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News & Press: GS News

Girl Scout Cookies: Rite of Passage or Forced Sale?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011   (10 Comments)
Posted by: jennifer punch
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Posted by Danielle Sullivan on January 4th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Did you sell Girl Scout cookies when you were a girl?

I didn’t. Even as a child, I had a strong distaste for forced community sales and drives. I was not in Brownies, Daises, or Girl Scouts. My Catholic school forced us to sell candy bars once a year and even that I rebelled against but ultimately endured.

Girl Scout cookies go on sale this Friday so droves of girls will be ringing doorbells and asking neighbors if they prefer Samoa or Thin Mint. Thousands more will just hand the order form to mom and dad who will bring it to the office to force the cookies upon co-workers. While, I don’t mind buying a box from a friend, what always annoyed me at the office was when people who were not your friend, perhaps barely an acquaintance, would innocently drop their list on your desk. Then you’d see them in the hallway, and they’d say "Oh by the way, I left an order form on your desk, just pass around, OK?”

So I would go back to my desk, pick up the form, and in most cases begrudgingly order a box, as would the rest of my co-workers. If it wasn’t cookies, it was candy, or wrapping paper, or handmade ornaments during the holidays.

So where does this leave the girls who don’t have pushy parents who work in companies with hundreds of employees, and girls who actually sell their own loot door to door? Probably out of luck on the patch front.

The Girl Scouts maintain that each individual council is responsible for guidelines surrounding cookie activities. According to the website, selling cookies is not mandatory but they have found that "most girls in Girl Scouting thoroughly enjoy this activity and look forward to it each year.” Do they really? In the days of mean girls and bullying, cookie stats just seem to be another marker on the comparison chart. Take the girl who sells 10 boxes on her own and should be commended for that versus the girl who hands her mom the order sheet and "sells” hundreds. Here come the patches and the glory. It seems counterintuitive to teaching girls strength and self worth if they don’t earn the patches themselves.

While on the subject, is there nothing else girls can do to fundraise other than sell cookies? The Boy Scouts don’t sell cookies and still manage to gather necessary funds. The Girl Scouts say that they also teach the girls to advertise (in fact part of badge earning is comprised of advertising), but surely in 2011, product development beyond cookies would teach girls to also be creative and enterprising.

I understand that to some extent selling Girl Scout cookies is an American tradition and people like cookies, but I’m just wondering if it’s time to up the ante for today’s girls.

Is it time to change this outdated practice or does tradition trump progress?


