Archive for October, 2017

A Halloween Treat-giving Guide

Holiday gift guides have started hitting mailboxes. Sausages, cheeses, pies, steaks. Technology gadgets, leather goods, popcorn. There’s no shortage of treat ideas for people you know.

But what about treat ideas for kids you don’t know?

Before you get carried away with Thanksgiving pie ordering and Christmas gift buying, let’s get Halloween right.

Greeting card companies have driven the prominence of conjured holidays. Similarly, candy companies have driven the modern Halloween custom of throwing handfuls of high fructose corn syrup at any kid that comes on your property.

Starting tonight – no, this afternoon – kids of all ages will begin filling pillowcases with candy. Throw a stick over their shoulders, tie on the bags and the teenagers will look like bona fide carpetbaggers.

The candy thing has gone off the insulin charts. We need to get back to a saner trick-or-treating time because there’s nothing more normal than knocking on strange doors seeking handouts.

Given the extreme swing our culture has taken toward sugar consumption, I recommend a new tack for trick-or-treat participation. Consider the following items in lieu of the customary diabetes-inducing fare:

1. Raisins – You have options here, but all will be good for post-Halloween digestion. You can purchase individual one-inch raisin boxes or you can buy in bulk and create your own Ziploc baggie-fulls.

Best yet, you can give a single raisin to each child who darkens your doorway. Any of the above will freak out your visitors which is the point, correct?

2. Pennies – Most kids these days have never seen a penny unless they’ve participated in the “share a penny” program at your neighborhood quick mart. Throw a few pennies in your visitors’ buckets to create a mysterious jingle effect. The bell tolls…

Feel free to add a story about the pennies’ origin: decomposed eyelids at the city cemetery.

3. Work – Here’s your chance to reform the lackluster work ethic of a generation of kids. Order ten yards of cedar mulch and have it dumped in your front yard.

When kids knock, hand them a shovel and tell them to start spreading. When they ask for payment, reinforce that the work is the gift.

4. Apples – It’s ridiculous that people stopped giving out whole fruit because of a few bad apples. The chances of finding a razor blade in your Halloween apples back in the day were actually, well, razor-thin.

A Fuji apple is sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. Plus, apples are like a virtual teeth brushing after stops at homes of unreformed treat-givers.

5. Toothbrushes – This handout is the trick-or-treat equivalent of tough love. Kids may see it as party-pooping, but years from now they’ll remember you as the one with perspective.

Throw in a travel size tube of toothpaste and your wisdom will become legendary. You may even get some eggs out of it.


I admit this list may be too much too soon. If so, and if you haven’t made a candy aisle run, consider your junk drawer as a source of giveaways: pencils, stickers, trinkets, coupons.

Just stay away from the razor blades.

Kevin Thompson can be reached at

My philosophy on selling

Regardless of our respective occupations, we all sell something. It may simply be ourselves, our ideas, or our opinion on where to have dinner.

Selling is a fundamental part of life. Most people hate that idea.

Dating back to my first job at a fireworks stand, I have been selling.

“Might I interest you in these Morning Glory sparklers? They are ideal for small children because they have easy-to-light tissue paper wicks and longer handles to prevent burns. Plus, they change colors as they burn down!

“We buy them for half a cent each. I’ll part ways with this bundle of six for only $8.99.”

Okay, that last part wasn’t in the pitch, but the margins certainly were.

Through years of studying and practicing the art of selling, I have assembled the following philosophy on the topic.

Without energy, work ethic and determination, you’re dead on arrival. Energy isn’t everything, but it’s the impetus that gets everything else going. If you’re selling for a living, it helps to be heavily motivated by financial reward.

Sales is a numbers game. Play the percentages. The more at bats you get, the more hits (and home runs) will come, assuming your fundamentals are sound.

Organization is key. Work hard and smart. Daily routines are critical. “I only make cold calls when I feel like it, and I make sure I feel like it every morning at 9 am.” There’s no substitute for discipline.

Identify decision-makers. Qualify well. Probe. Ask the tough questions to figure out who can actually buy from you in a volume that makes your time worthwhile.

