I am not a big fan of Girl Scout cookies, although they are a little better this year. No more high fructose corn syrup or artificial colorings, but they still use palm oil. Anyway, last year I wrote about how, as a Girl Scout leader, I find this time of year very challenging. Yes, I want my girls to earn money, but can I feel good about myself promoting the sale of crappy cookies? This year, like last year, I pushed my own views aside and let the girls sell cookies. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made — especially for my kid.
Although my troop always forgoes the incentives so we can earn an extra $.05 per box, there’s still an opportunity to earn Girl Scout store gift certificates by selling 300, 600, or 900 boxes. Big Girl, who spent a little time perusing the catalog, decided she wanted to earn a $75 gift certificate. It was a tall order, I told her. Selling 300 boxes of cookies on her own would be difficult and require a lot of hard work. She said she wanted to do it, and I am so glad she did because in addition to that gift certificate, she also racked up confidence, poise, marketing know-how, and sales skills. She even overcame her shyness and got better at making eye contact, two things that have stymied her in the past.
Me, I didn’t care so much about the gift certificate or the money for the troop. I just wanted to get rid of extra cookies. My troop had a few booth sales. My cookie mom was laid up, so I was the cookie holder. If Big Girl would sell cookies, I could free up space in my trunk. Our first location was outside a local supermarket. The first sale was rough to put it mildly. Big Girl looked like she was being tortured. She wouldn’t speak up. She wouldn’t make eye contact. In all honesty, Little Girl was the one doing all the selling. “Girl Scout cookies! Wanna buy some cookies?”
Still, we sold 43 boxes, and Big Girl got a taste of what it felt like to be successful. Our next sale was unintentional. We were at a local sandwich shop. It was packed. I asked the manager if we could walk table-to-table selling our cookies. She said yes, and we were off. This time Big Girl’s selling skills were marginally better. She actually had three people tell her that she needed to look them in the face if she wanted them to make a purchase. She held it together, though, and started making occasional eye contact and speaking loud enough for people to hear her. We sold 20 boxes within 15 minutes. Soon after, we walked around in our town. A few days later we visited my old hometown. We also hit three local railroad stations, and poked our heads in bars, pizza joints, and delis. With every sale, Big Girl got a little more confident. She hit her stride when, at the new Moe’s by our house, the owner told her he would buy whatever she had left if she could do the math. (It was 14 boxes. She did the calculations in her head and got it right.)
By our last sale — at the local railroad — she was unstoppable. “Get your Girl Scout cookies,” she barked. “I’m down to my last eight boxes. These are going fast!” And they did. She sold cookies to the last five people she approached. I was even more impressed when she forgot to hand over a box after a sale and, when the guy reproached her, she held it together even though she was completely embarrassed. A few years ago something like that would have sent her into a crying jag.
Sure, there were some glitches. At the supermarket sale, for instance, she started hyperventilating when someone asked her to recite the Girl Scout Promise. Imagine my surprise when she not only said it at a railroad sale a few days later, but smiled the whole time.
So how do I feel about Girl Scout cookies? I feel pretty good. All the sales and marketing materials tout how good Girl Scouts are for the girls. Until now, I sort of poo-pooed that. However, my kid is a shining example of what a kid-run sale can actually do. Would it have been easier for me to post on Facebook and get my husband to bring her order form to work? Sure, then I would have missed out on seeing my child beaming with pride from her accomplishment.