everyone participated. But I don't recall how funds were divided among pack/den.

          For context, in my Troop, sales are entirely voluntary. All of the profit earned by a boy's popcorn sales go into his troop account to pay for his summer camp, personal scouting equipment, etc. Some boys really make an effort (this year I had one over $1500 and two over $1000, and last year had two over $1500). One of these boys takes the initiative to "hit" a different neighborhood on his bike after school - almost no parental assistance (except for deliveries!).

          Our troop also does 6 bottle/can drives a year. It's amazing how many people really hate turning their cans and bottles in for the 5-cent deposit. We also raise funds through the district Hike for Scouting.

          As a result of this, 4 of our boys paid for their entire summer camp (just under $300 this year), and a couple had money left over for future scouting expenses. Almost every other boy contributed a significant portion toward his summer camp.

          This year we have a new "popcorn colonel". He's an entrepreneur who has run his own sales business for the past 23 years with a great deal of success. He's planning a new approach to generate some excitement for the boys (personal goal-setting, fun, purpose, competition, etc.). He's also signed on as a Salesmanship MBC - popcorn sales are a perfect tie-in for requirement 5a.

          At the CS level, it's hard to see the real "why" for fundraising, because expenses are really quite low. Maybe the trick would be to educate people beforehand about the importance of helping boys begin to understand that their "hard work" selling popcorn will help them have fun going to summer camp. Of course, we're talking delayed gratification here. Most young boys probably won't make the connection next summer unless someone makes a big point about it.

          Perhaps someone needs to rethink how the sales message is transmitted to the parents of the cubs. You need to "sell" the parents before you can expect them to support their kids selling.

          Just my .02.


          • #6

            Unless it's changed, Trails End requires case-lot orders for online ordering. That's too bad, because most people don't want to buy 4 or 6 or 12 units of a product. For us, it's wasted effort to even mention it.

            I understand that Trails End has to do this because of the high cost of handling and shipping smaller quantities.

            Do any of your scouts have customers who actually buy directly from Trails end?


            • #7
              Our neighborhood has so many Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Band members that it's hard to get many sales. Our kids only tried once, because of the "I have a scout", "my nephew is a scout" or "I bought from...."

              Our troop did a lot of show and sells, and each boy and a parent had to do a certain number, they could do more. We had a lot of older (non-cute) scouts and so sales weren't very good, especially as time went on. This past year the boys voted to not do popcorn sales because it wasn't a big fund raiser for us. We've done others that were less work, for more money.

              I would have gladly written a check, because my son hated popcorn sales. He did fine with flower sales, and gift wrapping for donations. Asking people to buy popcorn wasn't comfortable for him, mostly because people weren't interested in buying it, but he did it anyway for the troop.


              • #8
                First lesson in scouts - don't worry about trying to please everyone. No matter what you do, you will not. At the pack level, we did not have "mandatory" sales limits and as usual, some boys (families) sold oever $1000 worth of product, some none. All money raised went to the pack. Was it fair? No. Is life fair? No. It is a good lessen.

                At the troop level, we've set a minimum amount to sell ($120) which yields about $40 to the troop. All sales above that limit go to the individuals Scout account. Some didn't like it. Well, the alternative was to raise dues. All had the option of opening their wallets instead.

                The real way the Trails End program should work is to have the adults (pack level) or youth (troop level) set up their Scouting year and determine what it will take to fund. Next, do they want to fund this with popcorn sales, donations, self, or some combination of the latter? Then go out and execute the plan.


                • #9
                  I think minimums are a bad idea. My boys have sold very little popcorn over the years (mostly because we live in a rural area), they do however generate (& tote) MOST of the donations for our troop's major fundraiser, a garage sale.
                  You will always have various levels of participation from each family & scout. Some parents camp frequently, some help with paperwork, some serve in committee positions, some provide troop transportation. Some sit on the side lines & gladly let others do the all the work.
                  I know it's frustrating when the few do the most...but where does this end? I have tried to help my sons understand that things are & will always be "unfair" or unbalanced in this regard, pretty much anywhere they go. I want them to learn that sometimes you do more than is required, more than your share. You just buck up & pick up the slack.

                  Perhaps you might reward the boys who DO sell with a percentage in a personal account-to be used for scouting purposes only. Our old troop did this and it was pretty sucessful. The boys earned money for gear & towards summer camp. If they quit scouting, the money was forfeited to the troop's account. However, this isn't really "fair" either as some scouts have parents who take orders at work and sell 1000's of dollars in popcorn. We have one scout who sells over $3000 that way. I know there were a few boys who were resentful of the few who took home big prizes & were invited to pizza parties, while they were awarded a cheap pocketknife or flashlight. That's hard to take when you know you busted your butt selling, and the other guy handed his form to Dad to take to work. Fair? Certainly not from a boy's perspective.

                  So... depends on how fair & square you want to try to make things. I say good luck with that. In our experience it's just not possible. I think you are opening Pandora's box and will make wayyyyy more trouble for yourselves than just letting slackers be... well slackers.


