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Girl Scouts Teaching The Wrong Lesson By Banning Online Sales

from the unfair-competition? dept

Way back in 2002 and 2003 we discussed how the Girl Scouts of America prohibit selling their infamous cookies online. It seemed strange back then, as the entire purpose of the program is (supposedly) to teach the girls entrepreneurship skills, including "personal responsibility and how to manage money." I hadn't heard much about it since then, but here we are in 2009, and once again, business-savvy Girl Scouts are running into trouble selling cookies online.

Some have argued that since it's supposed to be about doing something in your community, selling online goes beyond that -- though, I'd argue that an online community can be just as much of a community as a local one. Anyway, in the case described in this article, the sales were limited to local residents anyway -- but the Girl Scouts are still upset about it. Mainly, the argument seems to be that it's somehow "not fair" for the other girls, but if the goal is to teach kids entrepreneurship skills, telling them that some big organization is going to make sure to keep others out of your market isn't exactly sending the right message.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    The Girl Scouts are all about fairness. And let's face it, capitalism is not always fair. So this decision should not be surprising.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    The Girl Scouts are trying to teach their young members important skills. Like standing on s street corner selling your wares.

     

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    :Lobo Santo, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Bully

    "...telling them that some big organization is going to make sure to keep others out of your market isn't exactly sending the right message."

    Why not? Isn't that exactly what's happening in real business situations all the time? (Patent, Copyright and Media bullshit.)

    And man, it sucks.

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    Oh god, that was perfect!

     

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  5.  
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    Michael, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Having had a sister and mother in the Girl Scouts for years I can say that the choice to ban online sells is not one of the actual Girl Scouts. United Way, which gives money to the Girl Scouts sets forth a number of ridiculous rules the organization has to follow in order to recieve the money, many of them concerning fundraising and especially cookie sales; the how and when of cookie sales are regulated by those rules. I know for years my sister's troop has wished for a longer selling period and the ability to sell by other means, but if they do they lose their charter.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Re:

    I thought all girls were born already knowing how to get the most for their "sweet stuff"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    I normally agree with a lot of the things said here but on this note I gotta disagree. Girlscout cookies should stay offline. The whole point is to learn the skills you only learn personal skills you learn from dealing with people. Let's not let a generation turn into cave dwelling ebay sellers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Re:

    Why not? It will set these young ladies up to fit in well with the Techdirt crowd.

     

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    Whisk33, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:32am

    "telling them that some big organization is going to make sure to keep others out of your market isn't exactly sending the right message"

    -Unless you live in America.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    And by "dealing with people" we of course mean "sending the sale sheet to work with mommy and daddy"

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    Sure, they could sell more cookies going online, but that really isn't (or shouldn't be) the point in selling girl scout cookies.

    All age ranges sell the cookies. How many 7 year old's could set up a site and sell cookies? How many 15 year old's could? What happens in the real world is that the parents set these things up, and that is exactly what girl scouts don't want.

    They want the girls doing the work, not the parents. It is the same with those folks who bring in the order forms to work. What does the child learn if they don't put any effort into it and dad brings in the form to work and sells 200 boxes? What does the kid learn? That daddy will take care of everything?

     

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    Pjerky, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Ironically they are teaching them a lesson about the real world.

    As much as I disagree with the Girl Scouts view point I do see one real world lesson they will get from this. That is if you are not careful, bigger and more powerful corporate entities will throw their weight around to stop you from doing something they don't like. Whether it be competition or innovation or something else, if they don't like it they will try to stomp on you and they can legally get away with it because the law is almost always on the side of the big entity.

     

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  13.  
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    Matt Bennett, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Yeah, I gotta disagree with you MIke. Girl scout cookies are, not in the traditional sense, about the business transaction. They're about little girls going door to door selling cookies. They're overpriced, only sold once a year, and we buy them anyway. Really, the fact their parents do most of the sales in their offices distorts the process, too, but what are you gonna do?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Browser settings

    What good is cookie selling on-line if your browser doesn't accept cookies?

     

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    John D (profile), Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Re: United Way

    ...um. The Boy Scouts also fall under United Way rules and they have no problem with online sales during their annual fundraiser.

