Among many other things, the high school hallway is a Wild West of sorts.
Just one stroll down that locker flanked tube of chaos gives one the sense that all the dynamics of human development are on full display.
Aside from the status-mongering and short-sighted romances there is one major variable: breaking the rules, testing limits.
That anti-establishment energy often takes the form of contraband—namely, the sale of contraband.
But contraband is in the eye of the beholder. So high school kids sell anything and everything, all proudly touting the illegality of the item as it's strongest asset.
A Reddit thread pulled together all the strangest—and smartest—high school rackets
Turtleking23578YT asked, "What was the black market in your school?"
"In high school there was this game/fad where people would try to stealth zip tie other people's bags to their desks, shoes together, whatever so they'd be stuck when the bell rang."
"One guy sold the heavy duty zip ties and another sold mini scissors for easy escape."
Give the People What They Want
"In my ninth grade English class, there was this kid who would bring soda and Poptarts to class and sell them. We weren't allowed to eat in class, so I had to eat my chocolate fudge Poptarts discreetly."
"Eventually, the teacher put a stop to it, but it was a good run while it lasted."
Economics On Display
"Energy drinks in middle school. There were two kids who just happen to have parents who owned liquor stores in the town. One kid started taking stuff from their parent's supply, and selling it out of his backpack."
"Other kid caught wind of it and figured he should get into the game too. Honestly, the other kid finding out was the best thing for me because the market adjusted just like it should have."
"Kid 1 was selling warm monster energy drinks for $5. New kid came in and sold em for $4. Kid one came back with 3.50 and they were like kinda cold lol. Eventually they both got caught and got in trouble but I took advantage while they were around."
It’s All About Branding
"I literally sold stretched-out, dried baby wipes for two quarters apiece. Baby wipes get super soft when they're dry (or at least that brand did) and my classmates were fascinated. I claimed to have sewn these mini blankets myself."
"It worked for the entirety of third grade before I got called out and canceled in fourth. /:"
A Barter Economy
"Wasn't really a black market but people would offer service for things. Not many people liked giving money so here's how it would go:"
"'Dude, can you get me a can of dip and some booze? I will come to your farm (or ranch) to work for it.'"
"'Sure. Just come and feed the cattle Saturday morning and it's yours.'"
Must Have Been Some Sandwich
"There was a kid who gave away sandwiches for free, but the school stopped him because he was "'creating a gang culture.'" -- THACC-
"Jeeze what kind of sandwiches was he giving away." -- Redhoodgothamknight
"Obviously 'gang culture' at it's finest. Lunch ladies had pp&j with grape jelly, the kid had pp&j with strawberry jelly. Boom" -- thatmomthere
"Me and my friend had several "get rich quick" schemes that never paid of. A few that come to mind:"
"We got the idea of breeding my and his dog to get puppies and sell them. So he brought his dog over and we locked them in my room to get the deed going. After about 30 minutes we got talking and realized both our dogs where castrated, and males... So we dropped that plan."
"Second plan was when my older brother got a surround hi-fi stereo in his room (this was 1999 so that was still somewhat uncommon). Me and my buddy charged a fee for people to come and watch movies 'cinema style' at my house."
"Third: When we found a dildo in the room of my friend's mother we charged a fee for people to come and see his mom's dildo."
"When I was in grade school I started making mini clothes out of fleece and sewing them on my Hello Kitty sewing machine. I charged like a quarter for each outfit but it very quickly became an issue with people trying to steal my supplies and others not being able to purchase the clothes."
"It got shut down and I had to low key sell the clothes at recess."
A Monopoly in Movement
"Aside from the actual illicit things like drugs and smokes, we had basically a forerunner to Uber eats."
"Seniors who were allowed to leave during lunch break and had a car would go pick up lunch some place for a fee. This was especially good if you had a free period before lunch as you could run out, grab the food and the customer had hot lunch from wherever at the start of lunch period."
"Funny story, back in grade school we had these 'caught being good' paper passes that teachers gave you on rare occasions. They would give them to kids and put it in a raffle at the end of the month for a gift or something."
"Me and my friends got someone to let us see it. We printed out a bunch of them and started to sell them 5 bucks a piece. Sooner or later, all the teachers and our principal got suspicious when all the bad kids started turning these passes in."
"So we decided to end our scam by it's printing out 200 passes and handing them out randomly. We passed them around to so many people that we could never be traced. It was basically hyperinflation."
