This piece was published in the Los Angles Daily News on March 5, 1998.
Nine out of ten people, when asked, will buy Girl Scout cookies. Why? It’s not just because Thin Mints are delicious, Trefoils are a tradition, or Tag-a-Longs have peanut butter. That’s part of it, but not all. People buy Girl Scout cookies because a Girl Scout is selling them.
The small salesperson you see in front of the grocery store is a well-trained member of a team who is working to meet her personal goal as well as her troop’s goal for the amount of boxes sold. She knows her product and has a pretty good idea of which cookie will sell the most – Thin Mints, of course. She has been drilled on safety, salesmanship and courtesy.
The Girl Scouts who are selling cookies this year represent an organization that, from its very inception, was dedicated to teaching girls leadership, good citizenship and a strong sense of self. Girls today are learning those lessons well and will take them into the next century.
The pint-sized salesperson you buy cookies from today could be selling you a computer or a car tomorrow. She is learning selling skills within the context of the Girl Scout Law. Two important parts of the law include being “honest and fair” and “responsible for what I say and do.”
Most people associate cookie-selling Girl Scouts with Brownies or Junior Girl Scouts, ages six through eleven. However, the top salesperson last year, for Mount Wilson Vista Council in the San Gabriel Valley, was a Senior Girl Scout, age sixteen. She sold 1,777 boxes and is hoping to sell more this year.
An active Girl Scout, she recently participated in a local talent contest. As part of the pageant, she was asked to wear clothing that demonstrated one of her interests. Encouraged to wear her swim suit, to represent her membership in a swim team, she
chose instead to wear her Girl Scout uniform.
A girl who stays in Girl Scouts past elementary school can take advantage of opportunities to travel and learn leadership skills, and will benefit immensely from working in partnership with her leader, a woman who often becomes her mentor. For example, a troop that visited a Girl Scout center in Cuernavaca, Mexico, became friends with a troop they met there from Canada. The girls went back home, raised the funds needed to travel to Canada and visited their friends in Vancouver the following summer. All this took the effort of dedicated adult leaders.
Whether a six-year-old or a sixteen-year-old asks people to buy Girl Scout cookies, she will know the satisfaction of success or the disappointment of rejection. A Brownie may want to sell one box, a Senior may want to sell 1,000. Nonetheless, all Girl Scouts are learning important lessons from the annual cookie sale.
Most people become aware of Girl Scouts every year during cookie time, but girls meet with their leaders throughout the year, working on community service projects, going camping or traveling. After the cookie sale is over, the girls will determine what they will do with their cookie profits. They may buy supplies for the troop, take a trip or provide community service.
Girl Scouts continue to find joy in singing, treat the American flag with respect, go camping and have lots of fun. The sound of a Brownie Girl Scout troop reciting the Girl Scout Promise, clear and strong, can still bring tears to the eyes of their leaders. For 85 years it has been that way.
If a Girl Scout asks you to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies, consider the value of what you are about to buy. Consider the lesson you teach. Consider the fine tradition you support, and . . . enjoy every delicious bite.
Kathleen Vallee Stein