Persuade the supporting cast. Be diplomatic. Treat the receptionist like the CEO. Think politically. Smart decision-makers want buy-in from their key staff members.

Get to the root of the pain. Ask questions; listen well; understand process. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Be interested before you try to be interesting.

Think relationship, not transaction. Figure out what’s important to your clients in business and in life. Add value in those areas through thoughtful conversations, business referrals and resources (articles, books, etc.). It will set you apart from other chatterboxes.

Keep your client’s best interest at heart. Argue against yourself if it’s what’s best for your customer. It will pay off… in the long run.

Trust takes time. Don’t give up. The first time you call on a prospect, you’re a stranger. The second time you’re an acquaintance. The third time you’re a friend. The fourth time you’re a friend he wants to do business with.

Prioritize benefits before features. People naturally think “WIIFM” … What’s in it for me? How will this make my life easier and more productive?

As successful politicians say, “Ask for the vote.” Ask for the sale directly. Press for a decision. Your prospect won’t be offended if you do. She’ll be offended if you don’t. She’ll think you think she’s not worth doing business with.

If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, move on to something you do. It’s impossible to fake it long enough to be successful.

At the end of the day, you’re not really selling. You’re helping. And everyone loves to be helped, especially with their sparkler selections.


Write to Kevin Thompson at

Screening screen time

“Can we discourage teachers from asking for iPads for five-year-olds?” a fellow board member asked.

She and I serve together with a local education group that raises money for public schools.

Several heads nodded in agreement with the spirit of the question.

It’s the same spirit that cringes when we see a two-year-old staring at a movie on a cell phone. Such scenes prompt “no wonder” moments, as in, “No wonder our society is struggling.”

Though the original cathode ray tube screens were introduced decades ago, the last two decades have seen exponential growth in screen numbers.

With their declining cost and and inclining definition, we usually can’t look without seeing a screen of some size, shape or pixelation.

For example, consider a modern-day office visit:

  1. A sign-in clipboard? Nah, here’s a tablet to register on.

  2. A piece of fine artwork for the wall? Forget about it. We’ll display upcoming promotions on a jumbo flatscreen.

  3. A magazine for you, ma’am? No, thank you. I have some texts to respond to and some Wayfair ads to peruse.

The ubiquity of screens has introduced messaging that’s full of emoticons and extreme abbreviations.

An in-person chat with my fourteen-year-old revealed key truncations that every Gen-Xer and beyond needs to know.

Dad to son: “Can you give me some abbreviations you use in your text message chats?”

Son: “Do you mean shortcuts?”

Dad: “Yes, I meant shortcuts. Thank you for reducing my syllable count by sixty per cent.”

Son: “Sure, Dad.”

  1. wyd –  “What are you doing?” Warning, if the answer to this question is something exciting, it may lead to…

  2. fomo – “Fear of missing out”

  3. wbu – “What about you?” as in “I’m going to the county fair. What about you?”

  4. nvmd – “Nevermind”

  5. idk – “I don’t know”

  6. rly – “Really?”

  7. fr tho – “For real, though” as in “no joke”

  8. tmr – “Tomorrow”

  9. lol – “Laughing out loud;” this trunc hangs on after many years but smartphones now often convert it to a smiley face emoji with tears streaming down.

Of course, you don’t have emojis if you have a flip phone. A local dad purchased his middle schooler one recently.

“I don’t think she takes it out much,” he projected. “It’s more for my convenience than for her entertainment.”

There’s a novel idea: An adult acting like one.

If there was ever a time for adults to play adults, it’s now. If I told you things some middle schoolers do with their electronic devices, it would make your heart skip a beat, if it didn’t break first.

Kids need restrictions. Foregoing them is parental malpractice. Unabated access to Internet-enabled apps will sour naivete in no time.

Non-technical boundaries help, too, such as no screens in non-public places, particularly bedrooms.

Parents shouldn’t try to be GOATs (greatest of all time) and let kids make the rules.

Parents should offer the kind of personal engagement that makes screens, and the conversations on them, a little less mesmerizing.

With strong relationships and communication, kids won’t need this shortcut: psos – “Parent standing over shoulder.”

Follow Kevin Thompson at


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