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  • Missing popcorn money...

    So we have a boy, age 9, that recently transfered to our pack, and was eager to go out and sell popcorn. Our pack "fronts" the popcorn purchase, and then boys reimburse the pack after delivery.

    Unfortuntely, this boy has been AWOL from both Den and Pack meetings. He owes the pack almost $400. We've twice spoken to the mom by phone, and she "assures" us that she'll turn in the money "tomorrow", but nothing happens.

    We also do not have his $15 for his re-chartering. To compound things, we've learned that the family has been having financial problems...

    So should the CM and I be concerned ? and if so what should we do ? Any suggestions ?

  • #2
    Yes you should be concerned. Anytime someone owes teh unit that much money its an issue! Now that said, she may honestly be having a hard time getting it to you. Or she may have used the money and is trying to get it together to give to you and is too embarased to say so. Or she might have just out and out stole it. Of the three scenarios, I would guess that the second is probably the more accurate in my experience. That said, the unit needs to try to recoup that money, but your options are limited. You can keep badgering, you can see if your CO can help with it, you can use legal action, but that would probably be your CO who in most cases wouldn't bother for $400. I certainly would not recharter the lad until something is figured out.

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    • #3
      Call the cops. I'll bet she "finds" the money after a visit from the boys in blue.

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      • #4
        Sounds like this family had their own fundraiser!

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        • #5
          Interesting. The pack and CO do all the leg work of selling door-to-door. They take all the risk of loss in this case. And the council will probably still expect a cut of what profit would have been made. Interesting.

          Do you still have the popcorn? If so, try to sell it elsewhere. For whatever reason, this is a deadbeat family.
          When I doubled as CM and popcorn chair I grew to hate popcorn, partly because of stuff like this. I don't see a solution other than the CO doing whatever it has to or else the pack takes the hit on pack profit, or she pays up. Legal action is going to be fruitless and will just spread even more damage.

          In the future, accept payment ONLY as checks made to the CO, earmarked for the popcorn fundraiser, or to the pack if the pack has its own account. No cash.

          I really hate popcorn.

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          • #6
            Call her and inform her that the pack needs it within a week, simultaneously reminding her about pack and denmeetings and inviting her son to come back. At the end of the week, send her a certified letter, one she has to sign for, informing her that she must pay up or face legal action. Four hundred smackers is real money in my book.

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            • #7
              I hate money and scouting.


              I have been stuck paying for huge amounts of admission fees, camp fees, recharters and popcorn because I am a good guy and take someone at their word. This year I am out 1172 in camp cost, stolen popcorn, unpaid for uniform, patches. Every year we have one or two family's that take advantage of the system and then disappear. I had one family get me for $200 in camp fees, he was our committee chair. Dropped off the face of the earth. If you can't trust your committee chair then who can you trust.

              Getting kinda tired of it.

              My resolution for the new year......Stop fronting money for scout events and make a contract for the parent to sign if I do.

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              • #8
                I think a personnal visit is in order. Take the CC with you and knock on her door.

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                • #9
                  Unfortunately, none of us knows the exact situation this parent is in. But we've all seen the different types of situations out there, some that end well, some that don't. At least she is still taking your calls, so you still have a line of communication open to her. Try offering some alternatives, whether it's a payment plan to pay the pack back, if she still has the popcorn, offer to take it back and try and resell it even at a discount.(something is better than nothing) You can catch more flies with honey instead of vinegar.

                  It stinks that we have to play bad cop, bill collector, etc in Scouting. This will probably be one of those lessons the pack learns and adapts from. We had a situation 2 years ago that changed how we did popcorn sales this year. We had a first year family place a large amount of popcorn orders to family members 4 hrs away. Come pickup day, theirs was the last order still at the pickup site. We called and they said they were moving that weekend to another part of town and that their son would be transferring to another school. of course, boys in his den saw him at school on Monday. We were still stuck with the popcorn, but we dealt with it. We had to change our policy to First Year boys and families need to collect and pay for the orders up front, or the order was not placed.

                  Hope everything works out for you.

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                  • #10
                    This is one of the reasons why I'm glad our current pack doesn't participate in popcorn sales. Our old pack did sell popcorn, and they seemed to have occasional problems like this. And unfortunately, in this case, I'm betting that it's the kid who suffers because his parents "borrowed" some of the popcorn money. He's probably not at meetings because the parents are too embarassed to bring him.

                    Our main fundraiser is Christmas wreaths. Unlike popcorn, it's a big enough ticket item ($15-$20) so that most people write checks, so there's less temptation to "borrow" the money before it's handed in. And if the checks get lost before making their way to the treasurer, at least there's a list of names so that someone can sheepishly call them and ask for a replacement check. If a $20 check gets lost, you can probably get away with doing that. But if the $10 from someone's popcorn purchase gets lost, then the money stays lost.

