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Fifty cents won't buy a cup of coffee any more, or even a candy bar. But a pair of quarters will still get you a copy of this newspaper, whether from the counters of the stores that sell The News or from one of the blue news boxes scattered around town.
Most newspapers, including the one that employs me, rely on the honor system when it comes to news boxes. That works, most of the time, but not during our yearly baby contest. In return for 50 cents, some people last week took two, three, four and maybe even whole handfuls of newspapers - not for the news, features or sports, but for the ballots that allow them to "vote" for their favorite baby boy or girl.
I'm hesitant to write about thieving of newspapers when the vast majority of single-copy buyers are honest and don't take anything they haven't paid for, but the problem can't be overlooked.
Driving around Thursday morning, I noticed that nearly every box around town was empty and some had simply been raided. At one location, there were only two quarters deposited for the 10 papers we'd taken there. Ouch.
Newspapers that rely on the honor system have always experienced some loss from people who take more than their one paper. Tough economic times aggravate the problem, but it's even worse when a simple promotion like a baby contest turns up the wick on dishonesty.
We don't have news vendors standing on street corners selling papers, though I've thought about doing that myself on Wednesday evenings when copies of the newest edition are placed in our box out front.
In fact, I'm always pleased to see our paper so much in demand that people will cruise the street, even with gas at more than $3.50, just to pick up a copy of the paper to take home and read.
My corner office overlooks Main Street and I can see the news box through my window. I don't have that much free time to watch everyone who buys a paper but I've seen plenty of people over the years take two, three and even five or more copies, especially on weekends when they think no one is watching.
It's been tempting to chase after them and shame them into handing me back either the extra papers or the additional quarters they owe. I doubt those same folks fill their tanks with fuel and drive off without paying or shoplift a few groceries under their shirts or down their trousers.
We don't steal in small ways any place else, so why cheat at the newsstand?
Here's our request: please take only what you pay for. If you need two or more papers, pay for them. If you need bundles and bundles to ensure your favorite baby wins, come in and we'll sell all you need. Show us there's still a little honor in the honor system.
The showers that fell Thursday and Friday across some parts of the county eased, at least a little, the drought-like conditions we've experienced through August and into September. The lack of rain, following a decent growing season through most of the summer, has dried up lawns, pastures and hayfields and stressed maturing crops.
Other than a few areas that seemingly always stay green, I haven't had to make a complete mowing of my lawn for the past few weeks. I've spurned a manicured lawn but have doted on the chrysanthemums growing beside my house and bordering sidewalks with regular waterings and doses of Miracle-Gro.
They look nice and a few bushes have already begun to bloom a few weeks ahead of schedule. With a little luck, we'll get more rain, helping ensure a good fall harvest in the weeks ahead.