Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cookies Gone Wild!

As most who parooze the many places I am online know, I am a Girl Scout Leader, this being my first year. I admit it was rough taking this on. I had no clue what I was getting into when I said yes. It's pretty much like running a small business, except since you're part of a bigger Borg you don't have to do taxes.

Once we actually got started with working with the girls, I have totally been enjoying showing these girls how to take an interest in the world around them. I'm also using the Girl Scouts to promote my own evil liberal agenda: Community service, taking care of the environment. I figure the more of our youth we teach to care about where they live now, well, the better chance our future has all around. We've become too lazy, too self-involved.... but that's a post for another day.

I've had to bite my tongue on a few things concerning Girl Scouts. Some are silly and easy to not make a big deal about, like the fact that they sell a shirt that says "Defy Conformity" while requiring a uniform. I mean, I get it. Teach our future women to think outside the box, while still being part of a team. All the same, it still makes me giggle. Another thing that bothered me but I can still handle, is the use of "God" in the Promise. GSUSA made it ok to substitute "God" to cover any religion, but has never officially said it was ok to opt out of saying you want to serve any Diety at all. Again, not a huge deal, easy enough to overlook for the greater good of the organization.

What I *do* have a bit of a beef about is how archaic Girl Scouts still seems to be when it comes to technology, social media and using the many online tools available to get the word out about various things related to Girl Scouts. Like, for instance, cookies. Recently a Scout in North Carolina was ordered to take down her You Tube video advertising cookies sales. Upon further investigation on this story (as the AP article doesn't really tell you bupkus), I found out that this girl, Wild Freeborn, went to her dad with what seemed like a very innovative way to generate sales. A video on You Tube, with information on how to order cookies. How awesome is that?

Not so awesome, according to GSUSA. Not only did they say it was a violation of their "no internet sales" policy, but they made her take the video down. The policy states:

"Our existing National Girl Scout policy prohibits the sale of Girl Scout Cookies® or any other Girl Scout approved product on the Internet. The safety of our girls is always our chief concern. Girl Scout Cookie Activities are designed to be face-to-face learning experiences for girls. In an online setting, there is no guarantee that the seller is indeed a girl member of Girl Scouts. We have many ways for girls to explore and experience the benefits of science and technology and the Internet, including our Girls Go Tech* initiative. "

Safety. Ok, I understand safety being the top priority, whether online or not. What is safer- selling online, or having your child in front of a store for hours? In the set up Freeborn had, she would still have to deliver the cookies- hence face to face experience. I assume her parent(s) would be with her to deliver, just like she was selling/taking orders door to door. The risk seems to be no different. Besides, why should one girl be reprimanded for having a great idea? Isn't the point of Girl Scouts to encourage "out of the box" thinking? To defy conformity?

GSUSA states that the marketing of cookies is online is allowed. I'm trying to understand the difference, since technically they were not taking any money online, and were still delivering the cookies in person. I am led to believe there would probably have been a complaint regardless, because a video online can reach a lot more people than going door-to-door. Writing all over your car about cookie sales can reach more people too, but not everyone does that. Every parent takes their cookie order sheet to work, but not every parent works. It's great to try and be fair about selling, but the fact is selling is not fair. There is absolutely no way to make something fair when the goal is to sell as many boxes of cookies as possible. This is a reason I have a problem with competition, someone always whines they are not getting a fair shake, just because someone else comes up with a great idea.

As far as selling/advertising online goes, Girl Scouts needs to learn more about social media and the online world, and become a part of it, not discourage our future from learning the advantages. I created Upcoming pages showing when our troop would be at a booth. I Twittered about and during our booths. There is no positive lesson in showing our future that the internet is a bad thing and not to be trusted. Thin Mints may never need to change, but it's time for Girl Scouts to revisit their policies for selling them and come into the next century.

Please, if you agree with what I'm saying here, contact the Girl Scouts of the USA and tell them so. The more that speak up, the more chance there is for change.

*couldn't connect to this website. Found out it's The .org makes all the difference. ;-)

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