Saturday, June 19, 2010

Future Sellers of America

A few weeks ago we participated in a community yard sale. I'll call it a qualified success -- we brought home fewer items than we came with, and even recouped the cost of the space.

Although I love seeing people cart off our stuff (and relieve us a bit of our surfeit of belongings), I have a hard time actually engaging with browsers. I tend to look away so that I can't see people sweep their gaze over the items and either make their selection or, worse, walk away.

A career in sales does not beckon.

For other family members, however, the yard sale was a prime opportunity to hone huckstering skills. Sean would actually accost people walking by: "Hi! Do you want to buy anything?" he'd ask. He even learned to tailor his pitch to the audience. Observing a mother and child pair, he darted in front of our table to get up close and personal: "Would you like to buy something for your daughter? We have lots of toys!"

It was enough to make me hide under the table. Eventually I had to break it to him that he needed to tone down his hard-sell approach and just leave the potential customers alone.

How is it that someone like me, who won't even ask a store clerk where an item is located unless I can't find it myself after wandering around aimlessly for 30 minutes, can have a child outgoing enough to be a yard sale barker?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Last summer I read Juliet Schorr's Born to Buy. I'd expected to be horrified by the pernicious reach of kid-centric marketing, but even my jaded mind was boggled over both the insidious and the blatant ploys that marketers use to influence kids.

Of course, I told myself, I've done a pretty good job at keeping that commercialized claptrap at a healthy distance. My kids are not sheltered from it all by any means, but I kind of prided myself over nixing Nickelodeon and educating them about some of the tactics advertisers use to make their products look attractive. And the brand awareness that Schorr says is now becoming entrenched at younger and younger ages? Not us, no siree!

You can start smirking now at my cluelessness.

While getting dressed last week, Sean came into my room holding a new pair of shorts that he had gotten for his birthday (umm, last year, but, see, they didn't fit then). "Mom!" he said. "Did you know these are TONY HAWK shorts? These are so cool!"

Wait, how does my 8-year-old know who Tony Hawk is? We don't even own a skateboard.

Silly me. Peer influence, of course, that other pernicious force. There's one kid in Sean's class who appears to be the arbiter of second-grade cool, and Sean has been paying close attention.

Doesn't matter that Sean wouldn't be able to pick Tony Hawk out of a two-person line-up. What's important is the name stitched in small letters on the shorts. He may not be a skateboarder, but he can still siphon off some hipness from the logo.

A long time ago on the blog, I wished for a bubble in which to encase my kids. I think I'm gonna need a bigger bubble.