Thursday, March 6, 2014

Newspaper Boys to Men or How I Learned the Value of Money

My first job at 10 was delivering newspapers for the now defunct afternoon Montreal Star, then I moved up to the more desired morning Montreal Gazette.  As a paperboy, you were essentially an independent business - you had a "route" of a few blocks (30-50 papers), you bought the papers in bulk, you collected the money from the subscribers, and you delivered the papers.  The Newspaper provided the customer service.  You learned about how to lose and make money - if you bought too many papers or did not collect all the money, you lost.  You learned about customer service - if you did not deliver on time, the paper was damaged, or there was another problem, you got complaints from the paper and you could lose your route (business).  You learned about dealing with customers - like the guy that always tried to pay a $1.25 weekly bill with a $20 bill that I could not change, or the guy that gave me at 12 years old a bottle of Old Spice aftershave he did not want.  It was good experience, taught you a lot, and financed my hobbies.

Today, all newspapers are delivered by men in vehicles who cover hundreds of subscribers, so the paperboy experience is gone.  How do children learn about business today?  Working in a fast food store after you turn 16 or 18 is certainly a possibility, but you don't get any "running a business" experience since you are an employee.  One friend of mine had a great idea and got his kids into Ebay.  If you want the latest tablet or skateboard, you need to sell the old one and combine it with your allowance to buy something new.  Ebay has all the elements of the old paper boy experience - losing money if you don't charge enough to cover fees and shipping, customer problems like the dude that does not pay or says he did not get the item, and customer service issues.  I think it is a great idea.

And about those paper "men" that chuck papers onto the end of my driveway.  My Wall Street Journal is never delivered if there is a snowfall of more than 0.5 inches within the preceding three days and my Washington Post is delivered by a guy that encloses a cheap cheesy Christmas card at Holiday time with a self-addressed unstamped envelope for his tip, but at least he usually delivers in spite of the weather.  The Gazette or Star would have fired them and got another ambitious kid to take over the route.

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas boss. I'll put one of them into practice with my teenager that is always after the latest iPhone! or my 7-year old that keeps insisting about the need to have his own iPad!

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