Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our day in the cookie booth

Today we had our first Girl Scout cookie booth experience, outside a busy WalMart.

We arrived 2 hours after the booth opened, per the arrangement with our cookie leader - we'd had another Girl Scout activity earlier in the day (not cookie related). The other girls were ready to have another helper at the table.

We had been given some tips for selling at booths but our cookie leader had some other ideas. I thought the girls were supposed to approach people but she preferred they did not. She'd had some experience with people responding rudely to girls when approached. Things like "What would I want to buy those cookies for?" You'd think people would just say "no thanks" but I guess that's asking too much sometimes. The girls were to smile and try to make eye contact, maybe wave a little. It was fun seeing them trying to read the faces of people walking by.

One thing I think the cookie training lacked: an emphasis on the cookie seller's outward attitude. One of our girls complained a lot - and loudly - about the cold, the wind, her hunger, her boredom. I tried to explain to the girls - between customers - the importance of looking as if they want to be there. People do want Girl Scout cookies, but they have multiple opportunities to buy. If I was on the hunt for some Thin Mints, and saw a booth with grumbly girls, I'd pass it by, knowing it wasn't my one and only chance to get my fix. I don't know how much of the message got through. Of course I could be more pushy with my own kid and she did her best despite the cold wind blowing. Next time we'll remember to wear long underwear and gloves.

We had a lot of customers. Most of them knew exactly what they wanted. One woman walked up with her money out and wryly commented "you guys are killing me." She had already bought several boxes from some other Scouts but wanted more. Many people were looking for cookies by their old names and were annoyed in a good-natured sort of way over the change. "Why aren't they called Samoas anymore?" (Change of bakery.) A couple grumbled a bit about the old days when cookies were 50 cents a box. Many of the ladies had wistful looks on their faces as they reminisced about their own cookie days, or their daughters'. Men got on their cellphones, calling wives to get the correct order.

I know a few people who disagree with the mission of the Girl Scouts. I am not convinced it is the very best girls' organization out there. I was pretty displeased with last year's partnership with MTV. But, right now this is the best thing we've got. Our little homeschool troop (5 girls) is great. The moms are in agreement with the sorts of activities we want to do and the attitudes we want to develop in our girls. Still, if I had any assurance we'd be staying here after the seminarian graduates in a year and a half, I might look into starting an American Heritage Girls group here. Because we are likely short-timers, there doesn't seem to be much sense in that.
So I will be an outwardly enthusiastic Girl Scout mom and help my girl enjoy this time.

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