Have Girl Scouts Lost Their Hustle?

Beware parents peddling Thin Mints.

At my office, there’s a table in the kitchen that I’ve been avoiding like the plague. Casually sitting next to the microwave, there they are: the delicious, expensive banes of my winter existence. It takes all my willpower to stop myself from ripping open a box of Thin Mints and devouring an entire sleeve in one go, cookie crumbs coating my face and the floor.

See, I have standards when it comes to Girl Scout cookies. It’s a little crazy, but I want to buy them from an actual Girl Scout—not an Adult Scout, and especially not an Office Kitchen Table Scout. I want to see the awe in someone’s young eyes when I write down a “1” next to Thin Mints only to change it to “10” after realizing, who am I kidding? I want to make a kid happy before I gorge myself on minty chocolate goodness, knowing that my gluttony is acceptable because I did a good thing. Damn it, I earned these cookies. (And paid a fortune for them. That, too.)

Am I alone in this desire to buy the cookies from actual Girl Scouts? One Delco Scout dad I talked to doesn’t think so. He said, “I generally think the point of Girl Scouts selling cookies is that, um, the Girl Scouts actually sell the cookies. Asking somebody for money isn’t an easy thing to do, so I think it helps girls build confidence and social skills if they’re the ones knocking on the doors and stopping strangers in the Acme.”

The official Girls Scouts website lists “goal-setting” and “money management,” among other skills that members are meant to acquire through the sale of cookies. It also explicitly states that parents shouldn’t be solely responsible for sales, and even goes this far: Parents are responsible for “helping to network with colleagues so that [the girls] can contact co-workers and family members to purchase cookies.”

The latter “rule” seems totally unrealistic. What little girl is actually going to pick up the phone and call Daddy’s boss, when Daddy can easily take care of that in the office?

Thinking back to my own stint as a Girl Scout, I don’t remember either of my parents being involved in my sales. I begged everyone I’d ever met to buy just a few boxes. I went door-to-door like the rest of the neighborhood girls, desperately hoping that I was the first one to hit up the elderly couple on the corner (old people are such suckers) or the single cat lady (did she share the cookies with the cats? Who knows?).

Nowadays, many troops dictate that Girl Scouts aren’t allowed to go door-to-door unsupervised. Safety concerns are paramount and, depending on their age, Girl Scouts need to be accompanied by adults when selling cookies, even in their neighborhoods. Seems to me like a whole lot of the cookie burden is now being placed on the adults, and it’s more than merely supervising the kids.

Perhaps this issue stems from the number of boxes expected to be sold per child. Lory J., mother of eight-year-old Gina, said, “We are not going crazy this year. We had 85 boxes to sell.” 85 boxes isn’t crazy? With quotas like that, it’s no wonder parents are helping out and hitting up co-workers.

But that’s not the only reason parents sell cookies at work. Delco dad also noted that many childless office employees practically force Girl Scout parents to bring in order forms. “The part that surprised me was the demand for the damn cookies,” he said. “When I told people here in the office that my daughter was a Girl Scout, it was like I announced I had a secret drug connection. People were in my office waving money at me, hoping I could hook them up.”

There’s something to the drug analogy. “[Gina] pushes the cookies to the older people at her dad’s condo complex like drug dealers push crack,” Lory J. admitted. “She’s cute, so normally they all buy a box or two. But the majority of the boxes get sold by me or her dad.”

Colin M., who lives in Bucks County, also sells cookies for his seven-year-old daughter. He joked that the issue he has is delivering the cookies to the office. By now, he’s an expert at packing a duffel bag to the brim, and as a commuter, he has also mastered navigating SEPTA trains with the loot. “I was a bit smarter this year and broke up the orders into manageable deliveries,” he said. “Last year I got on the train with two huge duffel bags and was told by a group of older women that if I fell asleep they were gonna sneak some boxes out of my bag.”

Speaking of old ladies, I even talked to one grandma who helps her nine-year-old granddaughter with sales at work and outside Shop Rite. When asked how she feels about her “involvement,” she explained that she enjoys it because they get to spend more time together. She also supports the purpose of the sale itself because “it helps fund the Girl Scout functions.”

There’s something a little sweet and old-fashioned about all that. Of course, arguing about the effort (or lack thereof) modern Girls Scouts put into sales these days might soon be irrelevant. According to the website, they’re working on a way for girls to “engage consumers in online sales.” Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a place to get your fix, there’s an app for that.