How My Grandchildren Learned to Love Commerce

“Golf Courses Area with Tropical View” by Grand Velas Riviera Maya is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

My three grandchildren’s other set of grandparents live just off the seventeenth green of a golf course in California. This set of grandparents hosted a multi-generation family vacation at their home this summer. The California grandparents, who only recently took up golf (poor blighters…they know not what frustration awaits them) had been saving errant golf balls that they found in their yard almost every day. They had hundreds of golf balls. We suggested that the kids, led by the oldest eleven year old boy, set up a table to sell some of the golf balls to passing players. Lessons in the challenges and joys of commerce ensued.

As their business consultant–I’ve played golf for, ahem, over sixty years–I told them that they just couldn’t put boxes of golf balls on a table and expect players to stop for awhile and maybe buy some. No. There is a reality to the marketplace that they must satisfy. First of all, golfers cannot take much time to shop between holes, so convenience and presentation were important. Almost all the balls were in good condition. Nevertheless, they needed to be cleaned. Just like used cars in a lot, a clean golf ball will sell, whereas an even slightly dirty one may not. Therefore, the first step on this road to commercial success was to clean all the balls. Through trial and error, they found that soaking the balls in a bleach solution, using a Magic Eraser, and some good, old-fashioned elbow grease would remove almost every blemish and leave the balls sparkling clean.

Next came sorting the balls. Why was that necessary? Many golfers are loyal to one particular brand of ball. Since the golfer’s time between putting out on one hole and teeing it up on the next is limited, the kids needed to put all the balls of each brand together, in order to make it easy for the golfer to find the brand of ball that he likes. Ah, but how to hold them in place on a card table? Egg cartons! The kids scoured the neighborhood for egg cartons, which the neighbors were happy to provide. Then came the presentation. The balls were turned so that the brand name could be easily seen while in the egg carton. In addition to making it easy to find a particular brand ball, this presented a surprisingly pleasing, almost professional, appearance.

Next came location. Several factors had to be considered. One, the card table could not be placed on golf course property. Two, the table needed to be easily visible and accessible to the golfers. Finally, the golfers who stopped had to be well away from shots likely to be hit by players following them. The kids found a nice spot that was still on their grandparents’ property but just off the course’s cart path to the next hole.

Pricing came next. The kids, with their consultant’s help, decided on a per-ball price that was a fraction of the new ball price, with a discount for buying a dozen. The price needed to be simple; i.e., no ninety-five cents pricing, etc. Plus, the kids needed to be able to make change easily. Fifty cents per ball and five dollars per dozen became the price. This pricing level was almost irresistibly low to anyone who stopped and found some balls to his liking. There would be no haggling and the sale could be completed very quickly.

Of course, the price needed to be advertised, again in a way that did not slow down the golfers. They made a big cardboard display which advertised the price. They even came up with a cute, catchy name for their enterprise–“Treasured Golf Balls”.

Their wares on display, the kids settled back and waited for their first sale. They did not wait long. Sales came fast, with some golfers buying multiple dozens of their favorite brands. Most importantly, the customers were pleased. They showered the kids with praise for their entrepreneurship. This was not gratuitous either. The next day, other golfers stopped and told them that word had gotten around.

The kids had a blast. We grandparents were tickled. Several lessons were learned. For example, even the simplest of enterprises requires much preparation. Two, the successful entrepreneur needs to put himself mentally in his customer’s shoes. Three, private property had to be respected. But most of all, it showed the kids that people appreciated them for providing a valued service. Commerce brought strangers together in a bond of mutual benefit.

The other truly fun thing about selling used golf balls is that the kids are likely to resell some of the same golf balls next year to the same people! Think about it.

© Patrick Barron 2021 Website

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