Life Lessons I Learned As A Paperboy

Customer Behavior and the Oddities of Business

When I was growing up in the 70's and listening to a virtually unknown rock group called Boston and hearing Paul McCartney and Wings sing some new tunes, I was throwing papers to my customers around the neighborhood. Those were good times and growing up in a small agricultural town in the central valley in California, life was good! It seemed like my friends and I had the "lock" on the paper route business. In fact all of us had paper routes back then and all of the papers from the Journal would get dropped on Chris and Brian's front yard. At that point the fun would stop, we would converge to initiate our paper folding ritual, and we would get to work.

As I took on my first career job as a paperboy I was making around $130 per month on my paper route. Obviously, the more papers in your route, the more customers you had and the more money you could make. This was big money back then considering a single scoop ice cream at Penguin Ice Cream cost 27 cents and a Cherry Teem soda cost 30 cents. Hershey bars and Bottle Caps were 10 cents, and Bazooka Bubble Gum with "Joe Bazooka" and the comic strip inside was the bomb. I was living the dream!

I had route 41 and this route had around 140 papers to throw every day (except Sunday). This was a fairly big route considering back in the day, a 100 paper route was considered pretty big. One of the necessities of having a paper route was having a very dependable bicycle with a heavy duty frame and some good handle bars. A feeble bike made for some tough delivery days!

Lessons Learned:

You had to show up to work!

Imagine today what your boss would think if the employee actually believed this.

Spending less than I made

2008 stock market crash averted!

Business before pleasure!

Calling in sick and going skiing would devestate ski resorts.

Your employment was not guaranteed!

You would actually work as if your family depended on you.

Working through sickness was required!

Imagine the productivity boost to business while improving relations with those who are picking up the slack.

Collecting money is an art form, not a simple knock on the door!

If we could all collect on what was owed, the economy would be out of our current recession!

If you didn't show up, no one would get the job done for you!

You might think twice about calling in sick!

Not all customer are created equal!

Prepared me for the trials and tribulations of dealing with tough customers!

Some customers appreciated your efforts and some could care less!

Kept me consistent with my expectations for thankless customers

Some parts of the job were fun and most were mundane!

Prepared me for the real world of business

Dogs don't like paperboys on bikes!

Mace took on a whole new meaning and appreciation in my life!

Teamwork pays off - when you were done folding your papers, you would help everyone else fold theirs!

Strategic business plans would succeed on time, with accuracy and high customer satisfaction!

Some customers would tip and some would not

Learning the concept of frugality and generosity firsthand!

Customers came in three kinds, thankful, indifferent and grouchy, not necessarily in that order.

Prepared me for my first lesson in pschology more than you will ever know!

Money could be made as a result of hard work!

I actually learned that hard work and risk actually pay off and that to expect others to take risk for me is a foreign concept.

Customer's Have Preferences

Some liked their paper "porched" and some were happy with a delivery, any delivery for that matter that came in close proximity to their property. Those who liked it "porched" were the ones who got their door banged daily.

And there you go, just a lowly paperboy listening to 70's music, deliverying papers and jumping in pools after the tortuous summer deliveries, were all lessons that helped prepare me for the real world.

Comments 2 comments

mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 5 years ago

I grew up in the 70's. I never had a paper route, but when I was just a bit older I was a nurse's aide, and I supposed I learned a lot about hard work, tough customers, and so forth as well. Fun read.


wilderness profile image

wilderness 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

I grew up a little before you did, in the 60's, but a paper route helped set the stage for a good work ethic early in life.

As you point out, that kind of work ethic seems a thing of the past which is really too bad. It has helped me throughout my life, and not just in the job field.

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