Shoe Column: The Snirkles Incident

By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan

I think it was in fifth grade at St. Stephen’s.

Pretty sure “Ike” was our president. At the end of class, the nun made an announcement. She said, “Now class, I want to remind all of you that our yearly bazaar is coming up this Saturday. I hope everyone is getting ready for it.”

My hand shot straight up. The nun said, “Timothy, do you have a question for me?”

I replied: “Yes. What’s a bazaar?”

She smiled and said: “Timothy, we’ve already been through this. The bazaar will be held in our school gym. There will be tables and chairs and signs. It’s for a charitable cause. Everyone in class will be asked to bring something to sell. Candy. Popcorn. Pick whatever you wish to sell that morning.”

I went home and mulled this over a bit. This sounded like I was being asked to sell something.

Obviously, the good Sister wasn’t aware of how my selling effort went about a year earlier. Maybe it was in the Cub Scouts. I had been asked (more like told) to sell about ten small packs of flower seeds. No problem. With a pack of the seeds in hand, I walked right across the street and knocked on the neighbor lady’s front door. She let me into her house.

I got right to the point. I said, “Hello. My name is Tim, and I wanna know if you’d like to buy some flower seeds.”

The kind neighbor lady replied, “Yes, I know who you are, Timothy. I’m allergic to flowers, but I don’t want you to go away empty-handed, so I’ll give you a nickel.” She also told me to keep the seeds.

That was good enough for me. I figured everyone must be allergic to flower seeds, so there wasn’t much sense in selling them any more. Therefore, I gently deposited all my seed packs into the garbage can and spent the rest of the day playing marbles. It was pretty clear to me that I sucked at selling anything.

The good nun also told the class, “All of the proceeds will go to charity.”

I asked, “What’s a proceed?”

She answered, “Timothy, we’ve been through this. The proceeds will be the money collected from your sales.”

After I was home, two thoughts came to mind. First of all, I didn’t want to go to the bazaar. Secondly, if I was forced to go, I sure as hell wasn’t gonna try to sell flower seeds.

I talked it over with my parents. They came up with a plan. They gave me about $3 and told me to go over to Knudsen’s Grocery Store and buy a box of candy to sell. They obviously didn’t know that I couldn’t sell a hand-warmer to an Eskimo.

While on my journey to the store, I decided that I’d buy a box of Snickers candy bars. The main reason was that I loved Snickers, and if I didn’t actually sell any, well then, more for me. So I walked into Knudsen’s and ordered a box of Snickers to pick up Saturday morning. The nice lady wrote the order down and said I should return Saturday for the goodies.

Saturday arrived. The big day of the bazaar. I walked into Knudsen’s, plunked down the money, and asked for my box of Snickers. The nice lady smiled and handed me a full box. Just for the heck of it, I took a good look at the box.

Inside the box were definitely not Snickers.

It was a full box of Snirkles.

I said, “Uh, what’s this? I wanted Snickers!”

The lady said, “Snickers? I thought you ordered Snirkles. They’re really good. Brown and white taffy bars. Everyone likes them.”

Time was getting late. I thanked the lady, put my box of Snirkles into a bag, and walked to school. A tear or two was shed along the way.

The gym was already packed. I found my assigned chair. The kid next to me was selling popcorn. He placed a nifty “Popcorn For Sale” sign on the table in front of him

I placed my “Snickers For Sale” sign on the table and astutely crossed out “Snickers” and wrote down “Snirkles”. Then I placed my empty coffee can down on the table. It would hold all of the “proceeds”.

Did some quick math. I figured: “Okay. Paid about $3 for this box. 24 Snirkles bars in the box. Gotta get some proceeds.

So I wrote on the sign: “SNIRKLES. $1 EACH”.

The bazaar began. Many people passed by my table. Most of them walked right by like I had a disease or something. During the first 30 minutes, I had exactly zero sales. I would’ve been better off selling flower seeds.

A fat kid with acne stopped by. He picked up a piece of Snirkles and asked: “What the heck is this?”

Hey, I’m honest. I said, “It’s a Snirkles bar. I wanted Snickers but they gave me Snirkles instead.”

The kid put it down and bought some popcorn from the guy next to me.

I was slowly learning the concept of supply and demand. Supply I had. The demand, maybe not so much.

The nun stopped by. She noticed my sign and the empty proceeds can. She bent down and whispered: “Uh Timothy, perhaps you may be charging a little too much.” Then she walked away.

So I did some more quick math. I figured: “Hmmm. maybe it might be better if I drop the price down to 50 cents a bar.” So I changed the sign again.

Thirty minutes later, the can was still empty. I unwrapped a Snirkles bar and ate one. Not too bad at all. A girl saw me eating the Snirkles bar and dropped by my table. She said, “I’d like to buy one, but not for 50 cents.”

I said: “Okay. Will you pay a quarter?” She said: “No”. I asked: “Then how about a dime?” She still said “no”.

I ate another one. She finally bought one for a nickel.

Within 10 minutes, I was sold out. The boy next to me still had some popcorn. I took in $1.10. Sold 22 Snirkles and ate two more.

I was a hero. Best sales guy in the gym. People pointed fingers at me. “There he is,” they yelled.

My coffee can, which once was totally empty, now proudly contained 22 nickels.

Not too shabby. The box of Snirkles cost $3, and I got back $1.10.

A salesman was born.

After the bazaar ended, I took one of the nickels and went back to the store. Bought a Snickers bar for a job well done.

Never went to another bazaar.