Perky Ending For Door-to-Door Coffee Sale

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 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.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is 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, California.
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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Michelle says:

    That is really good coffee!!! I'd have bought it just not to have had to drive 299 for it. Enjoy!

  2. Avatar CoachBob says:

    I believe I stated this in your prior article on the same subject.

    In the past 3 or more years I've been hit up numerous times by the door-to-door-kid-from-school-fund-raising dealie. I'm a sucker for this stuff (always helped my step-kids when they were at Bonneyview and Sequoia). To date I've never received one single item I purchased from these kids. One even claimed she was from EHS. I can't turn down someone from my alma mater.

    I do like your approach with the camera. If it ever happens again I think I'll employ the old SmartPhone cam and click away. Maybe even record it in HD!

    Those that fail to produce are killing the age-old tradition of raising money for schools and programs. You're not the only one jaded. We all are. It's too bad.

    PS: As a kid at Parsons I sold Garden Bouquet bars of soap to earn my way to YMCA Camp up at McCumber. Nice thing was….I had the soap with me in a box. Delivery was immediate. Probably how it should be done now.

    Timely article, thanks.


  3. Avatar Kathleen says:

    Doni, sounds like you handled things perfectly and taught the young girl a valuable lesson to have ID and info about the reason for the fundraiser. I also agree with CoachBob that having the product available would be a perfect solution but it's so hard to know how much product to invest in before you get the orders. Having product left over takes the profit out of the fundraiser.

    • Avatar CoachBob says:

      Incentive! That's what having a supply of product produces. Incentive! You don't sell….you "eat" the rest, literally and figuratively. I'm all for incentive. When a kid goes door-to-door with nothing more than a sign-up sheet there's little incentive to make the sale. Good looks and a cool school ain't enough. Have 100 boxes of "X" delivered to your home and you have incentive to sell the whole lot. That's what I did with the soap for YMCA camp. Worked! Now, everything is "buy now and wait, wait, wait, and hope you get your product".

  4. Avatar LovestoEat says:

    here's an idea: perhaps when there is a fundraiser for a school, the school office could be made aware and potential customers could call the office to verify the purported student is trying to raise legit funds. wouldn't have to give student name just what they are trying to peddle. seems like a simple and easy fix so real fundraisers are supported by those of us willing to help our local schoolkids.

    • Avatar Canda says:

      Great idea, but if you've ever observed a school secretary, they barely have time to use the bathroom. Maybe prospective customers could call the company selling the product. They're the ones making the money, and they know which schools are involved. Just a thought.

  5. Avatar Philbert says:

    Personally, when my doorbell rings I stand on the other side making vicious dog noises until they go away. I am constantly amazed at how patient and resilient process servers can be. Glad you got your coffee.

  6. Avatar name says:

    I used to think that one could make quite a bit of money going door to door selling No Soliciting signs…

  7. Avatar shelly shively says:

    I don't like the idea of putting kids at risk by peddling to strangers, everything from magazine subscriptions, candy, t-shirts to coffee. Instead, why don't schools and organizations provide the means for kids to make $ online, through venues such as Ebay or, which sells used books and media material. This would be a great way to generate $ for the cause, as well as teaching the basics of operating a business. When my son Matt, was 13, he made $3,000 in 3 years, selling used books, dvds & CD's on, with the goal of buying a truck when he was 16. Wherever he went, he would ask people if they had books, etc, that they didn't want. People were more than happy to pass on items destined for trash. My husband & I agreed to match whatever $ Matt earned, chipping in $3,000. True to his dream, Matt bought his 1st truck, "Old Blue", just weeks after getting his driver's license. Truly, a highlight of Matt's life, and ours, in seeing him realize a dream/goal.

    • Avatar Canda says:

      So true, Shelly. It's just not safe anymore for kids of any age to go knocking on doors of strangers. I love Matt's idea for a business. Not a lot of people would have the patience for a three year plan, but he made it happen. What a great success story.

    • Avatar Eleanor says:

      Hi Shelly

      I love to hear any story about Matt,though you probably know it will always bring a tear to my eye. I tell people about him, how we was, and how he is – and will always be – one of the very, very best young men I ever knew, and how fortunate I was to get to meet him. What a wonderful one he was. Best wishes always.

      • Avatar shelly shively says:

        Thanks, so much, Eleanor. You meant so much to him, as well. Not an hour of any day goes by without a reminder of him. Knowing that others haven't forgotten Matt, means more than you can imagine.

        Bless you!

  8. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    I just composed a lengthy addition to the above comments and my computer dumped me . . . right out of the whole newscafe site and all. Do you think my computer was trying to tell me I'm too long winded???? What a novel idea.

    That being said . . . . there are many valid reasons for kids selling stuff door-to-door for school programs. But it shouldn't be too much to ask the teacher to dummy up an order form with the school letterhead and some kind of cover letter. In this day and age of graphics, you could probably even add the kid's picture on the cover letter.

    And good for the girl reporting to her father, and good for the father questioning the picture . . . . and good for you, Doni, for being cautious in the first place.

    Then, earlier this week, we have a report of a young man soliciting for the high school soccer team to go to Hawaii . . . . erroneously. Too bad. It's going to make it difficult for the legitimate kids.

