Girl Scouts, one of the largest female-led organizations in the nation, has been a pivotal part of women’s history since its creation over a century ago. In addition to countless community service projects and badges earned, Girl Scouts are responsible for and are most well-known for one thing in particular: selling Girl Scout cookies.
Selling cookies, while basic to some, is a brainless activity for young children to swindle money and has much more to it than just cute smiles and a colorful order sheet. Along with other valued qualities, it teaches girls responsibility, the value of hard work and most importantly, how to understand people and get your point across.
Girl Scouts, while seeming like some of the most innocent salespeople known to mankind (cue the images of cute little girls with pigtails and little red wagons, flashing doe eyes to all potential buyers), are quite the opposite. I have never participated in a more bloodthirsty, competitive event. Forget scorned women; hell hath no fury like a Girl Scout whose cookie-selling territory has been invaded.
As a rather unassertive child who was allergic to conflicts of all sorts, I stayed within the measly borders of my cookie territory. However, regardless of my significant lack of real estate coverage, the expectations remained in place; it was either 100 boxes of cookies or bust. I was still motivated to some extent and didn’t want to be that Girl Scout — the one who brought dishonor to her family and brownie troop, the one with the largely empty cookie order sheet and less than 50 boxes sold.
So I learned, slowly but surely, how to make my voice heard, knowing that if I didn’t make it clear that this area was my area, I wouldn’t be able to sell nearly as many boxes. By taking responsibility for each and every box I sold and being held accountable for collecting orders, receiving payments and making deliveries, I gained valuable experiences. They ensured that my thoughts don’t go unheard. And due to cookie selling, I’ve never been voiceless in any setting since then.
Fast-forward to later years, despite my efforts to cease the shrinking of my territory, I wasn’t able to increase its size significantly, so I had to make do with the meager area I had. Eventually, the essential question arose: how could I maximize my cookie sales despite having such a small location to sell?
The solution was clear: I had to ensure that almost everyone in my designated area ordered cookies.
Most Girl Scouts treated each door-to-door sale the same; each potential customer was subject to the same, repetitive spiel.
“Hi, would you like to buy some cookies? They’re only four dollahs a box!" a Girl Scout would say, along with showing an often gap-toothed smile.
What those girls refused to understand, however, was that cute smiles and doe eyes don’t warm the hearts of all buyers and guilt them into purchasing $30 worth of overpriced cookies, whereas solid advertising, on the other hand, does. Each customer was different and needed to be treated as such.
The old woman who lives down the street? She was a girl scout herself back in her day and is probably reminiscent of the time when there were only three options, one of which was the Trefoil.
What about the girl who’s deathly allergic to peanut butter? She probably shouldn’t be told about how amazing Tagalongs taste.
And the next-door neighbor who’s strictly vegan? She needs to be reminded that she always has a cookie option in the Thin Mints.
And as a basic rule of thumb: if you want to sell to the same person the following year, don’t sell them Savannah Smiles. Understanding people doesn’t always need to be extreme; sometimes, it just means taking time to talk to the people around you and finding out what they want instead of continuing to sell to satisfy your own needs.
To think that these were lessons I learned not from a textbook or classroom, but from experience; that experience can only be provided in a few ways, one of which is Girl Scouting. So when people ask me, “Are you actually still a Girl Scout?” I reply with a simply with "Yes," because I’m proud to be one and will continue to sell my cookies with my head held high.