Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Ice an Cometh...Kid Biz at Clifftop


I have been watching the growth of a "kid biz." Boys and girls delivering ice to the masses, for a price.

In every great endeavour, there are factors in play that few pay any attention.  Clifftop is a music festival. Most of us adults are consumed with just playing music. That's the reason we pay the big buck...for ice. All you got to do is watch to see the dynamic forces of a market economy at work.

We musicians have to juggle logisitics to play music for a week. Family must be considered. Wives's come and become "Old time Widows". A few do play music, and try to  take care of the dog and children....forget the husband.

The dog comes because it's cheaper to pay $25.00 for the dog to get in than it is to put it in a boarding situation. The children come to run in gangs and create a subculture of their own that we adults know very little about. They find out quickly that we adults are preoccupied, which leaves young minds a fertile field to play in, scheme in, is more like it

One of the most popular activities they engage in is to supply the 100,000 coolers with ice to cool beer. I suppose there is some food involved, but that's only important to the wives. The kids have figured out that if a bag of ice costs two bucks, they can make 50 cents to a buck per back delivering the commodity to other wise involved adults. The kids pray for hot weather that make the coolers beg more ice.

Here's how it works. You're playing tunes and yukking it up when this cute little kid comes into camp and politely asks. Do you need any ice,  how much? 3.00, 2.50 Nope, 3.00... See ya. Two hour later the cute kid returns Need ice? Yeah, how much 2.50 a bag, More like it, make it 3 bags.

Marketing begins to take over here. Hey kid, do we get a discount for multi bags? How many? 8, Yeah, I guess...2.25? You're on, kid. Fresh little faces take off a breakneck speed to the ice stand 300 yards away through a maze of tents, guy wires, campers, picking sessions and return 10 minutes with dripping bags of ice.

This process goes on day after day every hour. At the end of the week, you're broke, and the kids have all your money, and the ice supplier goes on an extended vacation till next year.

You would think this business is harmless. Now for the rest of the story.

The kids bring a wagon to haul as much ice as possible. They soon learn that there are geographic districts that are harder to deliver to and adjust delivery prices accordingly. Cajun Land is at the bottom of a long hill, it's  "dark and snakey" down there....about a quarter mile from Ice Central. Water Tower Hill is up a steep hill but closer to Ice Central; therefore, the horses get worn out fast going up hill. Delivery prices will reflect these variables.

One enterprising young man bought TWO wagons, stationed himself between Ice Central Central and Cajun land, hired two kids to pull one wagon up hill, sent another to the Ice House to buy ice,while he collected the money in the middle, and payed his minions. They kids work cheap, and quit after a few trips, and go buy a snow cone with the money they made. These are replaced by another kid who wants to make a buck. The Great Mandella! this young man has done figured it out! He is reported by the other kids to have made as much a 150.00 a day sitting in the "catbird seat". He's saving for an I Phone. Never had to leave his chair...

Now for the underworld connection. One kid had his wagon confiscated for ignoring the park police warnings of not riding his load down the hill with crowds of people walking up and down. He was waned three times, and, bingo, no wagon. This enterprising young man then rented a cart from another kid for a small sum.. While delivering ice, the "big" kids took his cart, and offered to sell it back to him for more that the rental on the cart for the day He was in a sticky situation.  He appealed to a bystander for "adult opinion" and after hearing the case the "big" kids were sent packing, cart less The "judge" in the case decided for the plaintiff and threatened the "big" kids with parental disclosure. Justice administered!

Another scenario... one "long time customer" sent his iceman up the hill with the money for the ice. The ice was delivered, and payment again demanded. The hapless customer paid after giving the iceman a lesson in record keeping and firing him on the spot.

So, as you can see, there are some big bucks to be made in the ice delivery gives the kids an opportunity to learn about buisness, customer service and how to deal with a peer group they will deal with all through their adult lives.

I like the fact that it's free market and  highly competitive. A wide open, unregulated buisness in which the strong and the smart usually win, but  the little guys gang up to take a piece of the action. Prices are always negotiable, in a market driven by the temperature. The hotter the day the more Ice Men it takes to keep the beer cool!

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