NEWS

Youthful Salesman in it for the Profit

By Mindy Berger - Wichita Beacon - 1973.

After six weeks of selling Candy door-to-door, Donna Baker has saved $80 for a 10-speed bicycle.She needs another $15 - " I'm going for one of the high-priced ones" - and the 13 year old figures to earn it by the end of the summer.Donna and 43 other teen-agers make 50 cents a box for the cookies, candies and candles they sell for Mid-America Teens. The remainder of the $2.50 price is paid to their crew managers and to the company, Mid-America Teens.Gary Bryan, an Iowa native, started the group in April as Great Plains Youth Inc. in Wichita. The name was changed when Bryan discovered another group in Nebraska used it.

"It's not a social group," Bryan said. "We're out to make money."

The salesmen are told to explain they they do not represent a charity and to describe why they want to make money, he said. No complaints have be made against the group, said Richard Schodorf, special agent for consumer fraud in the district attorney's office. "Most people appreciate a kid who's willing to go out and work and earn his money," Bryan said. He has worked with teen-agers selling newspaper subscriptions in Colorado and candy in Iowa. The original Wichita crews were solicited through wanted ads, he said. Now the salesmen recruit their friends. The crews try their pitch on week nights and Saturday, covering Wichita in about three to four weeks, Bryan said. They also sell in other towns.

Crew managers pick up about 12 youths in vans about 4 p.m. The teen-agers are selling by 5:30 p.m., off the street before dark and home an hour later, he said.During the school year, that leaves little time for study, Bryan admitted. The crews do not work when weather is bad and anyone who wants to study can take a night off. "We want the parents to put school first," he said.

The kids are independent contractors, Bryan said. The crew managers keep track of how many boxes the salesmen take, then each night the salesmen pay for the boxes they have sold. They keep their commission and any tips they receive. If the kids use their sales pitch correctly, they should sell 13 boxes a night, Bryan said. As sales incentives, the crew managers are encouraged to offer bonuses, Bryan said. A manager might buy the top salesman a hamburger, fries and coke. The salesmen work by themselves or in pairs, depending on the neighborhood and the time of the day, Bryan said. Crew managers, who cruise the area continuously, learn to judge when the youth will be finished and when to pick them up. The youth are told to show an identification card and to explain that their crew manager carries their license in the van, Bryan said.

City ordinances require that individual door-to-door salesmen have city licenses and carry them if they work alone. However, a sales crew license may be issued a group license. Members of the crew are required to carry identification showing the name of their firm, the license number and the name of the group leader who has the license. Mid-America Teens will expand to Tulsa next week, Bryan said. His brother, Jim Bryan, Chicago, will become the Wichita area manager.By January they expect to have groups in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The parent company that supplies their candy is Rocky Mountain Youth Inc. in Denver.

Working Teens