Life Is Just a Bowl of Lemons, and They're Getting Uppity

August 21, 1994|By RICK HOROWITZ

I own a lemonade stand -- lemonade, 50 cents a glass. It's the best lemonade stand in the neighborhood. It's also the only lemonade stand in the neighborhood -- I think it's better that way, don't you?

"Major League Lemonade," that's what I call it. You'd be amazed how much attention a name like that attracts. People come from miles around to visit my stand and drink my lemonade. They park in my parking lot. They buy my souvenir hats. They line up for refills.

I've never had it so bad.

It's not just me, either. There's a bunch of us -- a conglomerate, I guess you'd say -- who own these lemonade stands all over the country. Twenty-eight of us altogether. We all call our stands "Major League Lemonade" -- it just happened that way -- and we're all of us losing money hand over fist.

Well, not all of us. I'd say 19 of us are losing money hand over fist. The rest of us? It's just a matter of time.

The lemons don't see it that way. That's the problem in a nutshell: The lemons just don't see it that way. They're ready to walk.

You run a lemonade stand, you're going to need lots of lemons -- it's a fact of life. At "Major League Lemonade," we've got the very best lemons in the world. We plant them. We spray them. We harvest them. We squeeze every last bit of juice we possibly can out of them. And they still say we're taking advantage.

They say we don't pay them enough. With all the money our lemonade stands are making, they say, we should be paying them more. Lots more. I tell them we're already paying them more than we can possibly afford. Keep it up, I tell them, and we'll all be out of business.

They want to see the numbers. This is what it's come to: I'm running a lemonade stand, and my own lemons don't believe me. You're just fruits, I tell them -- what do you know about numbers?

They don't know much, they say, but they know enough to be suspicious. With all those people lining up to buy "Major League Lemonade," they say -- not to mention parking in the parking lots and buying the hats and the refills -- there has to be all sorts of money rolling in.

Not only that, they say: Whenever one of us decides to get out of the lemonade business, isn't there always someone else ready to shell out piles of dough to take over the stand? If selling lemonade is such a loser, why would they bother?

You'll just have to trust me, I tell them. That's the last thing they want to do. It's that business from a few years ago, I'm sure of it. That's when each of us decided all on our own that we weren't going to compete for one another's star lemons anymore. We weren't going to sign any lemons to long-term contracts either, no matter how good they were. "Collusion," said the judge.

OK, so we might have talked to one another about it beforehand -- what's the big deal? This time, though, we're completely on the level. If we don't get a grip on our spending in a hurry, there's 19 of us going right down the tubes.

Well, 14 of us anyway. Or 12. Something like that.

I'll tell you this: If they walk this time, we're not caving in. We're going to teach them a lesson. If we have to shut down the stands for a couple of months, we'll do it. See how they like that.

"Without lemons," they're always saying, "there is no lemonade." Talk about ingratitude!

I've got a sour taste in my mouth just thinking about it.

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist.

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