QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The perils of capitalism

Summertime…. Cookouts, fireflies, no school, and … lemonade stands.

A lemonade stand exemplifies the quintessential, innocent, kids’ summer experience: cute little boys and girls set up a flimsy table on the side of the neighborhood street, put up a handmade sign, and, not yet warped by the mean, real world, assume that everyone will pay 25 cents for a homemade lemonade in a paper cup.

Yesterday, being low on cash, the 11-year-old decided to man a lemonade stand. He mixed the Country Time that I had just purchased all by himself, carted the table out to the street’s corner, schlepped along some cups, put up a sign, and waited.

Ten minutes later, he came strolling back into the house, relaxed as could possibly be.

“Ahhh, yeah,” he gloated, “nothin’ like owning your own company.”

He saw the perplexed look on my face, prompting further explanation.

“Yup, I just hired myself some employees… and now I can just sit back and do nothing while they work. Just rake in the bucks while I chill.”

My perplexed look didn’t go away.

“Yeah…" he continued to explain, "I just told the other kids I’d pay ‘em 20% of my sales, and they'll sit by the stand all day while I’m in the air conditioning. Yup. It’s nice to have a labor force.”

My perplexed look morphed from one of perplexity to one of contemplation and possible horror. While kind of impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit, I didn’t want to condone corporate greed, snobbery, lethargy, or irresponsibility.

“Perhaps,” I suggested, “since you find yourself making some money while doing nothing, you could think of an activity to pursue while they’re working so that you’re doubly productive?”

“Hey! What a great idea!” he was into this. “I can set up a rival lemonade stand right next to the one I already started! I’ll have the monopoly and people will have to buy from me!”

“That’s not quite what I had in mind,” I lamented, still ashamedly proud of his business savvy.

Because a mom’s opinion doesn’t carry much weight in 11-year-old’s corporate matters, he went ahead and started a competing stand just across the street from the first one.

I did what most overworked, tired parents did; I buried my head in the sand, whispered “la la la la la la” to myself, and ignored it.

I then rode past the two lemonade stands for a 14-mile cycling workout. “Back in an hour!” I shouted.

When I returned, I was immediately updated by the 13-year-old: “Mom! Mom! He fired the workers from the first stand and they’re running the other stand now!”

“hmmmm,” I reacted brilliantly. “Why did he fire them?”

“Oh, I dunno… I think they got bored and walked away or somethin’ – hey – wanna buy a lemonade?” Apparently they got disgruntled, formed a labor union, and went to work for the competition.

“Sure,” I chuckled, “but I don’t have any money on me.”

“That’s okay,” he allowed, “you can pay me later.”

The 11-year-old shouts toward me from across the street: “Hey! You’re buying lemonade from them? Our lemonade is 5 cents cheaper AND we give you more!”

“Oh, uh. Yeah. Lemme do my silly running drills and then I’ll swing by and buy one from you, k?”

I did, indeed, go to buy a second cup of lemonade from the other stand. When I explained I didn’t have any money on me, the 11-year-old (yes... my son) hesitated. “You can’t pay us right now?”

“No, buddy,” I answered, “I’ll pay you when we get home. Plus – remember – I paid for the original goods and the overhead.”

“hmmm. Well, uh….” Apparently he was not accepting credit.

After taking down my social security number, he relented and allowed me to have the lemonade I didn’t want in the first place.

In the end, I think we all learned valuable lessons: 1) Lemonade stand labor unions need a bit more oversight. 2) Competition seems to increase sales. People stopped at both stands out of pity and paid for more than one lemonade. 3) Capitalism is alive and well and practiced readily by 5 to 13-year-olds.


  1. Nice! Did you see the news story this week about the kid in NYC who was fined for a lemonade stand? Glad you guys didn't get the risks associated with capitalism.


  2. That is hilarious!!! Donald Trump, look out!

  3. Awesome! I was laughing a bit too hard at the thought of him having a franchise. That's excellent!

  4. That is the coolest thing ever! I cant wait for my boys to have their lemonade stand and I only hope that they are as creative as your boys. This story made me laugh on so many levels. I remembered my lemonade stand when I was a kid. My mom stood over me like a dictator and I think she even took a cut because like you said...she paid for all the materials. I was just manual labor.

  5. LOL! Oh my. I love capitalism. Start 'em young.
    We take tips!!! haha Little boys (big boys too) have the same thought processes...my little boy had virtually the same sign. ha

    YOUR PICTURE IS FRIKKEN AMAZING...BEYOND AMAZING. What would that be? Amazing to the 10th degree?

  6. This is one of your best posts ever. I probably always say that, but this time it's really really true. I love your kids' savvy.

  7. Kids. I think you'd better watch out for them. Once they become lawyers.....

    Anyway, I like your changes to blog.

  8. I like the new look...great photo! I wasn't nearly so smart with my lemonade stands. And I still remember that the school bully gave me fake money but I was too scared to call him on it so I pretended it was a Canadian coin.

  9. I remember those days when my kids would set the lemonade stand up. I'm not sure they were ever successful, but it entertained them. I love your header.

  10. I love the changes you have made to your blog!

    I heard that Lemonade Stand Workers Union was pretty tough :-)

  11. Wow. I'd like to buy some stock. How can we make that happen?

  12. I loved this story! I didn't know kids were still doing lemonade stands. LOL I think you should have charged a bit, though, for providing the staples of the lemonade. LOL

  13. First, I must say that I am incredibly jealous that you are able to post a picture of your butt as part of your blog header. (Not quite jealous enough to actually do any of the physcially demanding things you do to get your butt to look like that, but am jealous nonetheless.)

    Second, 11 Year Old is BRILLIANT! Just harness that raw talent for good. He'll go to Harvard Business School on a full ride.

  14. I usually respond to my commenters via email, but I would just like to state, publicly here and for the record, Vivienne, that I happened to have read your blog when you posted yourself in a bikini and I'm ABSOLUTELY positive your butt is just FINE. :)

  15. Is there any way i can partner with your 11 year old? That way, I can just use him to set up franchises all over the world while I coil myself on the couch and this time not dream of, but rather experience the sugar candy world of George Orwell.
    I love your blog!


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