Tuesday, March 23, 2004

AN ENTERPRISING GIRL SCOUT (AND HER MOTHER) set up shop on a sidewalk on campus today. Between them, they had a four-foot-high stack of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies which were selling like the proverbial hotcakes. Naturally I couldn't resist and bought a box of the tried and true Thin Mints which I shared with my evening class. According to the mother, the duo had sold hundreds of boxes of cookies that day. I walked away from the encounter thinking something along the lines of "How cool is that? A Girl Scout raises a lot of money for her troop and gets to spend time with her mother. Hundreds of college students, faculty, and other passers-by get a box of tasty cookies and even while they could get similar cookies at Wal-Mart for far cheaper, they feel good about their purchase."

Later, it somehow occurred to me that somewhere in this big world there must be someone who can find something wrong with this picture. So I did a Google search for "Girl Scout Cookies." Lo and behold, among the expected paeans to Thin Mints and Carmel Delites was a site calling for a boycott of Girl Scout Cookies because "The leaders of the Girl Scouts of America, are actively supporting and teaching homosexuality." Another site proclaims "I Hate Girl Scout Cookies" I guess because the fact that many Girl Scouts now sell their cookies in front of grocery stores (or on college campus sidewalks) rather than going door to door is a sign that America is going to hell in a handbasket. At least Girl Scout Cookies aren't sold the way mutual funds are.

Not all is gloom and doom. "Kat," who is from Japan but now lives in the U.S., had this to say about the cookie selling phenomenon
Before I came to the U.S., I had never heard about Girl Scout Cookies. The first time a small girl come to my house and tried to sell cookies to me, she looked afraid of something. I thought it was a kind of soliciting, or much worse it looked a child abuse.

This year, my 7-year-old daughter joined a troop of Girl Scout, and she asked me to come with her when selling cookies to neighbors. Then, about a month ago we went to our first tour of selling cookies. At the porch of the first house, my daughter looked afraid of something new, and her voice was very small because this is the first time for her to sell something to unknown people. I was worried if she could do it by herself.

But after we visited some families, I found the Girl Scout Cookies selling is one of a good part of American culture. Most of the neighbors welcomed my daughter and gave her big smiles with purchasing. I believe she got a great experience through cookie selling, because now she knows the hardness and the joy of working at some degree.

Sounds about right to me.

But it may not last (according to the New York Times)
Girl Scout cookies are big business in the United States. Last year, more than 200 million boxes were sold, netting about $400 million. But by any business standard, the sales and distribution model for Girl Scout cookies seems wildly inefficient.

The Girl Scouts are divided into 315 regional councils. Every year, each council sets its own schedule and pricing and selling policies, and even the names of the cookies can vary. In Cincinnati this year, cookies were $2.50 a box, in Tucson, $4 a box, in New York City, $3.50. Girl Scouts have about a month to take orders, traditionally by selling door to door and in booths at local civic events.

"But it's getting harder to sell," said Ms. Super, who was a Girl Scout. "Girls can't go door to door without an adult these days. Our local Wawa stores said that they couldn't let the girls set up their booth anymore, because of liability issues. And the schools are already sending the kids out selling all the time."

So what to conclude? Some people can find something to complain about in any circumstance. But life's too short for that. Buy and enjoy some cookies before they're gone for good.

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