The thrill of shopping for new school supplies has turned into the stress of shopping for new school supplies. Why do we even bother?

While I was at Staples, I began reading the school supply lists. I have written before (dot #1192) about how the lists have expanded to incorporate general classroom supplies like plastic bags, dry erase markers and tissues. Now the supply lists have become so specific that I can’t imagine being a parent trying to find all the items that meet these specifications. It’s like a giant scavenger hunt only you have to pay to do it!

Some examples (with emphasis as written on the lists):

  • 8 2-pocket folders (without metal parts), preferably plastic, 1 each of: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and 2 others
  • 2 boxes CRAYOLA CRAYONS (regular, not fat ones) (boxes of 16 or 24)
  • 1 child’s Fiskar scissors, 5”, blunt tip
  • Vinyl, 3-prong bottom pocket folders, solid colors: red, yellow & blue
  • 2 dozen #2 TICONDEROGA brand pencils (no plastic wrapped pencils)
  • 1 one-inch WHITE 3-ring binder with clear plastic insert on the front
  • 8 book covers (non-adhesive or brown paper bags) If cloth – NOT red or magenta
  • Feathers (blue, yellow, brown, black)
  • 24 wooden #2 pencils (sharpened) NO MECHANICAL OR DECORATIVE PENCILS
  • One box C&H Sugar Cubes

I believe there is a rationale for the specifications but it seems to me there is less of a reason to send parents on the great shopping hunt to find the items. I know some stores and online retailers will pre-package the supplies but why not eliminate the middleman? Instead, students could be charged $X for supplies and be done with it. Rather than school supply drives – where inevitably well-meaning donors will contribute variations from the list – funds could be donated to provide “scholarships” to offset the fees of those who are in need.

What’s not in short supply is stress. Look at the amount of it you cause your clients and see if you can’t remove some of the steps in the process to meet your needs in a less burdensome way.

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