     

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    Pjerky, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    Dude, I am going to totally teach my kids how to setup e-commerce websites before they reach the first grade, just so I can prove this wrong. That and because I think it would be hilarious to have a grade school kid that is innovating and making more progress than most adults!

     

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  17.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Look at is this way: The girls are learning valuable business lessons about licensing, sales territories, and marketing.

    In pure business terms, each girl is given a license to sell "in person only", the territory being their own contacts, and the marketing must be word of mouth.

    Online sales would be selling outside of their territory. That territory belongs to the central girl scout office.

    As for the Boy Scouts, I think you will see that their online activities are handled and operated by the main office, not by one single scout and his parents somewhere.

     

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  18.  
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    Chunky Vomit, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:05am

    "but if the goal is to teach kids entrepreneurship skills, telling them that some big organization is going to make sure to keep others out of your market isn't exactly sending the right message."

    But sadly, this is the way it is. If you get too successful, then you have to worry about the government coming in and ruining your work.

     

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  19.  
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    KGH, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re:

    You know...this is a great comment. I had a daughter in Girl Scouts for 2 or 3 years. When I first read this, my thought was...No internet. Selling the cookies should be about REAL selling skills...

    Then you posted your comment....and it all came back to me. Yes...my daughter did pound the pavement in our neighborhood....but honestly, most of the cookies sold came from me bringing the sheet to work.

    That said...I still think the internet should be offlimits...and here's why. One great domain, and one great site...and in theory, one troop could dominate online sales for the whole USA. By keeping it offline, it's a more distributed sales, spread more evenly over all the troops. And yeah..if that requires your daughter to come begging to Dad to bring the card to work...I think that's just fine.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re:

    Shouldn't be about what your kids want to do and not Dad's unfullfilled dreams?

     

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  21.  
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    anon, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Let's see, if the organization allows it....

    400,000 web sites spring up selling cookies. Some offer better shipping than others. Others are more professional. But unless they start the Girl Scout porn, there's no big differentiator that can exist.

    I'll agree with the organization on this one. And most importantly it doesn't matter if the organization is right or wrong, the rules are there. One of the goals of the scouts is to teach that rules exist and should be followed. Those that have broken the rules should be punished as any other rule infraction would be punished. They took an unfair advantage by breaking a rule.

    And we then come back to the soap box derby of the boy scouts. The entire process is to teach kids some real world experience, maybe gain some technical skills. learn teamwork, and learn how to be winners and loosers.

    NOT how to get your parents to pour a lot of money and time into the project.

    Money doesn't buy everything. It's actually done a good job of buying disillusioned kids though.

     

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  22.  
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    Skippy T. Mut, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    I have a couple issues here...

    1. So they'd rather send them out door-to-door with all of those pedophiles we're constantly being warned about out there just waiting for a young girl in a short skirt and knee highs to come to the door needing something and willing to do just about anything to "win the competition?"

    2. They say its "not fair to the other girls." But we all know that its the parents that do most of the selling anyway. If Heather's daddy works for some big company in a corporate office and Meghan's daddy is a small business owner with 4 employees who's gonna sell more cookies?

    Perhaps its time the GSA moved into the 21st century. By selling online these girls are making more money for the GSA. They're not making a dime on this (unless of course they're the really smart ones that are marking up the prices). Additionally, they are keeping themselves safe by not wandering the streets selling cookies, and they are learning 21st century business tactics. If these girls really want to get with the times one of them should try suing the GSA!

     

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  23.  
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    Hans, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    It's about public speaking

    I've been the father of two Boy Scouts, and the leader of umpteen others, and we sell products as a fundraiser in a similar manner to the Girl Scouts. I think that raising money is only one of the reasons for the fundraisers. More importantly, it teaches kids how to talk politely to people they don't necessarily know. The most difficult thing in the world for most boys (and from what I've seen, most Girl Scouts as well) is not figuring out entrepreneurial skills, but rather having to speak in public. This, I think, is one of the most important skills they can learn for an adult life in almost any profession, and conversing with the public is the best way to learn. This is something that would disappear completely if sales were just done through a web site.

     

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  24.  
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    Hans, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Shouldn't be about what your kids want to do and not Dad's unfullfilled dreams?



