Neighbor Complains About Lemonade Stand…Gets Karma? Or Hypocrisy?

Man Complains About Lemonade Stand

In August, Fox News reported on a grouchy old man in Florida who was demanding that a little boy in his neighborhood be forced to close his lemonade stand. By the time the story hit social media, the battle had been ongoing for two years. Doug Wilkey pleaded with local officials to close the Middle School student’s small business because it caused issues which reduced his property value. “Please help me regain my quiet home and neighborhood,” he begged.

lemonade stand

Boy Showing Responsibility

Due to the complaints of this one man, what used to be a common American tradition for kids became an issue for an entire community. After spending unknown amounts of taxpayer money to investigate the issue, Denedin, Florida officials opted to allow little T.J. Guerrero to keep his lemonade stand. Dunedin Planning and Development Director Greg Rice explained it like this, “We’re not in the business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that. We are not out there trying to put lemonade stands out of business.”

This twelve year old boy was not out on the street selling drugs, nor demanding that his parents buy him the latest devices, he ran a lemonade stand to help his Mom buy dinner and pay for his cell phone. As his profits increased, he donated money to an animal shelter where his family had once adopted a pit bull mix, and started a college fund. If only more kids showed this much maturity and responsibility. He even offered Wilkey free lemonade, but the man would not answer his door.

Story Doesn’t End There

If not for social media, that would probably be where this story ended. A complaint was launched, investigated, and a decision was made. Of course, no news story is that simple anymore. T.J. and Wilkey both received national attention from this tale. T.J. saw a huge increase in profits, received donations, was given a free limo ride, and has been featured in the news all over the globe. Wilkey didn’t fair so well. He was ridiculed and mocked for being a “grouchy and nosy old man.” He was given a reputation as a mean-spirited busy-body. And he was turned in by yet another “concerned citizen” for running a business out of his own home without a license.

Pot Calling the Kettle “Black?”

According to the tipster who alerted Dunedin officials, Wilkey was himself guilty of running a business from home illegally. The tip pointed to records showing that he had listed his home as the business address of his company, Bayport Financial Services. Greg Rice was once more on the job, and drafted a letter to Wilkey, explaining that, “All companies operating in the city require a business tax license, which costs about $45 a year, and that home-based-business owners must sign an affidavit agreeing to follow special rules.” Rice noted the irony that Wilkey was not following the rules and added that he could face fines of up to $250 a day if he does not comply. Many are calling this karma, justice, fate, reaping what you sow…but is it hypocrisy?

And Justice for All…..

As Katherine Mangu-Ward points out in Reason, justice has not been served in this case. It is easy to like a preteen boy who is working hard at a lemonade stand to make money in order to help his Mom and pay his own cell phone bill. It is easy to like a youngster in today’s American who shows responsibility by preparing for his own future and donating to charity.

It is easy to hate a grouchy old man who complains about said kid’s lemonade stand. But justice and law has nothing to do with likability. Justice and law shows no prejudice, makes no friends, has no enemies, and does not discriminate based on how popular someone is on social media. Justice is not served from a stand in a cup over ice. Justice is equal. Do I feel that the boy should be forced to close his stand? No, and neither should Wilkey be fined $250 a day. If a blind eye is to be turned on unreasonable laws, then perhaps it is time to examine whether or not the laws have a place for businesses this small?