                    In this case, I would propose a payment plan to the family. Obviously, if they need a payment plan, this means that they "borrowed" the money (also known as embezzlement). So making that offer is, in a sense, accusatory. So I would do it in as non-accusatory a manner as possible.

                    The family probably has bills to pay, so the natural tendency is to prioritize the bills. This is probably why they "borrowed" the money in the first place. So I would diplomatically tell them that Johnny is welcome to stay in Cub Scouts, but they need to pay a minimum of $40 a month, or $10 a week, or whatever, until the money (or popcorn) is returned. Then, to make sure that they consider it to be more important than their other bills, make sure it looks like a bill. Send them a statement showing the date the next payment is due, and include an envelope to mail it in. You might even want to spring for 44 cents for a stamp, so they won't have that excuse to fall back on.

                    When you present them with the payment plan, I would ask them what day of the week or month they get paid, and tell them that each payment is due, in the treasurer's hands, the next day. You could even offer to "help" them by getting a set of post-dated checks.

                    Yes, the people are probably guilty of embezzling the money. But making that accusation probably won't help, because they probably already know this. The best way to handle it, IMHO, is to give them a way to make good. If they are in financial trouble, then $400 might sound like a million dollars. But chances are, $10 a week or whatever is something they can recover from. Chances are, this kid needs Cub Scouts, and this makes it possible for him to remain.

                    And needless to say, this particular family should now be on a C.O.D. basis for anything that requires funds. If the pack is in a position to have him participate without paying, that is great. But if there are things he needs to pay for, they need to be paid up front.

                    Again, I'm glad our Pack doesn't sell popcorn. Our poor treasurer has enough trouble with wreaths, but it's not nearly as prone to trouble as selling nickel and dime packages of overpriced popcorn.

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                    • #11
                      I say again: call the cops.


                      The parents have already been opportunity to pay up. After that it's fraud or theft.

                      There have been several reports of people ripping off Little League teams and such around here --- the cops have been on these people like a duck on a Junebug.


                      Some people just can't keep their hands off of someone else's money if they get a chance. But when the cops come for a visit and explain certain alternatives to them you have the maximum probability of getting the money.

                      Personally I think that's our duty to other Cub Scouts and families who depend on the program.

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                      • #12
                        SeattlePioneer, perhaps your community is different, but in most places local law enforcement balks at being debt collectors, especially where you 1) gave the merchandise voluntarily to the other party 2) have no enforceable (i.e. written) agreement regarding the terms for return or payment of it, including due dates, etc. and 3) the amount is relatively small, say under $1000, which in most places I'm aware of is the threshhold for grand larceny.

                        Personally I agree with those who advocate being understanding and working with the family to get repayment; the honey v. vinegar arguement. It's more in line with the values we espouse, and if they're truly deadbeats, the threat of legal action isn't going to scare them much.

                        My 2cw.

                        Regards,
                        DWS

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                        • #13
                          Well, it's a judgment call on whether to call the cops. If your goal is to get most or all of the money back, then depending on the situation, it might be better to set up a payment plan. If you're sure that won't work, then calling the cops might be the best alternative.

                          One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it's usually not advisable to _threaten_ to call the cops. If you are going to call them, then it's best just to do so and not to give any advance notice. If you do, then you're setting yourself up to a claim of extortion.

                          If the cops show up and are halfway diplomatic about it, then there's a small chance that they'll figure out a way to cough up the money. But if you make what can be perceived as a threat to call the cops, the chances of collecting go way down.

                          So if it truly comes time to call the cops, then just go ahead and do it.

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                          • #14
                            Mr or Ms WestCoastScouter:

                            1) It's time for a business meeting with your COR. Small claims court and police action are matters for them, as the licensee of record for your Pack to choose to pursue. Walk the dog with them, then let them make the decision.

                            2) From now on, get a "outbound" receipt from each family for the popcorn they draw. Put a simple sentence on it: "I understand I must produce the remaining popcorn or its cash value ($_XXX.XX_) no later than (date) at (place)." It's not a contract, but if push comes to shove it will show a small claims judge you had controls and procedures to account for the product.

                            3) Otherwise, pretty much what ownthenight said.

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                            • #15
                              Our popcorn sale has the customers pay at the time of order. The Scout or their family turns the money in with the order. I have yet to have a problem with this system. If someone wants to do a show & sell, they would have to post a deposit for whatever they have me order for them- but this has yet to happen.

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