Friday, February 8, 2008

Girl Scout Cookie Mom Grinch

Girl Scouts selling cookies at the supermarket not only gave me a theme for Wednesday's Blog Carnival, it reminded me of my Cookie Mom cultural immersion - showing me perks of economic privilege I had never noticed. My daughter was a Brownie for a few years, a worthwhile involvement which took her a few zones out of her comfyl upper-middle-class life. I blithely volunteered to be Co-Cookie Mom. How hard is it to sell Girl Scout Cookies? The experience is touted as a great entrepreneurial intro, promoting communication skills, and even reinforcing math.
The whole cookie empire is cash-based. Never had I functioned without credit before - no checks allowed. The Brownies were required to sell and collect the monies for the cookies up front and deliver them later. This means two trips for each sale, plausible if everything is right in your 'hood, but totally impractical if your customers are family and friends spread out over a whole region. We cheated and asked customers to send us checks, and I fronted the cash. Imagine how much more time-consuming it is for folks without access to the cash to cover the sales.
Then came the ordering, which is by the case; all the girls' orders were random amounts. Big mom challenge, how to sell off all the odd lots (We just bought them ourselves, again not an option for low-income moms.) When the time came to send in our orders along with the money, I discovered the next time-consuming surprise: Girls Scouts did not accept personal checks. That meant taking all the cash from the 10 girls' orders to the bank to cut a Bank Check, a huge hassle. Again, those of us with checking accounts never need to invest this kind of time doing financial transactions.
Awhile later came the announcement: pick up the cookies! They were dropped off in a big parking lot in the middle of a snow storm, not at my door by UPS, like most of my transactions. That's what the photo above demonstrates.Then haul 24 or 36 cartons of cookies to the house, and each scout has to come with her parent to pick them up. Behind every cute Brownie selling cookies is a very harried, hard-working mom who has put countless hours into the endeavor. Think how this disadvantages girls whose moms don't have the time, skill, car, or resources to perform all this unpaid labor. The fun part was taking a wagon, loading it with our pre-paid cartons of cookies [not the way that you're "supposed" to do it] and peddling them in our neighborhood. The profits go to the troop. My daughter was irresistible as a cookie seller - that part was easy.
At one of our stops, my neighbor, then head of our local Democratic party, bought four boxes. Score! Then she solicited me to attend a Hillary Clinton fundraiser for $100, to which I agreed. So much for the cookie profits. Looking back, the unintended education, my own, was far more significant than what my daughter may have learned.... Check out ClassAction for more education about class in America.
Enjoy your Thin Mints! (just don't look at the fat content.)


Peter Schott said...

I have to admit to being a little soured by the whole Girl Scout Cookie thing. Often the parents push the cookies on co-workers rather than taking the girls around (at least among people I know). Also, I often see the displays of cookies set up at various shopping centers or stores with the parents running the booth more often than the kids. Even better, these are often the same stores who turn down folk like those from the Salvation Army. Add in the fact that it's just not great value for the money and I'll admit to not liking the process too much.

You're dead on about the economy. My mother in law was cookie mom as well and my wife remembers those times. She wasn't a Girl Scout for a long time, but long enough to be involved in a couple of cookie blitzes. I just wish that more girls actually seemed to be doing the work rather than the parents. The appearance in my area is that the kids really don't learn as much as they could otherwise.

Sue said...

Girls Scout cookie time has always been one of the times I look forward to each year. Though, I have to admit, I never have really considered this interesting and not often considered perspective - the Girl Scout Moms. Grazing on my Tag-A-Longs this year will bring a whole new element of reflection as I consider the process behind the product!

Betsy Teutsch said...

The reason Girl Scouts set up at supermarkets is to avoid the peddling process which requires them to sell the cookies, collect the $, put in the orders, and deliver them.
Way easier to use your own $ to buy the cases up front and then retail them. Very low income Girl Scouts cannot afford to do this, so you're looking at middle class lasses.

Angie said...

