Lemonade dealers plague neighborhoods

You see them on the corner, selling to people on the streets of your neighborhood. They’re peddling what people want. Customers stop on bikes, in cars, even on foot. They might not get steady business – that would be too conspicuous. But all they’re looking for is an occasional “score.” They just loiter there, waiting for their next customer to pass by. Where are the police when you need them? Obviously the fuzz have bigger fish to fry and don’t want to concern themselves with these guppies. I’m talking about kids with lemonade stands.

Just as ruthless as credit card vendors, these children prey upon thirsty adults during the hot summer months, charging exorbitant prices for crappy lemonade. I’ve often walked by, lost in thought, and have been accosted by these tykes: “Like some lemonade, mister?” “No thanks,” I resentfully reply. Usually I try to ignore them, or I shoot them a glare. It’s bad enough I get solicitation calls at home – do I have to be harassed in my own neighborhood by these hooligans pushing their discolored sugar-water? One little girl even had the audacity to claim, “The money goes to charity.” Yeah … what charity would that be … Toys ‘R’ Us? She probably just wanted to support her Lego habit.

Why don’t these kids get jobs if they’re so itching for money? I suppose it’s “easier” to have Mom or Dad make you a pitcher of lukewarm lemonade and just sit in the front yard, work on your tan and act like you’re on welfare. Where’s the work ethic? If they’re so eager to earn money, maybe they should work in some garment factory for Kathy Lee Gifford.

Everyone knows these rapscallions have no license to sell their questionable thirst-quencher. These kids don’t have to pay taxes. And they are taking away customers from legitimate businesses. But the police conveniently “overlook” these black-market lemonade vendors. Maybe these kids pay them off – I don’t know. You can be assured I’ve already contacted the Better Business Bureau and complained, though all they did was suggest I find something better to do with my free time. Yet are these lemonade stands not unethical businesses?

These outlaws concern themselves with no business standards – they can water down the lemonade, re-use cups, overcharge customers. The lemonade is hardly ever “freshly squeezed” but instead made from powder or concentrate – and here you are, paying from a quarter to a dollar for a glass of something you can make at home for a pittance. And surely their place of business, usually a rickety card table with a couple folding chairs, doesn’t satisfy business health codes. Not to mention their grubby little hands are unsanitary – which I’m sure they use to stir the lemonade. Where are the state health inspectors?

These makeshift lemonade stands are a scourge on our neighborhoods, and it’s spreading. Just a few weeks ago, I saw maybe one or two stands in my neighborhood. Within a week or so, there were close to 10! Where will it stop? Pretty soon, we’ll have lemonade stands on every corner, possibly blocking intersections, with these rogues peddling their putrid punch.

But for now, these kids get by with their illegal activities because they are “just kids” and are said to be “cute.” This is just inexcusable favoritism. For instance, I know that if I were to open a lemonade stand on my street, I’d get harassed by the police within hours of setting up the folding table. And then I’d spend three days in lock-up after arguing with them, and I’d call my mom, but she wouldn’t be home because she plays “bridge” on Friday nights – I mean, just as an example. So what justifies this blatant age bias?

Justice should not only be colorblind, class-blind and gender-blind but also age-blind. Where is the accountability? Sure these kids can peddle lemonade illegally on street corners now, and no one cares. But what next? Watches? Marijuana? Crack? It’s a slippery slope. The authorities need to start cracking down.

I do not blame these children as much as I do society. I believe, as Whitney Houston does, that, “Children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” We do need to teach them well. We need to teach our kids about the law, morality and the value of a dollar. Just because the sight of kids at a lemonade stand might be considered “cute,” this doesn’t mean it’s legal, ethical or a good way to raise our children.

We are doing them a disservice when we encourage them by buying their yellow elixir. We are telling children it’s OK to break the law; it’s OK to talk to passing strangers; and it’s OK to loiter on street corners. It might be cute now, but do you want a 28-year-old on a street corner, selling lemonade because he’s never learned or been encouraged to do anything else? When these kids get older, they’re going to have an disturbing wake-up call.

They say if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But they’re nothing sweet about these illegitimate businesses. All I taste is a bitter bias deeply rooted in our society. I say hold these rascals accountable and clean up our neighborhoods before it’s too late.

 

Matt Brophy’s column appears alternate weeks when he’s not selling lemonade on street corners. He
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