Sunday, May 1, 2011

Of Lemonade Stands and Government Regulations

Wikipedia Commons

Nicolas S. Martin, the Executive Director of the Consumer Health Education Council in Indianapolis, penned this humorous cautionary tale in the Los Angeles Times last weekend concerning overreach in government regulations.  It recounts how his daughter's spirited plans for a Lemonade stand (and Martin's own enthusiasm to use Lemonade as a way to teach his daughter about business) were crushed by a series of government regulations:
After shopping for her raw materials, I gave my kid a bedtime primer about starting a business. How much profit do you make after expenses? How should you promote your business? Give the customer a great product. She soaked it up and went to sleep all inspiration and smiles. Then I got to thinking about something I hadn't discussed with her: government regulations.

The next morning I began a three-day phone trek through the maze of government agencies that regulate businesses and food sales, and I watched my child's All-American plan crumble like fresh-baked cookies.

My first call was to the parks department, which maintains the trail. That agency is a sponsor of the local Lemonade Day, but, alas, does not permit lemonade stands on its properties any other day of the year. It especially doesn't allow them alongside the trail. Why? They would be "dangerous"; accidents would happen. Do they expect any accidents on Lemonade Day, I asked? "No, we are confident nothing bad will happen that day." Poof! Our best option for a profitable lemonade stand was gone.

My next calls were to the health department, where I eventually found an official who cheerfully told me that, except on Lemonade Day, no child can legally operate a lemonade stand in our city. Nowhere. No time. As far as she is concerned, Lemonade Day itself is just food poisoning waiting to happen.

Martin's plan in response?
What are my kid and I going to do on Lemonade Day? We are going to set up a stand in one of the permitted locations — in a park or at one of the approved sponsors — with hundreds of other kids doing the same thing. But our "secret ingredient" is that we will hand out leaflets explaining why operating a lemonade stand makes my kid and yours not just a hopeful entrepreneur, but an actual lawbreaker.

1 comment:

  1. This is very sad. A week ago I found my son trying to sell his toy for one dollar. I explained to him that if he wanted to try and make money to save we could have a lemonade stand. We have worked on the total cost of materials and the outlook of income and he is up $3.00, Which is good for my five year old! He is very excited and seems like a wonderful entreprenuer as he mentioned having pre-packaged vegetable snacks for sale as well. Now I wonder if his Sunday high hopes and family lemonade stand is not law abiding. This was going to be very educating for him as we were going to study expenses and incoming profit, along with taxes, but apparantley, only this is only the governments field of expertise. With the economy I believe teaching our young children the value of money and hard work along with the mathematical aspects of it is important more now than ever.