The Great Flea Market Fundraiser Experiment in Human Dynamics
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Ebb and Flow.
Several times a week, I hear how terrible todayâ€™s teens are. Theyâ€™re rude, theyâ€™re overly-emotional, Â theyâ€™re â€œprofane little Â bastards,â€ theyâ€™re Â devious, Â theyâ€™re Â Goth, theyâ€™re (gasp) all in black. My own generation seems to forget our teen years and scowl at them, but most of the derogatory Â comments Â come Â from Â my Â parentsâ€™ generationâ€”men Â and women in their 60â€™s and 70â€™s, who also freely deride me for being barefoot in my own backyard.
Iâ€™ve thought that maybe my own girls are just different and that their friends and acquaintances are different. Iâ€™ve never had any problems with any of them. I take that back. One. AKA â€œShe Who Is No Longer Allowed in My Home.â€
But today we did the Great Flea Market Fundraiser ExperimentÂ Â inÂ Â HumanÂ Â Dynamics.Â Â Thatâ€™sÂ Â rightâ€”the Niceville High School Forensics Team held a multi-family garage sale to raise money for their bus trips to debate and drama Â competitions Â all over the Â Southeast. Â It was freezing cold, Â blustery, Â and Â miserable Â for Â the Â first Â few hours when we couldnâ€™t set up for the early birds literally standing in the way and moving items into our path and tripping us. But Shannon and I prevailed, unpacked both our cars, set up, sold enough to reimburse the 2 trips Iâ€™d paid for in October, and hauled Â the rest back home to put on eBay. Definitely easier ways to make Â money but we supported Â her Â academic Â career Â and Â she Â put Â in Â her hours like a trouper.
As we packed up at the fundraiser site, we noted some really stellar moments and some that still have us shaking our heads. Human dynamics, I told Shannon. The funny thing was that the bulk of our sales came from teenagers. It was funny to see how the generations stacked up in our little Â experiment that we didnâ€™t know we were conducting.
Early on, an older man who bought 3 classical music CDs for Â $1 Â each Â expressed Â concern Â that Â several teens were standing at the table behind me where Iâ€™d displayed pieces of my personal jewelry collection. Â He was afraid theyâ€™d take off with everything on the table. And they and their generation did, $5 and $10 at a time and with my best wishes.
During the course of 4 hours, we had a steady stream of high school students of both sexes through our booth, most of whom Â Iâ€™d Â never Â met. Without Â exception, they were friendly, polite, and eager to buy. They either did or didnâ€™t have the money, Â but they didnâ€™t harangue, Â guilt- trip, beg, steal, or lie. In short, they were exactly the best customers anyone could hope for!
These kids were willing to pay for what they got or forgo what they wanted.
The conversations were fun, too. Discussions of the different stones, what they were, where they were from.
The story of how Alexander the Great had demanded allegiance of the Celts who swore only by the Sea, Sky, and Earth. Whether I should get a triskele or sun wheel tattoo on my Â back Â in the Â upper Â middle Â (vs Â the Â lower Â tramp stamp position) or on my left shoulder (left of center, I am).
My own Â generation Â was Â a Â bit Â different. Â For Â those shopping with their teens, they were generally very pleas- ant and uncomplaining, being good role models. Some of those who were there alone, though, exhibited some perplexing behavior, most of it stemming from a supposed misunderstanding of the price.
Like the woman who insisted four items were a set and that the $1 each was for each set and kept asking if Iâ€™d just give Â them all to her for $1 and was incredulous that I wouldnâ€™t. Like the woman who put two pieces of obviously not-a-set bone china together and called them a set so she could get them at half price. Like the woman who switchedÂ prices on an item. Like the guy who tried to move some more expensive necklaces into the $5 section of the jewelry table.
The dichotomy Â in my own generation Â was startling. They were Â readier to haggle, even where Iâ€™d set a firm price, and way too many were willing to pay for what they got but were willing to employ devious Â practices to get items substantially Â cheaper. Iâ€™ve seen some of the same behavior among Â my Spilled Â Candy Â customers, Â unfortunately.
But by far the most disconcerting Â experiences Â came from the Â oldest customersâ€”or Â would Â be Â customers. Â I cannot Â explain Â away Â their Â behavior Â to Â my Â daughter. Â I could say that some were products of the Depression Era and are programmed to get as much as possible for absolutely Â nothing, Â but Â that Â doesnâ€™t Â explain Â the Â incredible rudeness or their Â snarkiness when I wouldnâ€™t give them something for less than one-tenth Â of the price. Â It also doesnâ€™t explain away the sense of entitlement to some- thing for nothing that came through loud and clear.
Like the woman who stalked away angrily because I wouldnâ€™t sell her three pieces of Depression glass for the price of one (and I was worried sheâ€™d break them in her anger). Or the woman who offered my 75 cents for a blue topaz ring. Or the man who spent 30 minutes tinkering with the gas-powered Â edger I was sellingâ€”used Â once, in perfect working order, but I found a better tool. He stunk up the whole place cranking Â the thing and runningÂ it to test it, understood Â it was new and quite the bargain, and then wanted me to take $10 for it and was angry that I wouldnâ€™t. But that was okay because I sold it 10 minutes later for the Â asking price, to a younger man who didnâ€™t bother to crank it. Just three examples of the many who were downright ugly about getting something for nothing.
But my favorite was the woman who came over to the table Â with Â my Â personal Â jewelry Â on Â it Â and Â announced loudly to her friend 20 feet away that sheâ€™d found some- thing Â that Â was Â â€œalmost Â tacky Â enough.â€ Â Yes, Â with Â me standing over it. She picked up a ring and examined Â it closely, ranting about how tacky it and other pieces were. Then she explained that sheâ€™s a member of the local Red Hat Society and Â apologetically that she has to go to garage sales and flea markets to look for jewelry thatâ€™s tacky enough Â to Â wear Â to Â their Â Red Â Hatter Â events. Â She Â concluded that some of the pieces of my personal Â jewelry collection were indeed tacky enough but didnâ€™t match her purple and red theme. She eventually, loudly, meandered off in search of other people to insult and Â the â€œalmost tacky enoughâ€ ring sold a few minutes later to someone who adored it and wore it home.
We Â were Â almost Â done Â packing Â to Â go Â home Â when Shannon looked at me and shook her head. â€œI donâ€™t understand some people,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s my grandmothersâ€™ generation thatâ€™s so rude.â€
I just smiled and reminded her that they feel the same way about her.