    So if I flunked out of high school, I shouldn't pressure my kids to stay in school and get an education? Because, after all, it should be about what they want to do, not about my unfulfilled dreams. I'm guessing you've never raised children.

     

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  25.  
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    John D (profile), Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    As for the Boy Scouts, I think you will see that their online activities are handled and operated by the main office, not by one single scout and his parents somewhere.

    Yep, and every scout is given a Identification Number that they can distribute. Entering this number on the sales web page insures that scout gets credit for the sale.

    Sales can occur online and are managed centrally.
    Individual scouts can still market independently and take advantage of the online sales capability.
    I get my popcorn.
    Everyone wins!

    The Girl Scouts can't do this why?

     

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  26.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    Low Tech

    Isn't the point of Boy and Girl Scouts to teach low tech approaches to every day things? Knot tying, fire making, survival in the wilderness? Isn't the point to teach children how to survive if they don't have modern day conveniences?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:47am

    When my daughter was a Girl Scout in the early 90s they could not park themselves in front of businesses to sell cookies, they had to go door to door, use friends and family or the traditional tried and true have mom and dad do it at work. Now certain members of certain troops (read depends upon who you are and who you know, fairness be dammed) get to camp out in front of highly trafficked businesses like grocery stores,gas stations and wally worlds. Also it has become common practice for the more affluent parents to buy mass quantities of cookies so their child can come out out on top. I suppose this does teach the girls modern business practice:
    It is all in who you know and how you can modify the rules in your favor. If you can't compete mom and dad will buy up your cookie assets and you'll get a bonus anyway.

     

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  28.  
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    Pjerky, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Lol, its not about Dad's unfulfilled dreams. Its about giving my kids a head start, like teaching them to read before they reach the first grade or teaching them algebra before the fifth grade.

    I want my kids to succeed (or I will when I start having them) so I will try to give them the knowledge and the tools as early as possible. If that means teaching them web development before most other kids know how to write poetry then that is what I will do. However, I will draw the line at pushing them to the point where they don't get to enjoy being kids. I would never want to take that from them.

     

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  29.  
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    John D (profile), Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Low Tech

    Isn't the point of Boy and Girl Scouts to teach low tech approaches to every day things? Knot tying, fire making, survival in the wilderness? Isn't the point to teach children how to survive if they don't have modern day conveniences?

    Um... No.

    The "point" of both organizations is summed up in their respective mission statements:

    The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

    Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

    The knot tying, fire making, wilderness survival, etc, etc, are tools these organizations use to teach their chosen core values and to make learning them fun. They are not "the point".

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or you could have just one site for all the girl scouts and when purchse requests are made they are sent to the troop closest to the customer. The troop then randomly gives them to the girls in the troop to oversee the sale from there out.

    If the girl scouts want to reinforce personal communication, then require at least a phone call confirming the order be placed to the customer. Require personal delivery of the cookies (accompanied by mommy or daddy of course cause what pedophile wouldn't want little girls knocking on his door)

     

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  31.  
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    hegemon13, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:18am

    It's about fund-raising

    All this talk about teaching selling skills, interpersonal skills, business skills, etc is missing the mark. The cookies are about fund-raising, period. They may have other justifications for it, but it starts and ends with raising money for the troops. It also designed to be a local fund-raiser for local troops, not a way for a flashy website in California to suck in cookie orders from Louisiana. The Girl Scouts organization runs the show on this, and it is perfectly reasonable for them to set regulations that keep the fund-raiser to its intended purpose: providing a way for people to support their local troops.

    Now, you say this instance only involved local sellers. That may be, but allowing it sets up what we like to call a gray area. It would require individual review of each situation to determine whether they are servicing only local customers. It would also require some sort of occasional check to ensure they haven't started cheating the system after initial approval. Considering the Girl Scouts just laid a bunch of people off, I don't think that is where they want to spend their labor. It's easier and, in the current climate, more fair to just have the blanket policy.

     

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  32.  
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    hegemon13, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What kids want is infinite recess, toys, sweet stuff, etc. Kids are kids. To refuse to teach and guide your kids because it's not what they "want" is ridiculous, and will lead to spoiled, lazy, and directionless children with no goals in life. Would you refuse to potty-train a child because they would rather go in their diaper?