"The passes were being circulated around so much that the school ended up discontinuing the reward program."
"There was a kid..."
There was a kid that that ran a whole server network and put it on a USB it auto deleted school files like block sites so you could do whatever you wanted on the computers but it also auto installed Minecraft and Roblox I just made USB copy's of it at one point I had like 800 of them but the kid shut it down cause he was expelled so I just asked him if I could bye one of the old servers he said yeah I sold the USBs for 50$ a piece I also upgraded the soft ware to auto create personal accounts.
"The school tried to crackdown..."
I really never had a black market but there was a free student led market for undercutting the school market. the market was and still is in operation, you could find candy, programs, supplies etc.
The way it worked is that the market was always active and lets say there was a fundraiser, we would by candy or whatever product we had to sell and flood the market by offering our products at lower prices.
Me in the market, I was the guy for graphing calculator programs and if you wanted some software that's fine come to me, want my text based operating system (I actually made a custom OS with directories and stuff believe it or not), you want a custom program, 5 bucks and you will have that. That and I was the lawyer for the vendors if the teachers tried to pull any maneuvers against us, and I was a market advisor. it was really complex with our hierarchical system and with me being in the group of people who controlled things I was in there.
The teachers tried to guilt us by saying that were making the school poorer, (we were a modest school with a computer lab and stuff), and we responded with, this is a capitalist nation, eat or be eaten, etc.
The school tried to crackdown but we could in a matter of days or hours sidestep the system.
"Someone got expelled from my school..."
Someone got expelled from my school for selling ecstasy to someone, and there was a specific place at the back of the school that all the "cool kids" would go to smoke what I'm assuming was weed. Other than that people would just pay others for stupid stuff like gum and sucky sweets like gobstoppers.
"She would sell..."
The school librarian was our class sponsor. She would sell movie theater sized candy that was, by her rules, the only snack you could eat in her library. Needless to say, she cleaned up and we actually got our deposits back and extra spending money for our Grad Nite at Disneyland.
"People would set up incredibly dumb deals..."
Lunch time. People would set up incredibly dumb deals for small things. I just watched as I saw one kid give away half their lunch for a pack of gummies.
"It worked wonders, but as humans are known to do..."
One time in 3rd grade, my teachers introduced a bead system where you earned different colored beads depending on your behavior in class and your grades and scores on tests and homework. They had numerical value like red=50pts, yellow=100pts, white=500pts, I can't recall the highest or lowest values but that's generally how it went.
It worked wonders, but as humans are known to do, we somehow formed an illegal trade considering teachers kept very loose track of who had how many points or beads. We were to keep them in our bags, so it made the "black market" very easy for us to manage and maintain.
There was an unspoken rule that snitching on someone who cheated you out was grounds to shun you from said market. Remarkably, no one let the teachers know what was really happening under their noses, though I have an inkling they might have suspected foul play.
The beads were used to buy prizes at the end of the week, like school supplies, banned snacks, small toys, and other donated things. There was a bin full of the stuff.
Some students started selling their lunches for the day. Some started bartering and borrowing and taking out loans with the goody two shoes. There was a mini market for notes, homework answers, outsourcing parts of a project kids didn't want to do to those who did (I often got art requests because I was the artsy one). There was also a high market for sugary things like candy and soda, which was banned in our school. Kids would sneak them in and sell them like drugs.
I, an autistic kid and therefore the "bad student" in the eyes of our crappy teachers, resorted to thievery, among other troublemakers in our class. The "rich" kids were careless so it made stealing very easy.
But yeah. Looking back on it, I'm baffled that we, a group of children, created like. This mini underground society. That the second they introduced this money system, the first thing we did as baby humans was go "how can I exploit this?"
Humans are incredible.
"Another was the glue book marks..."
I remember in second grade, a hot commodity were those really long & thin erasers from the book fair, but cut up in teeny tiny pieces. I remember getting some from a friend, and our student teacher spotting them in my desk & thinking I was the one doing it.
"A few weeks later..."
I had a science class that would take up two class periods, with a break in between periods. One time, rumor was going around that someone was hiding a can of chew tobacco above a ceiling tile in the boy's restroom right outside the science classroom, and people were accessing it during the breaks between periods. A few weeks later, administration was calling a whole bunch of kids out of the classroom, most likely because of that.
"Not exactly sure..."
