I don’t want to brag, but my siblings and I pretty much ruled the paper route scene in our town in the 90’s. I know, how ridiculously impressive. The fact that I didn’t open the blog with that tidbit says a lot about how our parents raised us.
Accounts differ as to when the dynasty started, but we do agree that my sister was the first out of the gate; she was the oldest and needed the extra income to fund her Baby Sitter’s Club series collection. My brother took the reigns after a couple of years and crushed the route on a moped. I took over shortly thereafter and put in a few solid years on the ol’ 10-speed.
Every day after school I would pick up the stack of newspapers at the end of our street, load ’em up into the bike basket that had been handed down though the years and get to deliverin’. Unless it was raining or snowing, then my mom would drive me from house to house. And except for Saturdays, which were the total worst for this particular newspaper: not only was it an early deliver (like, pretty much 7am), but because there wasn’t a Sunday delivery, the newspapers were HUGE and you had to put the insert in yourself, and then you could only fit 3 or 4 in your bike basket which really screwed with the route that you had mapped out. Ugh.
One of the most uncomfortable parts about the paper route was collecting payment from the customers. Some people prepaid straight to the company; it was convenient for us because we didn’t have to waste time trying to collect the money, but we did take a hit in the tip department – I guess folks thought that once they prepaid, their job was done. Why acknowledge the hard work of the 12-year old with the ink-stained hands? I’m not saying tips are mandatory, but a kid can’t buy Pogs on a newspaper delivery girls’ salary alone.
Sure, the prepaids were tough, but at least they actually paid for the newspaper. The worst kind of customers were the ones who tried to dodge you. I don’t know how any self-respecting adult can pretend that they don’t hear the doorbell week after week, but it happens. It’s awkward having to tell the parent of one of your classmates that they owe you for 3 months worth of papers when you know FOR A FACT they they have the cash because their son brings Lunchables to school, and Lunchables ain’t cheap.
The worst case was the couple that dodged me for a full year and then moved across town. They didn’t tell me that they were moving, they didn’t contact the newspaper to cancel their subscription, they just up and took off one day. Looking back, it must have been on a Sunday because otherwise I probably would have noticed the moving trucks when I went to deliver their paper. These folks must not have realized that they were literally stealing cold, hard cash from a child; the company provided the newspapers, so they will get paid either way, whether it comes from the customer or from me. I went home and told my mother that the new family who lived in the house had answered the door and told me the news and she was furious. Livid. At the time, I didn’t really understand her fury, but now that I’m older I can certainly understand why she was so angry about these clowns dodging her daughter for 52 weeks straight and then moving. Plus, they were pretty much doing this to her personally since she drove me from house to house a good amount of the time.
Either way, my mother was not pleased. She pulled a few strings and found out where they had moved to and then drove me up there. She parked out front of their big, beautiful house and told me that I was to go up there, ring the doorbell and collect what was mine. I would be lying if I said that I was excited to confront these folks, but my mom meant business and she refused to leave until I had some cold, hard cash in my paw. I understand that this was a total badass move on my mom’s part and I admire her for not letting me let these dummies take advantage of me (tough sentence, but reread it – it makes sense).
So off I went.
I must have really caught this guy off guard because he actually answered the door. It took him a minute to recognize me, probably because he was face-to-face with me instead of peering through the closed blinds like he did at his old place. I think I said something about his “accidentally moving without paying me first” and he actually had the nerve to look at me like I was the odd one. He went out and purchased a new home just to avoid paying the paper girl* and I’M the one with issues?? Please.
Well believe me, he coughed up the dough pretty quickly after that. Well, no, he actually had to write a check because a full years’ worth of newspapers really add up and he didn’t have that much cash on him. Whatever, I got paid. I skipped down the walkway, check clutched triumphantly in hand, and my mom and I sped off into the sunset.
It was glorious.
*I understand that these peeps didn’t really move just so that they could avoid paying me, but I bet it influenced their decision. Jerks.