Memoirs of a Girl Scout Cookie Seller

It's Girl Scout cookie time. MomSpeaker Raya Fagg waxes poetic on the benefits this annual sale has given her entrepreneurial daughter.

Our former troop leader told The Mister that this is the first time in years she didn’t place an order in excess of 3,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. The new crop of parents seems kind of meh about selling.

I understand. The second year I sold cookies I was planning how I could fund the sales without the work. Watching the snow pile up near my car, ducking the PPA, fighting off less scrupulous parents poaching our sales, I was ecstatic when I reached Senior Year and cookies were a thing of the past.

Stopping by the cookie cupboard (really the troop leader’s disheveled living room) with my sister to fill an order of cookies, I was struck by how much I am going to miss cookie season. I looked somewhat wistfully at the boxes and thought about what cookie selling had done for me.

Driving home, I relayed the tale of the limited cookies ordered for my sister. My sister admitted that the goals were intimidating. Five hundred boxes of cookies does seem like a high amount; however, I learned from my Cub Scouts selling popcorn, impossible goals can be met, even if the product seems overpriced.

Selling Girl Scout cookies isn't just about selling cookies. Having a cookie booth was a block of time where I had the Teen all to myself. We would chat about school, sometimes clown passersbys who were rude to us when we offered our wares, and talk about everything and nothing. The periods when we worked each other’s last nerve, the quiet in between customers was a time for us to just have quiet reflection, read, or in my normal fashion, chat up the people who were nearby.

Girl Scout Cookies are more than deliciousness in a box. With the current marketing strategy The Girl Scouts have marketed cookies to give girls five skills:

1. Goal Setting
We never set out to sell over 10,000 boxes during her cookie time. Our original goal was for The Teen being able to attend local Scouting events. At the insistence of the troop leader, The Teen was encouraged to attend four trips that I would never imagine being able to scrape together the money to send her to. Knowing she was able to experience so many things, I was pleased that I didn’t have to come out of my pocket to send her across the country and OUT of the country. I also liked the bragging rights that came with knowing The Teen was the top seller in Southeast Pennsylvania.

2. Decision Making
This tied into the goal. In an elementary level, we had to do some basic algebra. A trip to Europe costs X. Each box of cookies nets Y. I need to sell X to get Y and have enough to send this child out of the country. Then there were deeper levels. Do we sell on Saturday when I would rather be at the gym? Should I forgo my Sunday Snapped marathon so that my child could cover her shift? Was I up for an evening of numb fingers and toes from standing at the entrance to the subway station? Did The Mister understand that my funky attitude would evaporate if HE took a shift at The Fresh Grocer and let me have time to just not think about cookies?

3. Money Management
When we sold in the subway, we would tell people to get the Commuter Special. Three for Twelve. Ba Da Ba! People love a deal, so we were really successful with this “special.” There was also the decision to give a young kid a box of cookies for three bucks when he was counting out pennies to get a box of peanut butter patties as a treat. Should we use donations to allow a homeless person to relive a better time or pretend we don’t see his covetous looks as he shuffled past the table? We were able to do math in increments of four without blinking and even though I spent thirteen years working in a bank, I found a way to identify types of bills by touch. So I could keep my eye on the safety and security of the area.

4. People Skills
This was probably the best lesson. College kids grabbing groceries have a more positive outlook than a weary mom of three shuffling from the El. It was a no brainer for a college kid to purchase two plus cases of cookies and tell us to keep the change. They loved to talk about their own scouting experience and seemed to use the time at the table to grasp at a simpler time. The mom trudging off the El would barely glance our way, focused on making her way home. Only the repeated begging of her kids would she approach the table and make a purchase. Often we were mistaken for sisters (score!). We learned how to read people, keep a watchful eye on the less savory folks, and perfect the sales pitch/small talk/sales close. I think that selling cookies helped me nail door to door for campaigning and gives The Teen the ability to answer “So how do you like school” for the fifteenth time in a row.

5. Business Ethics
We had to accept that there are people who stoop to low levels when it comes to selling cookies. We learned how to deal with shady folks setting up when they didn’t have proper permission. We were able to speak strongly about the benefit of scouts’ both Girl and Boy and respectfully combat myths about racism, sexism, and classism. The best lesson was that being our best customers were not only not in the spirit of the sales but harmful to our waistline.

There were days when I was ready to leave her at the booth and race off into the sunset. There were also days when she was so angry that she would walk the aisles of the market or just stand outside because we weren’t clicking.

For any parent worried about selling cookies, they needn’t be intimidated. If the above isn’t an incentive, then the time alone with your daughter is priceless. If it was clowning on the people or we just weren’t clicking, we were together.

Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.

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