    Teaching skills like Pjerky mentioned (great idea, by the way!) is not about forcing a child into a particular profession or area of interest. It is about teaching them how to know what they want, how to enjoy work, how to innovate and think for themselves, etc.

    And yes, every parent should have the dream of raising healthy, successful children, and raising them should be about fulfilling that dream.

     

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  33.  
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    Rob R., Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Selling Online

    This just makes me want to buy a pallet of them so the United Way can't say a damn thing and resell them online via eBay. One pallet of Mint Thins, buyer handles shipping.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    They should give away cookies for free, because I think they might have an infinite amount of them. Seems impossible, but it can happen. Economics doesn't have to follow basic science rules anymore, because the internet.

     

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  35.  
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    hegemon13, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re: I have a couple issues here...

    1. No! Everyone knows pedophiles are online, silly. Seriously, though, my parents always came along and stood at the end of the driveway when I went up to the door unless I was staying within our block, where we knew all the neighbors quite well. They were all old people that bought lots of popcorn to support the one grandchild-by-proxy that they had on the block. I think a bit of common-sense parenting is what is needed to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

    2. No one ever said the playing field would be perfectly even. The main goal here, though, is to keep the cookie sales local, which is sensible.

     

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  36.  
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    Vince, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Feasible?

    Forgetting fair, skills learned, etc, what about the simple fact that allowing online sales would cause all sales to go through a very small number of individuals/troops/etc? Do you really think that a hundred thousand individual troop or scout sites selling cookies could survive online? Yeah, the national organization would get their money, but what about the individuals and troops?

    I would much rather put up a site to sell cookies than take my daughter door to door in the cold, but let's be rational here.

     

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  37.  
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    Jeffry Houser (profile), Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Smaller Boxes This year..

    Has anyone mentioned how much smaller the boxes have gotten this year? I know it's happened w/ most food stuffs in the US, but I've told my fiance to stop buying them altogether. The value just isn't there.

    Instead of a case of Thin Mints lasting a full year (as it did last year), I'll probably go through them in less than 6 months.

     

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  38.  
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    John, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    franchise

    I see it as a franchise situation. It is quite simple. Just like you can by a franchise of a business and it gives you rights over a certain area. The main corporation handles who can sell and where. In a sense this is exactly what the Girl Scouts are doing. Each troop is running a local franchise of the Girl Scouts and selling online is not part of franchise that they own rights too.
    This being said, it would be reasonable for the main office to set up a web-page that allows people to support their local troops. For one reason their are people who work odd hours and never get the opportunity to buy cookies. I for one have not seen a single Girl Scout selling cookies in the last two years, and I would love to purchase some cookies.

     

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  39.  
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    dave, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re: Bully

    exactly, if your not happy with someone downloading your cookies, you can cry to the government to make the kids stop.

     

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  40.  
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    Skippy T. Mut, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Smaller Boxes This year..

    Especially now that Keebler makes all of the same cookies and gives you as many as the girl scouts used to give. And you can buy keebler cookies everywhere...including online!

     

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  41.  
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    Jennifer, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Responses....

    The most difficult thing in the world for most boys (and from what I've seen, most Girl Scouts as well) is not figuring out entrepreneurial skills, but rather having to speak in public.

    I wholeheartedly agree. Having worked over 10 cookie booths with our Daisy Girl Scout Troop (ages 5-6), I have personally seen the impact cookie sales can have. One of our girls started out not even speaking in troop meetings and now she can ask adults she does not know (at the booth with parents present) to buy cookies and tell the customer the total amount due.

    Now certain members of certain troops (read depends upon who you are and who you know, fairness be dammed) get to camp out in front of highly trafficked businesses like grocery stores,gas stations and wally worlds.

    This is not true in all instances. Our local Girl Scout Council has online sign-up for these cookie booths. We have a great “cookie mom” and she signed us up for a lot of cookie booths.

    I also point out to my daughter that this is how we are going to pay for the activities we have scheduled. I think it’s a nice lesson to learn that you have to earn money in order to buy or do certain things.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:35am

    Re: franchise

    PERVERT!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    The girlscouts are socialists, just like that socialist pig obama!

