More than Christmas and reindeer and Santa, winter, to me, always meant Girl Scout Cookie season. Maybe this was because I was one of the few Jewish girls going to a mostly Christian school, or maybe it was because my mother was my troop leader from first grade to senior year of high school, but either way as soon winter came around all I could think of was devouring whole sleeves of thin mints by myself while reading Ramona books.
I was a Girl Scout, or Girl Guide as they are known outside of the United States, from kindergarten to my senior year of high school. Along the way I made new friends, learned how to bake a cake in a box, had a ton of adventures and new experiences, went to England, and sold a shit ton of Girl Scout cookies.
Selling cookies is what funded my trips and activities every year. And troop #302 of Freedom Valley council sold a shit ton of cookies. To put it this way, if a diva is the female version of a hustler, my troop would have all gotten our Beyoncé badges.
There were, when I was in my Girl Scout prime, two ways to sell cookies: going door-to-door and selling at cookie booths. Going door-to-door was easy. In a suburban neighborhood like mine, all the parents bartered their children’s activity fundraisers among each other so their children could make dues. Just like my mother bought Boy Scout popcorn (always tasted gross) and Little League sub sandwich orders (never any without mayo), our neighbors bought Girl Scout cookies.
I was given a card with a script that had handy phrases such as, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies? Each box purchased supports a girl in your community!” By third grade I had the entire script memorized and could repeat it verbatim. By fifth grade my neighbors would just chuck money at me, yell “three boxes of shortbread” and shut the door.
The other, more exciting way to sell cookies is by standing in front of a cookie booth and talking to strangers. This was exciting because it was the only time we were able to break our ‘don’t talk to strangers’ rule. To obtain a cookie booth, cookie moms (the mom in the troop who handled cookie sales and procurement) had to join a cookie lottery. Like "Bring It On" and the cheerocracy, most cookie-related ideas need the “cookie” prefix to be truly successful.
During the lottery, each troop would be given a number and a list of all the booths available. Booth placement could be either outside or inside, depending on the business owner’s request, and could be anywhere in the local area. Some booths were more coveted than others, such as the ACME that my Dad always complained smelled weird, or outside of the craft store, or in the businesses of parents who got roped into letting their children push cookies to all their clients.
Each booth would be read aloud by the cookie mom running the lottery, and then the accompanying number would be read. For example, “ACME on January 25 from 1-5 p.m. goes to lottery number….[drumroll]….3476”
Sighs of defeat and heartbreak would emanate from the crowd as the winning cookie mom took the voucher for the specific slot. This process continued until someone claimed all booth opportunities. Then the fun would begin.
All the cookie moms would track who had the booth they wanted and would start to trade. This was a game with high stakes. Only the strongest emerged victorious. Booth selection could make or break the selling season, and no one wanted to end up with the booth near the parking lot.
“I’ll trade you the 24 for the 15, the ACME for the Giant, the 5 p.m. slot for the one before my son’s basketball game.” Trading was both brutal and civil at the same time. These moms, the ones who were in the PTO mafia and volunteered for the field trips, all knew each other and their lives. A pointed question about their younger son’s absence from the honor roll, and the booth was yours! I have yet to meet anyone more conniving, and one time I took a lobbying field trip to Capitol Hill.
My troop usually ended up hawking cookies at the aforementioned weird smelling ACME. We would wear our vests and fight for the position at the door where we would get to smile and say, “Would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?” No one would think that grown adults could ignore cute, perky six-year-old girls, but people would walk right on by without acknowledging us. Selling Girl Scout cookies prepared me for a life of rejection.
If we could somehow convince the ACME customers to come to our table, they would be swarmed by the rest of the troop whose job it was to tell them about the cookies. Every year or so, Girl Scout headquarters would come out with a new cookie that fit the general recent food craze. Some, like the hundred calorie packs, were absolute flops. Who wants a hundred calorie pack of Girl Scout Cookies? That’s like one and a third cookies. If we felt that we were going to lose a customer, we would head straight for the thin mints or shortbreads.
Overall, we were a fairly successful selling troop. We listened to older ladies tell us about their scouting experiences, moms who wanted to get their daughters involved, parents of kids we sat next to in class, and always said please and thank you. This connection guilted people into buying at least a box every time they walked into ACME. Basically, we were cookie-selling machines.
If nothing else worked, I would use this trump card: “Girl Scout cookies are a great snack for the Super Bowl!” Seeing that my family doesn’t follow football, and for the longest time I didn’t even know what the Super Bowl was, I was surprised by this line’s great success rate (feel free to use it yourself!).
We also ran a program where people could buy cookies and donate them to the troops. There’s not really a way to say no to supporting both U.S. soldiers and Girl Scouts while being a resident of small town America. It worked every time.
As I got older, my troop stopped participating in the cookie lottery and started selling cookies out of our lockers like drug dealers. This method of cookie selling was more efficient because we harassed our friends instead of our strangers, and we all had something to eat during math class.
Now, in this modern day and age, the Girl Scout cookie market is radically changing! First of all, anyone can use the Girl Scout website to find exactly where cookies are being sold.
Secondly, if going out into public isn’t your thing, you can order cookies online directly from a Girl Scout! Since Girl Scouts are big on practicing Internet safety, you can only order cookies directly from a Girl Scout you know.
So you will still need to use your IRL connections to find some co-worker’s daughter’s neighbor to get your caramel delight (or is it samosa?) fix, but at least you won’t have to go outside. The best part? You can pay with a credit card! So order a ton and stock up for the Super Bowl! (Whatever you people do during that event.)
If this was around when I was in my cookie selling prime, I would definitely be e-viting everyone I ever met to buy cookies from me on the Internet. Alas, when I was selling cookies, the only thing I used the computer for was playing educational CD-ROMs my grandma sent me.
Next time you see some Girl Scouts selling cookies, or get an online invitation to buy some boxes, pay up! Your money helps support girls in your community grow up to be strong and independent women, and benefits your community. Girl Scouts creates leagues of tiny badass feminists, and the world can always use more of them.
If you don’t know what to do with your cookies, other than eat whole boxes while watching "Orange is the New Black" for the fifth time in a row, use them to make this great milkshake:
· 3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream
· 5 crushed up thin mints (crush more if you want a garnish)
· chocolate syrup
· 1 cup milk
Throw ice cream, crushed cookies, and milk into a blender and mix until the mixture is consistent. Add chocolate syrup to your liking. Then pour out milkshake and garnish with extra crushed cookies.
Eat and repeat.