This was my Facebook post on September 18:
A smiling teenage girl with a pink cross necklace knocked on my door. She was selling coffee for an Enterprise High music department fundraiser. It was “straw” something coffee.
All she had was a sheet of paper with a list of coffee descriptions – $13 a pound – pay now, sign your name, address and phone number on another sheet. She’ll deliver the coffee when it arrives. She had nothing with Enterprise’s name on it, not a letter of explanation or even her school i.d.
Am I becoming so jaded that I found myself thinking what a great scam that would be?
But I am a sucker for kids selling stuff, so a visiting friend and I each paid for a pound of coffee. But first I took the girl’s photo (I do that sometimes with door-to-door sales people) and asked her name, and if she lived in the neighborhood, all of which seemed, rightfully so, to creep her out (as I pointed out, she knew my name, address, phone number).
But shoot, how can you tell a real fundraiser from someone going door-to-door with a manila collection envelope and a bunch of coffee names? I hate feeling so suspicious. I do believe I may have just crossed over into total paranoid bitchdom. I’ll let you know in a few weeks if my coffee arrives.
That post was followed by a flurry of comments from Facebook friends. Some expressed concern for a girl going door-to-door by herself, others offered words of support for how I handled the situation, while others thought I over-reacted. A few told their stories of items ordered by a door-to-door salesperson – magazines, cookie dough, etc. – and they’d never set eyes on the merchandise.
Then I posted – Part 2 – what happened just a few minutes later.
Doorbell just rang. I see two serious looking guys with a fair number of tats. One’s carrying a little dog and is standing on my porch. The other guy is down the driveway, watching. The coffee girl is with them, looking on the verge of tears. The guy on the porch with the dog identifies himself as the girl’s dad, very displeased that I took his daughter’s photo.
After a tense couple of seconds we lapsed into a really good talk after I explained my situation in a neighborhood, where, as some of you mentioned, we get hit up for window cleanings, people just flat-out asking for money, offers of address-spraying on the gutters, and cleaning-product sales people (some of whom, amazingly, don’t have their products with them). I apologized for creeping out the girl. I explained that the only thing that made me suspicious was her lack of official paperwork or i.d.
Dad to girl: “You didn’t tell me you didn’t have school information to show people…”
I told the girl she did the right thing by telling her dad that some nosy woman asked a lot of questions and took her photo. I asked the dad to please not make the girl feel any worse, that she seemed like a good kid, working hard to get money for Enterprise High’s music program.
Yes, I could get one of those no-soliciting signs, but I do like to support good causes (when they have proof).
OK, so I called that one totally wrong. Poor kid. I feel like a complete jerk.
That post prompted more comments. Some people gave the dad credit for protecting his daughter, others praised the girl for being such a hard worker, and a few people guessed I’d never see the coffee.
One month passed. No coffee. And another month passed. No coffee. Finally, the week of Christmas, the doorbell rang. There stood the girl’s father, holding a bag with my name on it. Inside were two bags of coffee.
The dad said he was delivering coffee for the daughter because she was at music practice.
Oh me of little faith.
Even so, I’m not sure if I would do things differently next time.
While I ponder that I’ll have a cup of coffee. Your thoughts?
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.