     

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    JP, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Former Seller

    As a former Boy Scout that set records for six years straight in my council selling popcorn and having a sister that was the first person in our state to sell over 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, I disagree with not allowing them to sell online.

    My parents refused to just take the order forms to work and sell for us. They made me write a note that had my sales pitch on it, and then the would distribute that in the mailboxes at work (this was in the 90's before e-mail took off). It forced me to make the effort to get the sales. The majority of my sales came from door to door sales. I started to try and find ways to innovate at an early age. If I had the ability to create a website back then, I would have jumped on the opportunity.

    It could be beneficial to have a website even for door to door sales in cases where people are not home or they said now the first time around. You could leave the website and pick up some sales.

    Just my two cents....

     

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  45.  
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    Francis Burdett, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Infamous Cookies?

    "Girl Scouts of America prohibit selling their infamous cookies online."


    Why are Girl Scout Cookies "infamous"?


    I and everyone I know really like Girl Scout cookies.


    "That Thin Mint embezzled my life savings!"

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    can't sell them online but they have a whole website devoted to help you find who's selling them. How do they justify that?

    Also with the way kids are getting snatched up by pedophiles these days, I would rather my kids sold them online. Then they could stay home and be safe.... on the internet YAY!!!!

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    "What good is cookie selling on-line if your browser doesn't accept cookies?"

    Best post on this site in a long time. Bravo.

    As for the majority of the rest of the comments? Get a clue, then a life.

     

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  48.  
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    KGH, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not a bad solution. I like the phone call idea to confirm order, address, etc. Not really because it needs to be done, but it would set them apart from a customer service standpoint.

    I think delivery should be left up to UPS due to the pedophile thing. When you or parents go door to door...it's very controlled. You send your kid into known neighborhoods. Online, and you never know where the kid has to deliver.....

     

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    KGH, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Re: Smaller Boxes This year..

    6 months?? More like 6 minutes at my house.

     

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  50.  
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    Mike Licht, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:30pm

    Girl Scout Cookies. Crummy, or just Crumbly?

     

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    nasch, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Ross

    I'm reminded of the Friends episode, where Ross (standing in for an injured Girl Scout or Birdie or whatever they called them because the Girl Scouts would have sued if they had called them Girl Scouts) was outsold when one of the girls had her 19-year-old sister put on her uniform and sell cookies at the docked aircraft carrier. Innovative business model! :-) Does prohibiting online selling force other kinds of creativity and rule-bending? Hm...

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Nasch, it does if you live in a fantasy world where you think that Friends is actually a reality show.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 6:52pm

    Re:

    looser than what?

     

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  54.  
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    Scott Dodds, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Really a brand issue

    I agree with the folks above who talked about it being a franchise issue - the real concern is for protecting the brand. Though I have a girl scout that sells cookies, I have no insider info on this. However, I see that the big reason people by Girls Scout cookies is brand recognition - face it, those thin mints can be had in your local grocery store under another brand/name year round. But people would rather go out of their way and spend more money on a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints. It's all about the brand associations, which could be negatively impacted by hundreds of thousands of poorly built girl scout cookie sites every year (not saying all of them would be bad, but most would be). Not to mention the whole experience apart from selling that could affect the customer's perception of the brand (the transaction, the delivery, etc). People feel good buying girl scout cookies from girl scouts, even if it is through their parents. This is an important brand that Girl Scouts needs to protect. If they decide to go online someday, they will need to make sure they can do so without jeopardizing that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Jack, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:16pm

    What about the HFCS and transfat in the cookies?

    The Girl Scout Leadership still hasn't noticed the childhood obesity epidemic; they continue to sell cookies with High Fructose Corn Syrup and transfats. Just shameful!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
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    Ron, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 4:46pm

    bleh

    Just let my daughter join brownies. I thought they'd be doing crafts and learning to sew or do outdoorsy stuff and help their community. Instead I had forms shoved at me to sell magazines, address books and nuts. I hate consumerism and I am certainly not going to ask my family and coworkers to buy stuff they don't need out of some sense of obligation. If the troop gets 10% of everything we sell, why can't I just donate the 10% directly to them?
    Majorly disappointed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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