Picking up some entrepreneurial crumbs

I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit, but no sales gene.

At 8, I tried selling greeting cards. “Win fabulous prizes and money – these boys and girls did!” Well, I didn’t. I was one lousy, persistent salesgirl. Not even the Oliver Twist get-up helped.

Then, selling Girl Scout cookies (“they practically sell themselves, girls”) turned excitement to despair. I was in competition with a girl on our block who went to parochial school. That shark got dismissed a full hour and five minutes earlier than I did. I heard “sorry – another girl has been here” – slam! – at more doors than I could count, at age 9. And 10. And 11. But relatives bailed me out and, holding my head high, I received my lowest-tier prize: a plastic whistle. I eventually owned three.

But that didn’t stop me from thinking up schemes and inventions since childhood, which have not, I repeat, have not been manufactured.

My best idea so far? A one-way vacuum that sucks dirt and sand out of the house and spits it onto the icy driveway through a long hose. And automatically rakes it. And doesn’t pull any small living creatures along with it. I know. Pretty sharp. Patent pending, soon as I iron out a few details.

Who am I kidding? Even if I could bring the “DirtTransferThingie” to fruition, I just don’t have the knack for marketing. In sales, it’s all in the approach.

I am visiting family in the south.

“Grandma? I’m selling Girl Scout cookies.”

I look into the big, dark eyes of my 13-year-old granddaughter, Emma, and melt.

The annual cookie sale always touches a soft spot, also known as my hips.

But at nearly 4 bucks a box, it’s testing our annoying new budget. Plus, I’m on my annual post-Christmas Mea Culpa diet.

“Absolutely,” I say.

Meanwhile, I’m calculating. See, you can’t buy just one box, not when the saleswoman is your grandkid. I was in deep: minimum, eight boxes. I do a quick computation in my head and realize I can’t restart my diet for at least six months. I’m liking this already.

“The thing is, Grandma,” Emma says, “I don’t have the order sheet with me here.”

And by here, she means the ice cream shop where we’re having a healthy snack. It’s dairy. Shut. Up.

“OK, Em,” I say, “you can just show it to me when we get together Sunday for Mommy’s birthday.”

“Hmmm, I’ll check if we can still sell through Sunday,” she says, casually looking away.

“Perfect. Mommy’s birthday. Cookies. Got it.”

Later, I’m buying groceries when I gravitate to the frozen foods and again, to clarify, it is not for vegetables. I reach for the Ben & Jerry’s, then stop when I realize that pretty soon I will be rife with cookies. Rife, here, being defined as fat.

“Mommy’s birthday” arrives. There is plenty of merriment. Apparently, birthday cake numbs the brain to lucid thought. Later, I remember about the cookies.

I pick up the phone.

“Happy Birthday again, Cassie,” I say, “and Emma forgot to take my cookie order.”

“Um, she’s in bed. School night. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Another day, another grocery store. Fruit, milk, and, darn it – I want cookies. Like a Hitchcock thriller, I find myself drawn into the cookie aisle, bypassing crackers that say things like “whole grain” on them and heading toward anything chocolate, shortbread, caramel. Oh, heck. I pull out my phone and call Cassie again.

“What about the cookies?” I blurt out. People nearby move back, looking away. I breathe into the phone.

“Girl Scout cookies – Emma – when?” I hiss.

I can taste those caramel coconut ones already. And I don’t even like that kind. In my admittedly fixated brain I see stacks of colorful boxes with Girl Scout insignias. I mentally justify increasing my order, which I have not yet placed. Those cookies with peanut butter, covered in dark-enough chocolate. Practically a health food. Forget the price. It’s for charity.

“I’ll check with her. Gotta go,” my daughter says, somewhat distractedly.

I text Emma.

Nothing. Kid’s probably wasting time on homework when she could be selling, selling, selling.

“Call u l8r G-ma – in class”

Oh.

I am going berserk. I realize that even after I order the cookies, I will have to wait weeks for delivery.

At home, I drop a few semi-sweet morsels on a cracker and spread a blob of peanut butter over it. Close enough.

Look, I know I’ll get together with Emma and her elusive order sheet. And, like a NASCAR driver fearful of a gas shortage, I’ll buy enough to fill a freezer for months, maybe years, to come, just in case.

And the good news? I now know what I’ve been doing wrong with my sales pitch all these years, taught to me by a 13-year-old.

When you’re selling cookies, less is more.

And by more, I mean my waistline.

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