Ron Paul

I Was a Teenage AirHeads Junkie

|

In the Boulder Weekly Wayne Laugesen puts on his Sherlock Holmes cap and ventures into the world of black market candy. That's right: High school rules banning sweet stuff have created a lucrative and illicit trade for sucrose. Who could have predicted it?

Richard's son, Sean, found a great bargain on AirHeads (a taffy-like candy), at Costco.

"I offered to help him buy the product, if he would pay me back," Richard said. "We sat down and did the math. He was getting 90 in a box that cost about $12 dollars. Based on what he was able to sell an AirHead for, he was getting a 900 percent profit — almost a tenfold markup. That seemed like a pretty good enterprise. He was clearing at least $150 a week in profit."

Sean treated his mother to dinner and a movie [and] bought an iPod. He bought a fancy gaming keyboard with multiple interchangeable sets of keys, new shoes, a sweatshirt and a hoodie.

"In a devious sort of way, I was proud of him," Richard said. "One the other hand, we had this sense that something was wrong with this picture. We kind of knew that the school didn't want him doing this. We also worried that it would all become a bit too enticing. And then, when the customers are too old to want candy, what's he going to sell? Drugs. That was our concern. We worried that he would be unable to resist the money, and would sell whatever the customer wanted."

Candy didn't use to be a gateway drug. Now it is. Thanks, school board! (Unrelated: On the BW's homepage there's a fat HTML link that dwarfs the other text: "Looking for RON PAUL coverage? Click here.")

Cartoonist John Bintz predicted all of this in his (ongoing) comic Candynomics.

NEXT: Save Immigrants From Envy: Lock Them Out!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I bet the kids in that school get a better education about economics form this incident than they ever will in class.

  2. At Woodstock 99′ I sold bottled water in the mosh pits for about an 80% markup. It provided some extra cash for… other stuff.

  3. How long is the school day? These kids love candy so much they will pay high prices instead of waiting until 3:30 or whenever they get out of school?

  4. This guy is late to the party. In high school one of my Jewish friends went down to Florida over Christmas each year (no way, you say), and where he went there were some very cheap bulk candy stores. He would stock up and then sell them in class after getting back. He let people run tabs, made jokes about enforcement, it was fun.

    We didn’t have any rules against candy, he was just convenient, and he made money.

  5. How long is the school day? These kids love candy so much they will pay high prices instead of waiting until 3:30 or whenever they get out of school?

    It’s obvious, mitch: They’re addicted. You ever try to go eight hours without an AirHead? Fucking torture, I tells ya. 😉

  6. This guy is late to the party. In high school one of my Jewish friends went down to Florida over Christmas each year (no way, you say), and where he went there were some very cheap bulk candy stores.

    For reals, yo. I did this in Jr. high myself. Blow-Pop for a quarter that cost 3?, etc. A rivalry with another guy doing the same thing, leaving nasty notes on his locker. Other people selling for a percentage. So long as you didn’t have a class-disturbing crowd around your desk when the bell rang, nobody said boo.

    I managed to avoid moving on to selling drugs.

  7. I managed to avoid moving on to selling drugs.

    I moved on to taking them, but that’s a different story.

  8. What an awesome post. So many libertarian market principals beautifully illustrated.

    Unrelated: On the BW’s homepage there’s a fat HTML link that dwarfs the other text: “Looking for RON PAUL coverage? Click here.

    Doubly awesome! Headline of the linked article:
    Rock Star

    Boulder, You Rock!

  9. Why move into drugs when hes clearing 900% profit on Air Heads.

    Sounds like he should be horning in on the chocoholic market more than anything. Imagine if he was selling candy that didn’t suck?

  10. Hilarious and unsurprising.

  11. Yeah, this is nothing new. I had a buddy in high school who was always hustling something. Never anything illegal, but it did get him in slight trouble at least on one occasion.

  12. I di this in elementary school, I sold the “little parachute guys” (plastic army men with attached parachute, you threw them up and they parachuted down) to my brother and his friends for $0.10, which cost me $0.05, but they were not old enougth to be allowed to ride their bikes the mile or so to the store that sold them. Every couple of trims I made enougth for a pack of baseball cards.

  13. Come to think of it though, this is really depressing. With retail candy available to anyone, how can the market sustain a 900% markup? Only through lack of competition. Is this guy putting the muscle to anyone else showing up with a bag of blowpops? Or are all his classmates too stupid or too submissive to authority, to make a little on the side (even as they can’t help themselves as customers)?

  14. Stories like the candy one warm my heart, and go a long way towards restoring my faith in humanity.

    Years ago, someone from the local government school called me, very upset that my son had been trading candy (Corn Nuts actually) for “good behavior tickets” earned by other students, and had amassed an “impossible number” of them and tried to use them all at once. (The tickets could be used to buy stuff from the schools “good behavior store”) The school suspended him for 2 days. I was all like: “that’s my boy!”

  15. I bet the kids in that school get a better education about economics form this incident than they ever will in class.

    No joke, many drug dealers througth “on the job training” probably have learned enougth about business to succeed in “legitimate” business.

  16. I bet the kids in that school get a better education about economics form this incident than they ever will in class.

    I susspec the latter.