Your experience with some of these conditions are unique to your GS Council. For example, in many Councils you can get cookie cases on consignment to sell at a booth sale (grocery store, etc.) so that the troop would not have to front the costs for the cookies. Also, the reason that GS requires girls to get the money when the cookies are delivered is to avoid having angry consumers who paid for cookies they never received, even if it is more inconvenient for the families.

If you are unsatisfied with the level of education or effort that the girls are getting from the cookie sale, take that up with the troop leader. There are many great resources available to leaders and cookie parents to help the girls learn the lessons that the sale is focused on: goal setting, budgeting, entrepreneurship, presenting yourself well, etc.

Anonymous said...

Girl Scout Cookies, while TASTY, are WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!

They need to stop having the cookies contracted out to be baked and start building a scout-operated facility where the Senior & Cadette Scouts bake them!

Also, they would sell LOTS more cookies if they came out with a low-fat/sugar-free cookie (Splenda-sweetened?) for dieters & diabetics. Many of us are VERY SAD to have to say "No" to the cute faces at the grocery store, just because we cannot eat them and/or afford to buy them.

Betsy Teutsch said...

To be fair, my daughter is 20, so this experience was about 10 or 12 years ago. Policies may have changed since them.
But I'm sure those cookie moms are still busting butt to make the sales happen!

Nutrimama said...

I've always been a stickler that 1. my daughter walks door to door 2. She asks for the sale (I wait back a few feet as her safety wise adult) and at the cookie booth 3. only the girls sell. Other wise it's just take your daughter to work day and we're doing THEIR job!! I've begged off the cookie thing this year due to overloaded schedule at my new job at, but I feel I'm supporting the troop since I've set up the whole cookie booth schedule and let the parents easily grab shifts using the free VolunteerSpot coordinating tool. But yes, I'm with you, if the girls don't do the selling, there is no point even participating.

Anonymous said...

Okay wait a minute....I am a troop leader and entering my second cookie sale season. My daughter is a Brownie. First let me address the comment about going door to door as it concerns me the most. I prefer my girls don't go door to door. Let's be honest....we live in dangerous times and it is more dangerous for children, neighbors you know fine, but that's it! Next Behind the scenes there is a whole unit of things going on that customers can't see and often cookie moms have no involvement in, we just finished learning about polite phone skills and counting change, and we even talked about safety in groups, never mind on learning how to set goals and making plans to achieve those goals.
Okay now about having to deal with the snow and packing up cookies. I live in the North-East, would you sit on a freezing bench to watch your child's football game? How about in the rain to watch their soccer game? If you can do that you can support your Girl Scout. In short....suck it up.
Next and everybody's favorite...the money. Our Troop actually set our goals last night and I am proud of my girls. With our proceeds we are going camping, but we are also making a donation to the local ASPCA by collecting items from their list of needed items. Also my girls have decided to enter the adopt a troop program, we will adopt a troop being deployed to Iraq, or Afghanistan. It's not like we take the money and go get our nails done. We do good and the girls are responsible for it all. And the price of the cookies? Hmm... I guess you may be right, compared to a box of store cookies, you may get more cookies for the price if you buy them at you local grocery. But consider, most troops do 1 or 2 fundraisers a year. And with waning parental involvement...where should we get the money to run the troops? My daughter plays two sports and by far Girl Scouts is her cheapest activity at $12 for a year, a dollar a week dues and a little bit of parental support. Instead of thinking about the cookie sales as being ripped off, think that you just helped one more kid make it to camp, or gave one more soldier much needed eye drops and toothpaste, or more importantly a letter from home. My daughter is worth every minute I put into her troop, I begrudge them none of the time I have spent planning and collecting supplies. Maybe we should concentrate on how much our children are worth to us and making this better for them, rather than being critical of a parent taking an order form to work for her daughter who she wants to have the best experiences for. Maybe she is just a good parent.

Betsy Teutsch said...

Now my little girl is 23. My point was that the wonderful Girl Scout cookie project relies on an immense amount of maternal support. It is seriously a lot of work for the moms.
The girls get a taste of selling and meeting the public, for sure. But there is much invisible work for moms, and the lower the income the moms are, the harder the work is.