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Lemonade Wars: Free Market Goodness or Capitalism Gone Mad?

Posted by Jen on September 14, 2010 at 7:00 AM in behavior
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Here's the scene: Three little boys on one side of the street (aka the Lemonade Boys) spend an entire afternoon setting up a lemonade stand. When sales are slow, these savvy salesmen take matters into their own hands. One boy runs up and down the street, knocking on doors, with offers of a lemonade delivery service, while the other two refine the made up recipe to accommodate the rush of new orders. Their $2 till is suddenly overflowing and the Lemonade Boys are in business. Their net profit at market close? Well over fifty dollars.

Fast-forward to the next day: Two lovely little girls on the other side of the street (aka the Lemonade Girls) set up a beautiful lemonade stand bright and early. They have been planning this for months and see nothing but success in their future. Meanwhile, the Lemonade Boys have plans to take their business to the next level, but there are some labor issues. They have suddenly acquired a manager in one super-bossy older sister. It takes two hours to settle their dispute, end the picketing and get back on track, only to realize they have competition across the street.

This was not in the plan.

Negotiations ensue.
A merger is discussed, but the Lemonade Girls will have none of it. They spy coercion, unfair distribution of profits and a whole lot more hassle on the production line. No deal. Discussions come to a abrupt halt.

The Lemonade Boys and their now demoted sister/manager have no mercy. They will crush the competition! They will slash prices! Add a new product line (Betty Crocker brownies)! Form a street team for guerrilla advertising!

The Lemonade Girls are clever, however. They have already instituted an aggressive marketing campaign an hour earlier. The boy with the bike privileges is already making the rounds, spreading word of their one time lemonade sale far and wide. The Lemonade Boys don't have the budget for that, so warlike tactics ensue. The Mother Regulator has to step in and abolish the advertised recording which is being broadcast at high volume from a battery operated speaker in the driveway.

No worries, the Lemonade Girls are outpacing the Lemonade Boys 3 to 1. Careful product development, marketing and an excellent customer service experience prevails. The girls are ahead of the game and showing no signs of remorse over the proposed merger. Sales are off the charts!

The only fallout is the neighbors who feel dazed and confused by the onslaught of messaging coming at them from every available channel.

"It's like a war out there," the lady with the poodle reported. "Yesterday it was fifty cents for a large, now it's a dollar for a large? I don't know who to buy from or what to do."

In the end, the Lemonade Girls netted $64 while the Lemonade Boys happily split their $28 profit four ways. The Mother Regulator thought this was a free market success but there was some dissent from Commissioners on both sides of the street.

"Um, was it really necessary for there to be TWO lemonade stands today?"
"Why couldn't the Lemonade Boys have waited til another day, so as not to rain on the Lemonade Girls parade?"
"Don't you think it would have been better to emphasize friendship over competition?"

Needless to say, the Mother Regulator faced a rigorous peer review and may or may not retain her right to oversee fair practices in the lemonade market next season.

What say you, Grownups from the Real World? Are we in danger of creating fantastic business people who have lost the art of living peacefully with their neighbors? Or is all well that ends well in love and war? What would you do? Nix the stand, wait for another day, or let the free market reign? Your unfettered opinions solicited in the comments below.


Kori writes...

I think its great that the girls and boys both had competition! I see nothing wrong with them both having a lemonade stand, and how great for their social skills to have to communicate with each other and with the neighbors that they are trying to get to buy there goods. Good for them! :)

Christine writes...

Competition is fine, but compete for a better product not who can better manipulate the population through invasive advertising. The ethics of business is what's lacking. Do not teach our children to make the same mistakes us adults have made in today's market. We need to motivate a generation that embraces a policy of "people before profits."

~Monica writes...

I place this in the top 5 pieces you have ever written Jen. Serious brilliance. (and so adorable a topic!)

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