There was one kid that somehow (I don't know how) managed to get dozens and dozens of those little ketchup packets every single lunch. Not exactly sure what he did with them, but I kept on seeing ketchup packets being passed around in classes. I think they were turned into currency or something.
"My best customer..."
I was known as the "art kid" in middle school and would trade my comics and drawings with other kids for snacks, homework answers or pens ( I never asked for money because our school was too strict on that). My best customer was this guy who was known for being a huge weeb, I drew hentai and stuff like that for him.
"The teachers never caught on..."
I went to the small, alternative/special education high school in my district. The students who attended were primarily those who were what adults refer to as "problem children," even though many of them were nice kids but life had dealt them the wrong cards. Most of them were in group homes or foster care, or had been in trouble with the law. Or, like me, had a learning/mental disability and couldn't be in a standard education classroom. I have high functioning autism, bipolar disorder, and BPD.
TL:DR; Sold mechanical pencils for a quarter in protest of the worn out wood pencils the teachers had kept in their classrooms for God knows how many years. Finally got busted after a year and a half and had to shut it down.
The long version:
Most of the students didn't have their own pencils to bring to school so they were stuck using crappy ancient wooden pencils the teachers had. I'm talking worn out pencils with no eraser and/or had the lead constantly breaking off. Some of them had teeth marks or had chunks of the wood missing. I truly felt for my classmates because they would get frustrated with the quality pencils and I have a strong sense of justice and I get upset when I see injustices happening. So I came up with a solution. I wanted to help others but I also wanted to make my own "fun money" since my mom couldn't afford to give me an allowance.
I convinced my mom to buy me a cheap bulk pack of standard mechanical pencils, nothing fancy but they were a major upgrade from what my classmates had been forced to use. I then turned around and sold the pencils for 25 cents each. Mostly I was paid in quarters but sometimes I'd get dimes and nickels.
I carried around an old dice bag (small enough so it wouldn't get confiscated but big enough to hold about 10-12 bucks worth of quarters) to carry my profits in and at the end of each week I'd take the coins to a coinstar machine and cash them in for bills. I didn't make a whole lot considering I only sold them for a quarter but it was enough for me to buy my own snacks and soda because people liked the ability to write without constantly getting up to sharpen the pencil and having a real eraser. Plus if they lost the pencil they bought, a replacement was only 25 cents.
The teachers never caught on because I was sneaky about it, they never knew everyone was getting their pencils from me. I started doing it the beginning of my junior year and got busted in the middle of my senior year because a jealous freshman narced on me. Had to shut the whole operation down and from then on I wasn't allowed to have more than one pencil case on me.
"In third grade..."
In third grade (around 8 years old) my boyfriend would sell his own art work. He would hang a sign on his locker door that said, "The Artist Is In,", and he'd sell his art for an quarter or so each. He continued to do this until the school told him he wasn't allowed to. One of his favorite things to draw then were dinosaurs.
"He'd somehow gotten access..."
My brother used to sell coffee at school. He'd somehow gotten access to an otherwise sealed off locker, had a coffeemaker and electric boiler for tea in there. At first his teachers thought it was cute, but then they had to tell him to stop because there had been a drastic decrease in sells at the canteen, so he was no longer allowed to sell food or drinks... He started selling napkins (the one the school gave out for free), where you'd get a free side of a cup of coffee or tea. The school disliked this, but he'd managed to get to a sealed off locker to store the things and had secured it with a lock of his own. They had to bring in a janitor to bust it up.
"In my elementary school..."
In my elementary school they had to ban silly bands because no one could focus on anything because Bobby had the dinosaur pack that everyone wanted.
"Eventually shut down..."
I led the black market. I used to sell cookies and cakes that I baked and sold them for a cheaper price than the cafeteria. The cafeteria cakes were also dry and not at all good. I actually made pretty decent money and became known as "the girl who bakes" in my entire school.
Eventually shut down due to my teachers saying that it's a "safety" issue. Turns out it was because the cafeteria was losing money. That's what I call business.
"There was this kid..."
There was this kid in 6th grade that got this super fluffy stuffed animal and all the girls in our classes just wanted to pet it so they would rent it with homework passes kid made massive amounts doubt he needed to do any homework but he liked to do that stuff so I don't know.
"I was one of those fellas..."
I was one of those fellas who could get you anything. I honestly have no dea how I got these things though. People asked and it just magically showed up in my pockets. I miss that ability.
