Let me tell you the story of a local kid-run lemonade stand. Everyone's had one. I did, you may have, and the kids down the street did, as well.
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It was a nice little job, that lemonade stand, run by two quirky & enterprising little brats that had ample venture capital from Mom.
Their table was the folding-card type, only bigger, and not stained by spilt-beer and TV dinners. The hastily-drawn Crayola crayon sign didn't exist, sadly. Instead, they opted for a vinyl OfficeMax concoction, bearing great similarity to a billboard and featuring neon-orange-fluorescent fonts. A daily-special sign was hung underneath, erased and drawn in that restaurant-white erasable chalk. Last I was there, recently-wiped dust still clung to the bottom.
The lemonade they served was wonderful, to say the least. It had been born of "The Finest Lemons on the Planet", I heard, and was fairly priced at just about a buck-fifty a cup. That wasn't bad, considering Starbucks down the street (run by two unrelated and slightly older boys with no Mom around) is at least twice that.
Upon inquiring as to the locale of the fine lemons they acquire, I was directed to a pamphlet tray adjacent to their table. Apparently, the lemons are hand-picked by well-paid third-world farm workers. The workers (and their families) live quite comfortably in commune-style living quarters, complete with schooling for the children and night-classes for the adults. They're allowed to leave, once a week, for quick supervised trips to the local market. It's uplifting to see that children care about quality products and humane treatment of low-paid workers.
The lemonade they served was... well... squishy. The kind that soothes the palate, but, at the same time, piques interest on the sour section on the tongue. You know, that little-used part. Last - but certainly not least - was the sugar-bomb at the bottom. These kids knew what the hell they were making.
Apparently, they did it well. I had to wait in an impatient and sweaty fifteen-minute line just to peruse their offerings. Humid warm-air car exhaust from multiple Soccer-Mom-Vans threatened to cut in front of me. At a buck-fifty a pop, though, one can't complain about stinky lines.
Their retinue was equally impressive. The Boys were flanked by a stern lawyer and, of all things, an accountant that spoke what seemed to be Russian - I could be mistaken - through a translator. The lawyer looked on with feigned interest. The Russian - or whatever he was – made no effort to conceal his drunken state.
Despite the onslaught of pushy people behind me, I decided to take my chances with a few more questions. The answers were well worth the five-dollar-bill (for Stock Options) that I had to "invest" for further inquiry. As a minor investor, I was advised that I would be privy to Company Decisions and, in the future, might be so lucky as to receive dividends.
The spiffy annual report (copies lay on the pamphlet tray) indicated huge profits, low investments for plant and equipment and, of course, favorable returns on investment. This made me a happy customer. They gave a flat 12% of profits to the local 4-H club. This made me an even happier customer.
I slept soundly that night, satisfied that my money was in safe hands.
That was then.
This is now.
Now, I'm five dollars closer to being broke. But that doesn't matter. There are bigger problems. There's one less lemonade stand on my block.
Apparently - and this could be hearsay, for I heard this from Alice (yes, the very same Alice that phones you when something happens – anywhere – with the news) - the kids had some under-handed stuff going on.
Lemonade was purchased from third-world families, sure. But they weren't the proverbial happy family by any stretch of the imagination, oh no. They finally had to strike - to put up their fists in defiance, for they were being used, abused, and didn’t like to be downtrodden for too long.
The shortage of lemonade caused a momentary price surge - something for which the accountant couldn't compensate - and threatened to consume available monies. This wouldn't have been a problem if the kids hadn't been gambling with my five bucks.
See, the accountant made my five bucks turn into ten - a miracle! - later into twenty, and after that, into forty. He then took his share, plus money for vodka. (Vodka is cheap, though) The lawyer charged thirty to make it all legal, and then an extra two for good measure. Meanwhile, any remaining profits were siphoned to the kids' offshore holding account in the Cayman Islands. Tax-free. Big-brother-immune. Mine, not yours.
You can't expect a lemonade stand to withstand the scrutiny of government forever, can you?
Needless to say, I have no more little lemonade stand down my street. On a warm summer day, I must now content myself with boring water.
Next time you wonder where that little lemonade stand went to, yeah, the one that was down the street, check the local claims court. The owners may just be there.
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