Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

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Vitamin K
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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by Vitamin K » Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:04 pm

Well, I took the boy out this past Saturday and we sold popcorn for about two hours. Made about $200 in sales. Not too shabby, I guess? Might see about taking him out again to hit another part of the neighborhood. I'm not particularly proud of the product, but if people are willing to buy, we're willing to sell. And, our Pack does need the money.

The thing of it is...almost everybody who has bought from us is doing it to support the efforts of a hardworking little boy in a smart uniform -- not because they care about the popcorn at all. Lots of remarks from folks about how their kids did scouting too, and how they remember those days. It's encouraging that people want to support scouting.

But it is also a little bit depressing, because we're not selling a product worth buying. We're offering a conduit for people to donate their money to scouting, and get some token snackfood in return. This doesn't mesh with BSA policy, that's for certain.

I think that the BSA needs to recognize that this is how things are and do one of two things: Update their policy, or find a different product to sell. Right now they're in a rut of dishonesty. I imagine it's a lot like those cameras that take a photo of you driving too fast and send you a bill. Everybody hates them, but they bring in so much money, it's impossible to do away with them.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by FatSebastian » Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:05 pm

birddog wrote:I think the current fundraising guideline is inappropriate because the major fundraising tool advocated by BSA (i.e. trails end popcorn) doesn't meet the guideline.
Okay. Thanks for the response. We agree that popcorn sales are problematic relative to BSA guidelines, but perhaps disagree about whether the issue is with the popcorn or the guidelines. I'm of the opinion that the guideline is sound and it is the BSA fundraiser that needs adjustment (e.g., lower the popcorn price, offer a different product, etc.), rather than vice versa.
birddog wrote:I'm not sure I'd equate selling popcorn to "panhandling".
I'm not sure either, which is why I had "panhandling" in quotes. The point was simply referring to the self-admission that "sales" are de-facto "donations (with gratuity)".
birddog wrote:Thus the issue with popcorn is likely more the absolute cost as opposed to the margin received.
A larger absolute cost only means that the fewer people can afford to make the purchase. As Darin observes, people will pay $1 for a large candy bar, but not $1.50 or $2, even though $2 is not unaffordable. Rather, the price point is too far beyond our expectations of its retail value to coax a purchase. Popcorn is inherently a cheap product, and thus has a low expected retail value. We grew up with Cracker-Jack only because we got a multi-pack for less than $1 (and they came with a "prize"!).

To make more money on the same product, one can either raise prices to hopefully make more profit, or lower prices to hopefully induce more sales. Of course, raising prices always seems like the way things go. I seem to recall a time, perhaps more than a decade now, when the cheapest popcorn product was $5-$6 and packaged in a decorative, Scout-themed tin. Fancier flavors had proportionately reduced prices, and also came in decorated tins. Even back then, the profit margin was still "over 70%" but the lower price and substantial packaging lent to a perception of greater value. We all seem to be admitting that any such perception today no longer exists.
birddog wrote:this is another reason why I choose to believe the guideline isn't accurate or I'd be questioning the motive behind allowing popcorn sales...
This is why I said "The larger goals of the overall Scouting program should be kept in mind by those at all levels who seek to raise funds." The guidelines apply not only to Cubs and their adults, but Scouting executives and all Scouters in between.
birddog wrote:It is good you have fundraisers that can out perform popcorn.
To be clearer, certainly we do not have any fundraisers that garner "over 70%" profit. We can match the ~1/3 profit for our own unit, and still feel good about the products being offered, but that does nothing for higher levels of Scouting. Which is why I don't think we'll see a "Popcorn Reformation" anytime soon.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by dna1990 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:46 pm

Not sure why I weigh in, others have much more articulated thoughts, mine mostly a rant.

I am in the camp that say popcorn is overpriced and is only sold to those who are offering mostly a gratuity or charity to the seller. And I am fine with the sentiment. But why not have a simple cash-donation option. Don't want to buy the popcorn, just throw in a few bucks. Some already offer this, I like it as both a scout dad and as a potential buyer. I will gladly hand a nice bill to a scout that approaches me and can state their unit, rank, etc. I know that 100% of that will go to tents or supplies or whatever.

Don't get me started on the over 70% return claims. Yes, when the margins are so high and a pack has a few go-getters (which few rarely do, it is usually parents that have some sales line) - then the final check to a unit looks too good to pass on next season. But if you really look into the gross sales and what council cuts out, what district may cut out, what gets set aside for 'prizes'...I personally think it is a royal rip off. Your council may provide much more service to the individual units, and they do indeed serve some needed functions, but I venture to say much is wasted and diverged to other units all the time.