  17. “We worried that he would be unable to resist the money, and would sell whatever the customer wanted.”

    OMFG!!!!!
    He could grow up to be….. WALMART! Oh, the shameful, senseless, horror of it all!

  18. “Or are all his classmates too stupid or too submissive to authority, to make a little on the side (even as they can’t help themselves as customers)?”

    Yes.

    I did the same thing myself. Until I got shut down by the man (aka the Vice Principal). Commie.

  19. This brings up a lot of good questions, like:
    How much is too much to pay for good shrooms?

  20. With retail candy available to anyone, how can the market sustain a 900% markup?

    Beside the school’s ban, it may be driven by modern kids having way less unsupervised time. When I was a kid in the Sixties it wasn’t a big deal to be allowed to wander by the store on the way home and buy my own damned candy. Since then our society has gotten more and more paranoid.

  21. I had the same experience back in jr high. Gumballs and taffy were the bread and butter of hallway business and Pop Rocks were like crack. When competition moved in we obtained specialty items like flavored toothpicks, brownies and pudding from home and sold them at premium prices.

    High School put us out of business becasue they had vending machines and a 7-11 across the street with an open campus.

    You know it’s hard out here for a sucrose pimp

  22. I used to ‘deal’ candy at school in 7th grade – we never had many vending machines of any kind and a very limited cafeteria – AirHeads were my most popular product, but I could never get the markup that kid did, I was doing it in like, 93-94 and AirHeads were everywhere.

    It was a different time, man.

  23. Years ago, someone from the local government school called me, very upset that my son had been trading candy (Corn Nuts actually) for “good behavior tickets” earned by other students, and had amassed an “impossible number” of them and tried to use them all at once. (The tickets could be used to buy stuff from the schools “good behavior store”) The school suspended him for 2 days. I was all like: “that’s my boy!”

    Tom Sawyer did this, too. Tell ’em he’s being all literary and shizz.

  24. I had a friend in High School who (bcse he looked old for his years) would buy “Adult” Magazines and cut out the pictures. These he would retail for a large markup to a select group of losers. I have no idea what kind of a markup he was making but it had to be awesome.

  25. My son earned a bunch of “Go to the front of the lunch line passes” last year. He didn’t need them because he packs lunch every day.

    He ended up selling them, and he told me he sold them for more money as the week went along. He got caught once and had to surrender that pass. I was very proud of him.

    My other son has been trading my homemade chocolate chip cookies for other food.

    Smart boys…

  26. Drug dealers, when faced with such a situation, will typically behave like a cartel and engage in anti-competitive practices, usually consisting of dividing the market into segments (ie, each seller claiming his/her “turf”) and then killing anyone who infringes on a given segment.

    That’d be friggin’ sweet if these kids did the same thing. Minus the killings, I guess.

  27. dam, 900% markup. Why hasn’t the government stepped in, the kid is clearly engaging in unethical business practices!.

    As a side note, why move into drugs? I have never made 900% selling weed…umm..wait. I meant to say that I have never heard of anyone making 900% profit on weed.

  28. dam, 900% markup. Why hasn’t the government stepped in, the kid is clearly engaging in unethical business practices!.

    Yeah, he shouldn’t steal. The government hates competition.

  29. I used to sell phat laces out of my locker in middle school. Got called down to the office by the guidance counselor. She says “I understand you’re selling shoe laces out of your locker”. I assume I’m in trouble for selling stuff on school property. Nope, she wanted to buy some for her son! Booyaaaa!

  30. When I was going through Army basic training, I made a few bucks selling caffeine tablets (you could drink all the coffee you wanted but caffeine tabs were forbidden…then again, who wants to drink Army coffee?). Since falling asleep in class meant getting crucified by the drills, there was quite a market for it.

  31. Further proof that whenever you ban something that is in demand, a black market forms to fill the niche.

    While this is a school-yard thing, real black markets are inherently tied to criminal enterprises. When a good is legal, the black market collapses, and the criminal element is reduced.

    This is the case for Guns and Marijuana/drugs. The black market is far more dangerous than a legal market would be.

  32. A friend and I used to sell ‘Hey Man Cool’ bubble-gum cigs in grade school, maybe 25-30 years ago. There was starch to keep the paper from sticking, so you could ‘puff’ it out in a cloud before you chewed the gum.

    The candy itself is probably illegal by now. But it is surreal to imagine that no one really gave us any grief about it at the time. They were probably glad we took our lessons from working at the school store so well.

  33. Clearly, we need a Soviet-style law against “evil intentioned price increases.” He’s definitely a capitalist sympathizer and enemy collaborator trying to sabotage the socialist utopia.

  34. I sold candy and various snacks throughout my school carreer. We didn’t have vending machines, and candy was verboten except during lunch.

    In the early days, fifth or sixth grade, Now and Laters were the big seller. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on those as easily as some of the other kids.

    By high school, my top product was Farley’s Fruit Snacks. I never pursued the business like these kids, though. I’m guessing I probably netted about $5 – $10 in an average week.

  35. Had a 6th grader used to come into my Dad’s store and buy pencils in bulk.

    Turns out he was retailing them in school to kids who lost or forgot theirs. He was pulling down a 100% markup, too.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.