Day 1 as Christmas tree volunteer, cheery family event, plenty of sales, Scouts were super

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Yanking a decently big one through the baler was earning your spurs. Its a dang poor job that can’t afford a supervisor, this one has two.

Post-Thanksgiving and upcoming-Christmas have a grand meeting the day after Turkey Day, and beyond super deals on 55″ wide screen splendor, getting the family Christmas tree acquired extra ASAP priority because of the “late start” on that part of the season. We (St. Gabriel MC) had a splendid, even optimal first day – ideal weather and easy to say ‘yes’ to product and pricing, the Scouts and a bunch of HS kids getting service hours were consistently good workers, the families we served excited.

This is our 35th year of selling trees at St. Gabriel, and as a challenge to working your verbal skills and keeping projects moving positively, volunteer activities count. The ‘crew’ spans from 13 to 93 years old, cash table and wreaths and chainsaws. Everyone was on the same page in getting the show on the road, and it turns out, several of those Scouts can actually SELL.

I believe how well things operate goes directly to work-force education programs, giving concise instructions, getting  actions described and checked on (stocking trees, picking up branches), shaking branches to open things up was instilled as best practices. I sold and chainsaw-trimmed the first two customers myself over an hour before we officially opened because people showed up.

Getting young workers filling racks with trees by size was task one, cutting blue string-bound trees (especially junk around the top), and expecting two carriers taking trees to cutting area was procedure. You can’t help smiling when strong young men tell you they can handle the White size themselves.

A sense of humor works great. Scouts were *death* on tying knots for trees on roofs after I reminded customers, “We haven’t lost one in 35 years, nobody wants to be #1 on that list.” 

Cutting loose and having fun, selling Christmas trees is a joyful no-brainer. You KNOW people are there to get that tree *now,* and while mentioning that $$$ raised stays in Charlotte for a variety of community projects, the fact that PRICING barely even registers for the vast majority of Day One customers is a lock. With no hourly wages for our workforce, how much tree you want gets easier to accomplish.

We’ll sell 900-plus trees in less than three weeks, and having an A-1 supplier (I usually say “4-time Grower of the Year” when people ask where we get the trees from) certainly counts. It’s an old school relationship, built on time, and whatever big (9′-10′), big-based trees we received, not everyone else is selling those. Tree size availability goes back to the recession years, when many tree farms going out of business didn’t plant what would now be the popular 7-8 footers.

The last family on Friday, the little girl with her princess dress and lighted sneakers, had brats for dinner and then bought the tree that had the fat bottom Dad liked, with a yellow tag price. Bingo, memories for everyone.

They’re not customers, they’re people and families

Having previously mentioned the opportunity to work your communications skills, we can all become teachers and leaders. On a hustling, eight-hour day, some scenes and ideas stick in my mind.

The collegiate VBer (center hitter) on crutches, three days after surgery, six people had input on how BIG a tree on that. We talked about upcoming therapy because I had a knee replacement two years ago.

The middle school kid who was able to explain the difference between 7-point-8 and 7-dash 8 on our size chart (hey, that he spotted it was something to start) – giving him an attaboy, a small, positive affirmation that cost me nothing.  Proud Mom, and maybe her smart kid helps on a future Men’s Club project.

Lead by example

There are always safety concerns at work, but at a tree lot during early set up, I let my experience inform their work efforts, like lying the tree down instead of stretching to cut something at the top of a 7 footer.

Early on, a HS volunteer who took directions about cutting open a tree, getting better all the time.  Telling guys its okay to press into the tree branches enough with a cardboard cutter to pop the strings, going from bottom to top is the most efficient.

Making sure at least one guy in each group had a blade increased efficiency by a ton.

Being able to yank a tree through the baler was a rite of passage. Give the lightweight20191128_144148 freshman credit for turning down the chance to try – he’d seen it wasn’t easy even for a 220 lb. wrestler. Hey, even two guys pulling a tree through qualifies for getting spurs. At some point, the guys want to see you tug a sort of big one through, and that was fine.

Technology. Even, or especially, our oldest members benefited from clear, picture-labeled products in a lightweight unit, like “10” decorated wreath’ and ‘7 ft. tree.” All sales stats could be brought up immediately, and knowing the actual Day 1 totals was affirming. (Yes ma’am, we can do debit cards.)

The first customers arrived about 9:30, we weren’t officially supposed to start until 11:00, but the customer is essentially right – they came to buy a tree, so find the one they want.

About Thanksgiving dinner

It was super successful, especially for Mom, because there were plenty of older women who were willing to talk with her. The funny part was a LOT of North Carolina lovers watching their #6 Tarheels get thumped by unranked Michigan 73-64. They’d all been looking forward to dissing Duke fans after the  Blue Devils lost on a tip in by Stephen F. Austin at the end of overtime the night before.

It was great that a deep-fried drumstick was reserved for me. Ahhh, tradition.

With all the college age kids around, none seemed at all concerned about politics and 2020 elections.

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