Same goes for every school fundraiser. Hop up the kids into some frenzy to sell some overpriced and unwanted product, just so they can be in a drawing for a mediocre prize. Yuk.

As to popcorn, if your council offers an opt-out of their prizes, I suggest this. Establish your own rewards system for top sellers or patrols/dens that really join in together.


While tired as a neighbor always be asked to kick in to one fundraiser on another, I do want kids to do fundraising. Great skill and lesson. But it sickens me the small percentage of that $20 box of X that I am buying, will ever go to that individual kid or even their unit. These fundraising companies are huge schemes if you ask me, taking enormous cuts while promoting a system that chastises the kids that doesn't participate at a high level. But may just as easily bring in cash donations well in excess, and those go straight to the need at hand. Ah, but there is the issue, eh.

If kids AND THEIR PARENTS knew what percentage was in play, I bet we would fix a lot of this. Kinda like the nutrition disclaimers and all the APR fine print we are subjected to these days...find out how much your kid is really going to benefit from at the next wrapping paper sale.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by FatSebastian » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:14 pm

Thanks for chiming in dna. Especially good points about the prizes.
dna1990 wrote:But why not have a simple cash-donation option. Don't want to buy the popcorn, just throw in a few bucks. Some already offer this, I like it as both a scout dad and as a potential buyer.
Just in case I introduced some confusion with my earlier lament, I would like to emphasize that BSA guidelines do not forbid Scouts from accepting donations, only from soliciting donations. Like you, we were always elated when someone didn't want popcorn but would instead throw a few bills our way -- pure profit! But it was always the donor's idea to donate, without Scouts prompting.

Once units become convinced that popcorn sales are "donations (with gratuity)", it is only a small step to Scouts begging for "donations (without gratuity)", the latter being against BSA policy. The policy against panhandling always seemed consistent with Scouting culture, which promotes self sufficiency and doing for others, rather than taking from others.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by Noskills » Sat Dec 13, 2014 2:30 pm

I agree it stinks. We didn't even buy any ourselves this year. But it's a necessity evil. We sold a ton and I am getting awesome PWD trophies this year!
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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by DerbyAddicted » Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:25 am

I'm my Unit's Popcorn Colonel (or is it Kernel?) I get really frustrated when I hear the Cookies vs. Popcorn argument. Yes, I admit, the popcorn isn't the best in the world, and yes it is overpriced. But Girl Scouts get .50 per CASE! I'll take selling popcorn over GS Cookies ANY day! My son is a Webelos II and whether or not a Troop sells popcorn is a big part of our decision. On average, we sell about $100 worth of popcorn per hour. That's over $30 per hour in his scout account. There's no other fundraiser that can even come close to that. One Troop we visited sells mulch and said they pay their scouts $7 per hour to deliver mulch. I know if I have a choice between mulch at $7 per hour and popcorn at $37 per hour, I know which one I'm picking.

Our unit has sold $40k worth of popcorn in the past two years, which we've cleared $16k. Once again, there aren't any fundraisers that can even come close to that.

And as far as the suggestion of opting out of the council prizes, that's not a good idea either. While that option is no longer available to us, it only gets you an extra 2% (or so) commission which really isn't much to provide prizes to an entire unit.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by birddog » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:08 pm

DerbyAddicted wrote:But Girl Scouts get .50 per CASE!
DerbyAddicted- I agree with the main point of your post, but my understanding is the girl scouts get closer to .50 per box, not per case.

birddog



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by DerbyAddicted » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:48 pm

birddog wrote:
DerbyAddicted wrote:But Girl Scouts get .50 per CASE!
DerbyAddicted- I agree with the main point of your post, but my understanding is the girl scouts get closer to .50 per box, not per case.

birddog
You may be right, although I have it from a pretty good source that it's actually per case. But maybe our local GS operate differently.



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Re: Trail's End is a Cruddy Product

Post by FatSebastian » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:41 pm

DerbyAddicted wrote:But maybe our local GS operate differently.
FWIW, prices for cookies tend to be set locally. This FAQ explains:
Each of the 112 Girl Scout councils sets its own price, based on its needs and its knowledge of the local market. Today's prices reflect both the current cost of cookies and the realities of providing Girl Scout activities in an ever-changing economic environment. Up to 75 percent of the price of every package goes directly to Girl Scouts in your local area.
My understanding is that cookies generally work the same way as popcorn: the sale price is mostly profit, with only a minor percentage of that profit trickling down to the troop level. Last time I talked to a GS troop leader (years ago), their troop earned something like 50 cents or less per box.



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