My negotiating skills are pretty lame. At an antiques show I once raved to a jewelry dealer about how great one of her pins was (it was amazing), and then remembered I had to bargain for it. Oops. Guess I’m no salesman.
My husband, on the other hand, could, as they say, sell ice to an eskimo. Scratch that. He would sell a truck load of self-washing solar-powered refrigeration units with ice dispensers built right in. It’s kind-of what he does.
And a few weeks ago I discovered it’s what our daughter does too.
You see, it’s fundraising time at school. (Isn’t it always? Do you get more than two weeks in between bouts of selling/buying cheap potpourri, candles, and car washes? Because we don’t). This time it was cookie dough and magazine subscriptions. And my daughter was excited. She came home from school completely jacked about the whole thing.
The school needed money to support the sports program and to help fund new computers for the library (not to mention the salaries of the few teachers that are even left). They needed the kids to get out and do their part, to work hard for their school. She was on board.
Besides that, if she sold enough stuff to bump her into the coveted third sphere of prizes (I can almost hear the washed-up radio announcer turned pitch man inciting the whole sweaty auditorium of teenagers) she could win a stuffed monkey alarm clock that you have to throw against the wall to shut off. Ahh, dare to dream.
So we went. With her in the lead, we took the next Saturday and canvassed the neighborhood. And it was completely her show. I was just security. You know, to steer clear of the house with the stinky old man who still answers the door in his underwear and to make sure she didn’t end up locked in some creepy basement for the next twenty years.
We had just knocked on the first door when my daughter turned to me, very deliberately, and said, “I know this house. The girl that lives here used to go to my school.” She nodded and squinted her blue eyes at me. “That’s good. I need you to compliment the hard wood floors.”
Before I could blink, let alone process her unexpectedly shrewd technique, an attractive middle-aged woman opened the door. As I listened to my daughter roll through her rehearsed, yet strangely casual schpeal, I couldn’t help but smile.
“Your floors are fantastic,” I said. “Wood is always so warm. I have to say, I’m a little jealous. We have tile.”
What can I say? They never had a chance. Two boxes of peanut butter cookies and three magazine renewals. I laughed, thinking it was a fluke. But then, I’m the girl who couldn’t bargain for a pin.
As we scoured the blocks, knocking on door after door, a pattern began to emerge. My daughter can sell stuff.
At one house, as we walked up the sidewalk, she whispered, “Play up the Buy Three, Plant a Tree deal.”
“What?” I asked.
She smirked and thumbed over her shoulder toward the driveway. Parked right beside us was a bright blue, very clean Prius. Nice.
At one house we headed to the door, picking our way through the wreckage of pink plastic Barbie cars, scattered crayons, Polly Pocket dolls and pastel chalk art. She knocked on the door and looked over at me. “This is a cookie house.” She was right. Double chocolate chip, if I remember.
One of my favorites was the place with the car in the driveway, sporting a faded yellow “Baby on Board” sign in the back window. “Hey! Let’s go there!” she said, pointing across the street. She raced over, a fresh bounce in her stride. “That sticker means they have kids,” she explained when I caught up. “And it’s all old and junk, so they’re probably three or four by now. They’ll want cookies too.” I almost felt sorry for the bedraggled mother as she signed up for four boxes of oatmeal raisin cookies, her two small boys racing back and forth between her legs the whole time.
It turned out to be a pretty good experience. I learned a lot. I now know that peanut allergies are more common than I ever knew, that my job on these missions is to “stand in front of the peep hole and smile,” and that my daughter has somehow inherited the ability to talk people out of their money.
Oh, and I’ve also learned what it’s like to wake up at 6:30 am to the high-pitched squeal of a mechanized howling monkey, followed by that oh-so-satisfying dull THUD through the wall.