The Doorbell Rings and Sometimes It’s Hard to Say No

By Jack Limpert

The third neighborhood girl came to the house today selling Girl Scout cookies and for the third time I said, “We’ll take two Thin Mints and two Rah-Rah-Raisins.” Okay, that’ll be $24 and you don’t have to pay me now.

My wife is skeptical we can eat all those cookies but how can you say no?

Then an idea. Years ago in Appleton, Wisconsin, my uncle George made a good living working for the Curtis Publishing Company—he went from school to school, getting kids to compete to see who could go house to house and sell the most subscriptions to the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Jack & Jill, and other Curtis magazines. The schools went along with it because they got a cut of the proceeds. The kids competed for prizes and we rang lots of doorbells.

Know how hard it now is to sell magazine subscriptions? Direct mail is ever more expensive and a magazine is lucky to get 2,000 subs out of a 100,000-piece mailing. Magazines that once charged $36 for a one-year sub now go as low as $12 (that was today’s offer from the National Geographic). Lots of holiday deals offered two subs for one low price.

You can offer deals through digital outfits like Groupon or LivingSocial but you have to offer a bargain price, the magazine doesn’t see much of the money, and the renewal rate on those subs is low.

What would Uncle George say? If the cookie people have the Girl Scouts locked up, try the Boy Scouts or some school team or organization.

A neighborhood kid with a smile says a year’s subscription to a really interesting magazine is only $24 and you’d be helping us do good things for the community. Twelve issues of the National Geographic versus four more boxes of cookies? Okay, I’ll take the magazine.
As for newspapers, I miss the neighborhood girl who delivered the Washington Post every morning. Her name was Nicole, she lived a couple streets over, and she had a dog named Guinness who walked the paper route with her. About 15 years ago the Post got rid of the neighborhood carriers and since then the paper has been tossed out of an SUV that flies up and down the street. The paper sometimes hits the lawn. In bad weather Nicole often would leave the paper by the door and during the holidays we always gave her something extra. Now the anonymous SUV driver leaves an envelope with one of the December papers suggesting we send him a holiday gratuity.

I’ve always wondered why Don Graham did that.

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