                  • #10
                    Last year was the first year our pack sold popcorn at all. It was completely voluntary and maybe half the boys participated. Our previous CC didn't agree with turning our kids into little salesmen and refused to even consider it. He preferred to have one large fundraiser. The CM didn't like putting all our eggs on one basket and introduced the popcorn when the CC left.

                    School here starts the last week in August. Before the first week is over, the schools are handing out fundraiser sales packets for knick-knacks and overpriced candles. A week after those are turned in, the PTA is selling cheesecakes. Meanwhile the soccer teams are selling pizza kits and frozen cookie dough. After all those sales wind up, it's Girl scout cookies followed by Basketball season, and those kids are selling something, followed by the school's spring selling fundraiser and baseball/t-ball selling pizza again.

                    We bought some popcorn for ourselves, but didn't even try selling it to others, because we'd just hit everyone up with another fundraiser. This year, we know it's coming and we were surprised at the quality of it. So, I expect we'll sell more this year.

                    BUT both my husband and I are involved in the pack leadership and give of our time and money constantly. We wrote off over $1000 in scouting expenses/donations on our taxes last year. And that's all things we don't expect reimbursment for. Other things we are reimbursed for, but often have to sit on the receipts because someone forgot to balance the checkbook or some other accounting error.

                    So, all that said, I don't believe in minimums for popcorn sales. However, there are other options. One example is that any boy that sells over X amount has the profits from any remaining sales go to their expenses, be it membership fees or daycamp, or a uniform allowance or whatever the pack decides. One pack I heard of found this technique to be very successful and several boys had all their expenses paid for through popcorn sales.


                    • #11
                      Scouting Mom and others too - I absolutely understand what you're saying about fundraising overload. It is a problem everywhere these days it seems. So again, here's why I really liked doing the "show & sell" sales outside of local stores (grocery, lowes, home depot, wal-mart, you name it).

                      When we do our show & sells, we do have some full cans and boxes on hand, but mostly we sell individual packets of the microwave stuff for $1 each. People who don't want to pay $15 for the whole box will happily pay a couple of bucks for a couple of packets. And you'd be amazed at how quickly it adds up. Most years, our pack made more than half of its total sales this way and we sold a LOT of popcorn.

                      So I like these because it reduces the stress on family members and you aren't hitting up the same network of people over & over for every fundraiser. It gives scouts whose families can't/won't help them sell individually a chance to participate in fundraising in a structured way with their den or pack. It gives the whole community an opportunity to support scouts. It gives the scouts a higher profile, in a positive way, particularly if you can have some pictures of the kids at camp or doing fun things with their unit on a poster board nearby. (make sure your boys know what the money will pay for, because people will ask.) As for the pack (troop, crew, etc), it takes a little of the guess work out of fundraising. When you leave it up to individual sales alone, you are heavily dependent on people to get out there and sell, and some years that happens, and some it doesn't. When you know you'll have these group activities, that at least gives you certainty that some people are selling some product.



                      • #12
                        I agree about the glut of fundraising that goes on. I believe it's a bit of commentary on the nature of contemporary society. Too much of the fundraising that goes on is to support schools and school activities which by rights should be funded through taxes. Too many taxpayers think they can cut expenses by chopping a school budget. But then those same taxpayers get bomarded with cadres of little salespeople hawking goods for the PTA or PTO, after-school sports events, school-sponsored social service programs, band uniforms, prorms, etc. It's a false savings, in my opinion.

                        In my town we have two packs and two troops. The packs seems to like the show-and-sell, while the troops seem to use the take-order process. One thing that was brought to our attention several years ago is that Trails End popcorn is not labelled properly for sales of individual popcorn packages - it's legal only by the carton.

                        So, if no one is complaining, is it morally acceptable to sell unlabelled product in possible violation of federal/state/local food labelling regulations? If it's not OK and we do it anyway, what kind of message are we sending to those little minds in front of the grocery store and - just as important - their parents? Just wondering. Not judging.


                        • #13
                          I have had the same dilemma regarding the sale of the individual, unlabeled bags. We've done it out of necessity... because a show & sell is just not going to work if you are only selling full boxes... but I've always felt a little funny about it.


                          • #14
                            I believe what makes the difference between something being labeled properly for individual sale is the nutrition information. By law, people have a right to that information. I think a copy machine could solve that problem.


                            • boomerscout
                              boomerscout commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Yes, at least in most places. We had some canned corn come into the Food Bank -- most without labels. We stuck three labels together so the Xerox could print three-up. We cut the Xeroxed sheets into thirds, and enclosed a "label" with each bare can. Problem solved according to the big boys downtown.
                              Hmmm, if you've the space, add an order blank to the label?

                          • #15
                            I've never considered it, I admit. In fact our district and council professional staff have encouraged this at our popcorn kick offs. When I have a chance I'll have to ask. But, no one has ever complained about it either.