Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Money Box

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Just 5 PM here on the mountain and the wind continues to blow as the temperature drops still lower. Today's high of 11.9 degrees is now back down to 2.2 degrees and the prediction for tonight is below zero as a major storm front approaches. I put out two large pieces of suet for the birds today and until the sun went out of sight, a variety of birds spent more time with the suet than with the seeds. The only bird that wasn't interested was a single, lonesome looking mourning dove.

A few weeks back I stopped at a store on the way home and couldn't help but notice that the owner had invested in a very nice Dell business computer with the built in cash drawer. These are more and more prevalent in the business world now because you have many more options than with a traditional cash register.

It wasn't really the computer that caught my attention but the young clerk who was banging a roll of quarters on the side of the monitor as he tried to break open the wrapper. Someplace in his vocational history he had obviously learned to bang the coin wrappers on the cash drawer but since the monitor was handier, he was giving it a try. I was cringing at the sight and knew the owner would have gone nuts if he saw a very nice flat screen heading south.

These are really good computers if you treat them right. As you process sales transactions you have instant inventory control to make ordering replacement stock that much easier. You can manipulate your sales data hundreds of ways to determine who buys what on what day, time of day and in conjunction with what other products. This is all valuable information as long as you as business manager take an interest in learning the programming features and take action on what you learn.

Here at Vermont Flower Farm we're a bit primitive. We use a metal cash box with a plastic money drawer that wears out about the second week you own it so the drawer always slides into the bottom of the box and money spills everywhere when you try to pull it out. Just the same, this has worked for us for years.

A couple days after seeing the clerk banging on the new Dell, I asked myself where our money box ended up at the close of the season. From Labor Day on until we call it quits, the box resides on the shelf above the washing machine by the back door. We carry it outside when customers arrive and then return it to the shelf the rest of the time. It finally makes its way to the cellar and usually resides with the gardening stuff on a stack of metal shelves.

Half way down the cellar stairs I spotted the money box. I picked it up and took it to my work bench. It felt heavy but I almost expected that as Gail uses it as a repository for all kinds of things. This time was just a little different. There was quite a collection of business cards, mostly from landscapers and nursery salesmen but one from a web designer, one from a furniture maker and one from a massage place over in Topsham. Last I knew Topsham didn't even have 900 people in town but I guess skilled back rubs for gardeners is popular. There were others but I just gathered them all up and put a rubber band around them. February reading I thought. I always place things like that in order with those with websites on the top of the pile.

The change tray was a disaster with the wrong change in the wrong pocket. I resorted everything and in the process found a dollar coin mixed in with the quarters and a very well worn dime from 1942. There were bits and pieces of broken dog treats mixed in and quite a collection of broken plant labels. I pulled out as much junk and discarded it and prepared for the real surprise by removing the tray.

On the top of the pile was a form from Lifeline Medical Alert with the name of a woman I didn't remember. Gail apparently volunteered to be on someones Lifeline call list. Lifeline is that deal where you wear a little call button on a necklace and if you need help you push the button and a message goes to a call center. The call center then works through the list of relatives and friends to get someone to go check out the problem. From my experience most old folks forget they even have the thing around their neck or are afraid to push the button. They do make relatives feel a bunch better when people ask "Hey, she does have Lifeline right?" Kind of like something you're supposed to do even if it doesn't get used.

I thought a little more and it finally occurred to me who it was I was supposed to be helping in time of emergency. Gail must have been quite busy not to tell me about something like this. I read the form over a couple times, being thankful that Gail hadn't accepted one of those "Do Not Resuscitate" forms or any "Living Wills" or organ donor statements. I am a proponent for all these things and factually we have a collection from family members; nonetheless I really like to know who I am responsible for. This was clearly a conversation to have with Gail when I was fully awake.

As I dug through more folded papers I came upon a check for $101.95 with a note attached. "Hold until September 29th. He gets paid that Friday." I guess "he" was the guy with the stack full of checks with the first name Melanie on them and as I looked at the check and Gail's note I figured that by now the guy got paid a few more times and still didn't have the money to cover the check since this was November and a couple months had almost passed. I stuck the check in my pocket and vowed to attempt cashing it. Never once have we not been able to collect on a check and I'm optimistic about this one too.

Finally there was a note Gail had scribbled on a page from a receipt book. "$15 donation to Spanish Club to go to Portugal." This one got to me but I assumed that Gail was helping some local school kid. I was thinking that a little geography was in order for all concerned.

Our money box was a treasure of interesting items. It's not a Dell computer although it would be nice to have one next year as we start our business at a new location. If we had a new Dell, I probably couldn't have enjoyed so many different things which made their way to our money box during the summer. Sometimes old and simple is better than new.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the coldness continues and the wind has quieted noticeably.

With kind gardening thoughts,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

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