  9. Avatar Deborah Divine says:

    Hello, All. I am one of the music teachers at Enterprise High that was selling the coffee to help fund their end-of-the-year trip to Disneyland. Dan Neece and I, along with our hard-working parent volunteers, do everything we can to support kids in their efforts to put the cost of a trip together. It's a year-long effort. We don't require students to sell items; however the most innovative kids often make the most profit. Some of your comments are well taken, others are not realistic in that food items are not returnable once we take delivery (such as if we wanted to give each student a sample). Please note that we suggest that students not go alone and that they wear their Enterprise High music polo to provide proof that they are legitimate. Paper work can be faked, but an embroidered shirt would be more difficult to re-produce. It is an unfortunate reality that budgets will not stretch far enough to pay for 300 music students to attend a performance tour….thus the fund-raisers. Some kids save up for several years to afford a large trip because there is no other way. I admire that tenacity. Doni – I hope you enjoyed the coffee and thank you for supporting our kids!

  10. Thanks, Deborah, for giving so much information about this. Good to know.

    I am enjoying the coffee, and I'm always happy to help support local kids and schools. (I like your suggestion about the students wearing a shirt with an embroidered logo.)


  11. Avatar Barbara N. says:

    Give those kids a box of candy bars…one or two bucks a piece…gone! Never did get my cookie dough one year…lol!

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      The first year I taught, we did a candy bar fund raiser. Back then they were fifty-cent bars. Even tho' the kids were not supposed to sell to fellow students, we had little control of who they sold to at the bus stops. We almost lost a cafeteria worker because the lunch count dropped so low . . .. . but the kids made their goal. LOL!!

  12. Avatar Pat Karch says:

    The question is not what will you do differently, but what will the girl do differently. It is said we only get one chance at a first impression.

    What most people don't get, is that first impressions work in two directions.

    • Avatar Richard Smid says:

      Wow, Pat, thanks for the photos you promised to send that I never asked you for (and never received). And, a special thanks for the rude comment about "how I never looked good" when I jogged past you and your friends near Oak Bottom last summer, too.

      Talk about bad impressions…what was that all about?

  13. Avatar Ron C says:

    Times have changed. Door to door anything is no longer working or appropriate for fundraising. They come through our neighborhood like locust. 90 percent of the money goes to the product firm even if the fund raise purpose is legitimate. The other 10 percent of funds go to absolute fraud. It is time for schools and fire departments, etc. develop mailing lists that they absolutely own and then solicit us alumni directly for funds. Social networking actually works. We will all donate. This is no longer the 1950's where all was great. Yet, last time I donated directly I bought a piano key for $100 from the Anderson union high school to support the purchase of a $17,000 piano. I think they sold two keys and quit. Alas. Not everything works even in my perfect world vision.

  14. Avatar KarenC says:

    I dislike kids going door to door to fundraise. It is too dangerous, the kids never seem to have any ID from the school or even the project they are raising funds for. I know working moms who bring the catalogs, sign up sheets, etc. to the workplace and ask their clients to buy for the kids projects, trips or events. This is nice, but teaches the kids nothing and can get annoying with the amount of fundraisers the schools have each year. I do not know the answer to this except to say, there must be a better way to help the kids and parent groups.

    Our daughter in law became so weary of all the fundraisers, she no longer participates and neither do her children. Instead, she has told the parent group that she will donate a specific amount of money to them each year as her contribution for what ever fundraiser her children's classes have during the year. Not everyone would want or be able to do this, however.

    I have entertained the idea of each student earning the money they need by helping out in the neighborhood babysitting, mowing lawns, pet and house-sitting, or even helping a trusted neighbor they know with some home projects.

    I used to have neighborhood kids assist me with big house cleaning jobs, wash my car, do garden clean-up, etc. Actually, I would be more apt to give money to a group of students who came by offering their help to me to do such projects. A time slot could be set up for the work to be done. This would allow time for parents to come by and actually meet the homeowner, see what job is to be done, and then offer some advice to their student, if needed. The students would be paid cash, for the job done. This also avoids the contributor becoming a victim. At least, you are getting some work done for money put out. This creates incentive, attention to commitments made, and paying attention to instructions given.

  15. Avatar Sid Gabriel says:

    I don't think it would be asking too much for the school or program sponsor to print out a photo ID for kids… or some form of ID. It would make it so much easier on all involved. If that had been the case here we wouldn't even be talking about it.

  16. Avatar RMV says:

    God. Where did the 1950's go? We sold cakes & cookies (homemade).

    They were wonderful times, but they

    are gone now, Never to be enjoyed by

    Your People (children) again.

    God bless our children & grandchildren!

    p.s. the only thing in life that is CONSTANT, is change.

  17. Avatar KarenC says:

    I grew up in the 50's and am so happy I did. Wonderful times! I remember going to a musical at the movies, with my boy friend On the walk home, he would sing me the songs from the musical. Folks smiled and gave admiring nods. Today, he would probably be arrested for disturbing the peace.

    The local civic center held sock hops once a month for everyone, it was so much fun. Drive-ins were the place to go, hamburgers were small and delicious as were the milk shakes. Kids really had good clean fun in those days.

    • Avatar RMV says:

      Yes Karen, be thankful for those times as my Wife (of 50 years) and i are. We were, and are very blessed people.

      God bless America, (and her children).

  18. Avatar KarenC says:

    RMV, we celebrate our 50th in June…congratulations to all four of us!!

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