Jenny Skirvin (Fluhr) says...
Posted Monday, January 10, 2011
I was a Girl Scout in the 80's. (Junior) First of all Boy Scouts do go door to door with the whole "popcorn" bit. That's where a majority of their money comes from. Second, as for the "moms and dads" selling for their little Girl Scout, well with today's violent world, I don't see me dumping my child off in a ghetto just to sell a couple boxes of Do-Si-Dos. You go and supervise your child regardless of what the age is. Cookie sales are designed to help girls who cannot normally pay to join. It also helps pay for the patches/badges that they earn if the parents can't afford them. Not to mention the trips for camp. I have a daughter in GS. I used to have a son in Boy Scouts and believe me, I found Boy Scouts to be far more scrutinous. Literally had to pay for everything and what money was made from popcorn sales didn't benefit the troop as a whole. Only those who could afford camp went, and those who couldn't, well they were just S.O.L. Not what I wanted my son to learn.
Megan Jerkins says...
Posted Sunday, January 09, 2011
I disagree. I was a Girl Scout from Brownie - "Junior" (Cadets now?). I really loved cookie sales at first and I think it gave me a lot of confidence when I was a young girl with speaking to people (even strangers) with the support of the troop mothers. The only time I didn't have fun was the year before I quit when the new troop leader was rather hostile about making sure -her- daughter had top sales. As long as the compitition is friendly it didn't seem so bad. Overzealous parents make it ugly, not scouts. I think teaching salesmenship and marketing is a very great REAL WORLD talent to have.
Suzanne G. Plumley (Gardner) says...
Posted Sunday, January 09, 2011
I could not agree more with updating the cookie ritual! Yes On one count cookie sales do teach some positive skills such as money management, public speaking, and goal setting. HOWEVER, competition does rear it's ugly head especially in neighborhoods where many scouts try to sell to a house right next to another scouts home not necessarily out of ignorance either. Or as you mention, the scout sells 10 and/or dad sell 200 just to get that large incentive. What is the scout really learning from these experiences? Teamwork is key! I took my three daughters out to sell together. They divided the number of boxes sold by three and also asked me to stand off to the side so they could do it on their own. Together they averaged 250 and they did it themselves. My point: unless you can get every scout and parent to first be an ethical scout then a saleswomen, I highly recommend sticking with booth sales for the younger scouts and leave the neighborhoods to the older scouts
Melanie Mott says...
Posted Friday, January 07, 2011
I am a first generation girl scout and my six year old daughter joined her first troop this year. It has been an amazingly exciting transition to watch her grow and blossom. She now has a feeling of belonging and connecting with other girls who share her caring ways. She was enthused and committed to the Christmas parade they participated in. I look forward to all the growing and responsibility that selling cookies will bring in her development. I wanted you to understand it is more than selling cookies or what the parents do to help their children. It gives them an opening into the real world where we all buy and sell things to live. I appreciate this wonderful group and all they stand for.
Administration says...
Posted Friday, January 07, 2011
Thank you for your great contributions to this article! As one reader pointed out, it is not our own blog but it does reflect how some feel about the Girl Scouts Movement. And we appreciate and welcome all feedback and Thoughts!
Diana R. Ploch says...
Posted Friday, January 07, 2011
At the time I loathed having to go out in the cold to sell cookies, much less booth sales. Looking back it was a great money maker for the troop and we got to do things but it was frustrating. Especially after having to sort the cookies to each house!!! I think it it is a rite of passage but one that is personal not expected. Everywhere I go I purchase cookies no matter where I am or how short changed I am. It's like and obligation. And every once in a while you get to talk to the girls and the leaders of what it was like 20 years ago when I was a scout. Very important wisdom. But cookies are as part of GS as is the Promise. It just is. And whether or not your cadets or seniors appreciate it (I didn't until now) it is important for us.
Barbara Rohrer (Lemke) says...
Posted Wednesday, January 05, 2011
First, thanks for building up this website for GS alumnae. Next: 1. Reposting a blog entry from another site without adding some fresh, focused input to readers of THIS website is weak and counterproductive to building readership. "Girl Scout News" implies ... well, real news. This item seems to fall under a different category -- maybe "Soggy Blogs" or "Found on the 'Net." Surely, there is better news? 2. The circular arguments in the reposted blog have been bandied about uselessly for decades and this post, in particular, is poorly researched hyperbole. If you're gonna repost, at least choose something solid OR take the time to balance out the misinformation and faulty reasoning with reliable facts and some analysis. 3. The real cause-and-effect issue worth exploring in the reposted blog is ethics, or the lack thereof. 4. The Girl Scout Cookie Sale remains ethical, meaningful, and productive as long as parents support and model core values of the GS Promise and Law.
Debbi Kulick (Handelman) says...
Posted Wednesday, January 05, 2011
I too sold cookies in the 60's. We did not have order forms so our parents could not take them to work. We went door to door. In the '90s when my daughter sold cookies, she and I would go door to door in the neighborhood. She set her goal and went for it (she went to GS Camp for free). Her father took the form to work and left it someplace prominent, usually where all the other doctors left their daughter's order forms. Sometime they had lots and sometime not. Once we received the cookies, she had me out the door 5 minutes after getting home from school so she could get them delivered. She liked to see all the cookies piled up and was equally excited to know that they were gone for another year.
lisa a. green (ondris) says...
Posted Tuesday, January 04, 2011
I sold girl scout cookies as a child In the 60's...door to door In the neighborhood. did not have my parents bring the selling forms to work! sold them all myself! my daughter sold cookies as well. neither her father or I took the forms to work. I did however go with my daughter while she went door to door selling cookies! I have done many many cookie booths, both for my daughter & for the girls In her troop when she was an assisstant leader. what most distresses me these days Is I have not had a girl scout to my door In years. I do not buy from the parents who hand me a order slip. I do however buy from every girl scout who I see at a cookie booth. I am most appalled at the parents who sell their daughter's girl scout cookies on ebay! I would rather go without girl scout cookies, then to buy them online from a parent. I think In this computer age that the g.s. need to come up with a way for the girls to do their own selling on line. let's get the cookies out of the hands of parents
Mary Ellen Nunes (O'Connor) says...
Posted Tuesday, January 04, 2011
WOW what a grumpy post! I must say I did sell girl scout cookies as a child, and still help my daughter sell hers. My husband and I do take the order form to work - but leave it on the lunch table, no pressure - and I take my daughter around the neighborhood so she is part of the selling process. I do think that most girls look forward to the process - its fun to earn patches on your own, and key to knowing that you are contributing to the troop's profits, and that when you reap the reward you know you helped earn it. Our girls learn fun cookie songs, make posters, and learn about the cookies (and math!) as part of the troop's sales efforts -- they really do learn something. Boy scouts sell popcorn and wrapping paper, not cookies, but they still sell.

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