"There was an illegal buffet..."
There was an illegal buffet in the lockers of one of the 12th graders, you could buy sandwiches, drinks and things like that cheaper than in the normal school buffet. Also my class is thinking about opening a "black market" just with books when we become 12th graders, so we can give out our used books (and maybe notes) to students below our grade for money when they haven't brought their own.
"One friend of mine..."
One friend of mine used to sell pirated DVDs out of his locker for like, $10.00 each.
Considering how goddamn expensive DVDs were in those days, $10.00 was a good price.
Another friend would sell you cans of soft-drinks for $2.00 each out of his locker.
"That's how we graduated..."
It was a pretty nerdy school, so we traded exams (doing exams for each other) and buying finished projects from each other. That's how we graduated with everyone doing their specialty for everyone else.
"My operations got busted..."
Supreme stickers. I was the main supreme sticker dealer at my middle school. My operations got busted by the guidance counselor and they took my stickers.
"The only kid in the entire school..."
I sold games for the TI-83 graphing calculator in middle school.
The only kid in the entire school with the data cable and know-how to use it.
"I still wonder..."
Someone sold huge candy bars for money which he used to get one huge candy bar. I still wonder why he didn't just have the candy bars he bought.
"He'd take your order..."
When my older brother was in high school, a kid use to sell really nice pancakes. He'd take your order the day before and you could get whatever fillings you want like candy bars. He'd get up at like 5 AM to make them all. School found out and shut him down. He also may have been baking drugs into them.
"In middle school..."
In middle school, I managed to make around $5 a week by selling Welch's Fruit Snacks for $1 per bag. There were around 10 people that would actually bring money to school and buy them off of me. This sadly stopped when one of my customers attempted to advertise, which resulted in one of the more annoying/strict teachers shutting down my business.
"After a month..."
There was a kid in 8th grade I think who would give out bags of ketchup chips (welcome to Canada) for $2 and if you bought 5, you would get a discount on your next one
After a month, he was caught though I'm not sure what his punishment was.
"My friends made hundreds..."
My friends made hundreds over a year selling sodas/chips until the office heard about it and they had to stop.
"Especially rare were copies of games..."
This was in the mid 90s at our magnet middle school. We all had accounts on the school's VAX server, and the game was to hoard icons.
The proper way to store them was to create a folder to display each icon and arrange them into appropriate categories. Set sharing to public visibility without write access so you could show off.
We were always trawling for new users who didn't set permissions appropriately so we could steal all of their collection, deleting or defacing what remains if feeling mean.
These were the days when access to a scanner or quality images was nontrivial. We all had some second tier stash from when we stole a moment on the school's black and white scanners to load up some greyscale trash.
Nobody paid money for icons. Access was more of a social status thing. If you had lots friends willing to share you would have a good collection.
Especially rare were copies of games people had loaded on their accounts. These were more heavily policed by the admin, as they took up a lot of precious storage. Moonbase was a favorite.
"They had police search my locker..."
I made $1K in profit from selling candy during my senior year of high school. They had police search my locker, and the same cop questioned a friend after seeing him give me a dollar.
"I don't know if this counts..."
I don't know if this counts but it was pizza. During lunch time we weren't allowed to leave school grounds but eating in the canteen was awful (typical school stuff, noodles with tomato sauce every day, long queues no dessert and so on). It stared one day when one kid of our class, who's mom owned a local pizza restaurant, offered to order at said restaurant and let his mom deliver the food to the school. Which wasn't technically forbidden. Soon enough around 15/24 kids of our class regularly ordered pizza from him (his mom); this developed into roughly 60 people from other classes ordering food, he himself always taking a 50c "delivery fee".
Man he made a lot of money.
Soon enough the restaurant had to dive multiple times to get out all the orders, and 60 kids waiting near the entrance of the school grounds wasn't really what I would call "unsuspicious,"let alone all the garbage that was produced.
Since it wasn't technically forbidden to deliver or bring food, the school council needed to change the rules, which took 2 months... they took two months to finally put a halt to this.
The dude who started it surely got some good money out of his business, let alone his mom. They didn't offer delivery regularly.
"And that's how the underground..."
Silly bands. They literally got banned by the administration and if you had them in school you got in trouble and got them taken away. And that's how the underground silly band selling business got started at my school. People would like trade them in the bathrooms and playground. It was intense.
Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.