Did Girl Scout cookie sales put troops in debt?

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Girl Scouts
Did girl scouts lose major cash over cookie sales?
That's what WCCO's recent report on the subject seems as if it'd like us to believe. The TV station's spin makes the situation out to seem like some sash-wearing, slave-driving Girl Scout Grand Poobah dumped a semi-load of cookies at each 10 year old's doorstep with orders to sell all of 'em--or be on the hook to buy all those boxes with her babysitting money.

Regardless of the issues associated with Girl Scout cookie sales--the bakers take too much of the money; the girls are peddling unhealthy, processed crap, etc.--WCCO's report that troops are getting ripped off is a little misleading.

Let's look at the facts a little closer:

This year, the Girl Scout council tried a new "Cookies Now" approach to selling cookies where, instead of taking orders, they pre-ordered as many cookies they believed they would sell and then toted them around for real-time sales. Trouble is, WCCO reports, that many troops didn't sell all the cookies they ordered and have racked up big debts to the Girl Scout Council, citing the shocking figure that one Brooklyn Park troop has 1,500 boxes and owes the Girl Scout Council $4,500!

But two factors about the report were blatantly misleading. First, Amelia Santenello states that troops were "given a certain number of cookies," which seems to imply that they had no agency in the decision. Instead, the troops decided the size of the order they should place.

More importantly, troops can return all unopened cases (12 boxes) of cookies to the Girl Scout Council. Sure, this is inconvenient, but if a troop is left with 125 opened cases, it sounds like a case of poor planning on their part. (Also, in the CBS report, Frank Vascellaro misstates this information as only unopened "boxes" of cookies will be taken back--as if we'd think the Council would want a half-eaten sleeve of Thin Mints.)

If troops don't want to sell cookies and look to other fundraising opportunities, that's totally their decision. But it seems that the problem of excess cookies might be seen as a challenge--a great way to inspire some initiative and creativity from the next generation of sales people/marketers. In addition to going door-to-door, Girl Scouts can often be spotted at tables outside grocery stores, etc. In fact, New York City troops have set up pop-up shops in each borough to get rid of the rest of their inventory.

If you'd rather avoid the whole scene and make your own Girl Scout cookies, check out these recipes.

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That the girls can return unopened boxes is false. If you have picked up the cases in the past two weeks then you can return them. Our troop is in for 400 extra boxes. My poor cookie manager mom was ill and then her daughter became ill and during that time she did return the unwanted cases. She wasn't really thinking about G.S. cookies during that time so when she was better she was shocked to find out that she could not return any of the unwanted cookies. We are all volunteers selling cookies for an organization that can more than afford to accept the unopened cases. Instead the Girl Scout org has chosen to stick the volunteer parents with the bill. We all make mistakes, we are not professional sales people and just because we thought we could sell more to make more money for the Girl Scout Org., we should not need to take money from our own pockets. I heard from one mom who said that she had to use grocery money for the month to pay for the cases she has left over.Is this what Girl Scouts are all about? Have some compassion.


The article fails to mention a few key factors...1. Girl Scouts are not aloud to sell ANY product other than authorized Girl Scout cookies, so the author should not have said "Girl Scouts can look to other fundraising opportunities" when there aren't any other options. Troops rely on cookie sales to pay for badges, pins, crafts, camping gear, camping reservations, etc... 2. Troops are asked to order cookies from the Girl Scouts Association for their store booth sales, before the store booth sales are schedule. This means that each troop must predict what cookies they will sell.  If they order cookies, but the council does not have enough store booth locations to go around, troops could be stuck with extra cookies. It is written in the handbook that if they don't order cookies in advance, they won't get them in time for the sale. Since a store booth sale can sell as many as 300+ cookies, it is easy to error when predicting what will be sold. 3. Each troop only gets 70 cents per box sold, so there is a lot of pressure on the troops/girls to sell. Camping gear is expensive, and unlike Boyscouts, Girl Scouts do not get to put 50% of sales towards gear.  4. This year (2012) Girl Scouts will only allow us to return 3 cases of cookies total. (That is nothing when you need to pick up thousands of cookies to keep up with the demand of the troop and the store booth sales.)  Basically, Troop Leaders are given the option of ordering their own cookies, but once they are ordered they can't change their minds if weather changes, store booth sales become unavailable or if a girl orders cookies for her sales and then leaves the troop. There are a number of ways that a troop can get stuck holding the bag on unwanted cookies and YES the Girl Scouts Association gets their money.


The chocolate used in the production of the GS cookies in the US originates from cocoa beans harvested in the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast has long tolerated the use of slaves and children for the harvesting of cocoa. EVERYONE in the chocolate business knows this, yet many people in positions to make a change simply turn away. The Girl Scouts of America in one such organization. How sad that a group that promotes "values, responsibility and empowerment" to it's young members, knowingly sells products that were harvested by the hands of slave children. Sure, they don't make much from each box of cookies, and the cookies are full of trans fat and palm oil. But, where does "slavery" rank on the chart of priorities???


They've also heavily replaced hydrogenated oils with palm oil, which is healthier but also increases demand on palm farms which are often set up over clear-cut rainforests.


Good old-fashioned reporting! Thanks for getting us the straight facts Rachel. :)

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