28 Feb
2010
Posted in: Rants
By    1 Comment

Why I *Hate* Girl Scout Cookie Tables at Big Box Stores

From the Girl Scout Cookies online FAQ:
Q: Does a Girl Scout group have to sell cookies if it doesn’t want to?
A: The Girl Scout Cookie Program is not just about cookies. These annual activities offer many opportunities for hands-on entrepreneurial activities in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. We find that most girls in Girl Scouting thoroughly enjoy this activity and look forward to it each year. Participation in this activity is voluntary and requires written permission by a parent or guardian. Girl Scout product activities are a way for girls to finance their Girl Scout activities and special projects, as well as contribute to assuring that all girls have opportunities through Girl Scouting in their community.

Girl Scouts in front of box stores could learn just as much about entrepreneurship by going inside the store and using self-checkout with their Moms. That is to say, not much.

Girl Scouts in front of box stores could learn just as much about entrepreneurship by going inside the store and using self-checkout. That is to say, not much.

Before I get pelted with rancid Lemon Chalete Cremes, let me start by saying that this is definitely a case of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I love Girl Scouts (and yes, I was one, for many years)! I love Girl Scout cookies! I love Girl Scout cookie season!

I know this makes me seem ridiculously old-school fuddy-duddy, but back in the day, “cookie season” used to actually mean something. And it wasn’t only about the cookies or the fund raising.

When I was young grade-schooler, my Dad was in residency at a hospital in a state that had one of the lowest paying programs in the nation and my parents had two children. We had money for food and basics, but things were understandably very tight. Still, my parents were big on educational activities and I was always wanting to take some sort of class or lesson: art, piano, violin, judo, whatever. How did we find the money to do a lot of this? I became an entrepreneur; I joined the Girl Scouts.

And each year when Cookie Season hit, I became a pint-sized army of one, hawking cookies to anyone within a many-mile radius of our rent home. I worked most every day after school and during the weekends. I went door-to-door, meeting our neighbors (gasp! the horror!), calling up all the nerve my seven-year-old body could muster in presenting them with each year’s cookie options, and answering a variety of questions (Did you know that all Girl Scout cookies are kosher? You can bet I did, along with which ones were suitable for diabetics, vegetarians and even which ones had the “most” in the box–thin mints at the time.) I handled orders, including calculating total costs of orders and processing the payments. I cited check policies and delivery schedules. I had my “elevator speech” down cold and could make it within seconds of a door being opened (lest it close soon after). I had triumphs and I had plenty of rejection, both of which I learned more about handling. I offered product tips (all cookies are meant to freeze well, but Thin Mints were esp. good this way) and generally became, for all intents and purposes, a tiny businesswoman. And, most importantly, I did this myself. My Mom was in the car, or on the sidewalk, but I was running the show.

Which brings me to the heartache of seeing random Brownies, huddled behind a table, typically chatting to each other in their tiny, soft voices while their Moms generally man the table and random strangers purchase (or don’t purchase) something that seems to be completely about making money now. Let’s get this straight; if selling cookies is really about being a “fundraiser,” why isn’t Walmart selling the cookies on the shelf, a la Newman’s Own? This isn’t a raffle. It’s not a carwash or a panhandling spree. It’s supposedly about girls challenging themselves and (see the bit from the official Girl Scouts org. above) becoming entrepreneurs. Maybe it takes a certain perkiness to sit behind a table on a fold-out chair and try to get strangers to come buy from your stack of boxed cookies (if we are pretending this is even happening; in almost all cases I’ve seen, one girl is the “activist” if at all, and generally the adults are doing most everything). But that level of entrepreneurship is akin to calling a cashier a retailer; yes, she is important to the profitability of the firm. But is that future CEO behavior? And if it’s not, why in the heck are the Girl Scouts calling this an entrepreneurial activity?

Don’t let them trick you into thinking this shift to tables is about safety when the girls are seated in front of some of the busiest traffic areas (and crash areas) in the country. Don’t believe me? Ask your car insurance agent about crash rates at big box stores.

And don’t even get me started on this 8 year old girl, who in my mind, was actually LEARNING something during cookie season.

1 Comment

  • Elayne,

    You are the best! Love it! I couldn’t agree more!

    -Quy

So, what do you think?