It’s Girl Scout Cookie delivery time. A fact that most of America is well aware of at this point. The Scouts with their brightly colored boxes are parked outside of grocery stores and churches, stalking your neighborhood, posting on your facebook page, and teasing the taste buds of many “I gave up sweets for Lent” people.
Last year, Madie sold over 100 cookie boxes. Sure, I was proud of her. But it was fairly easy. Selling Girl Scout cookies with a blonde haired, blue-eyed, pig tail-sporting, freckled faced little girl is like shooting fish in a barrel. This year, Madie took the award for Top Troop Seller; or did she?
As it was our second year to participate in the mega marketing machine of the Girl Scouts, I’ve started to rethink the whole process. When you are talking about six and seven year old girls (and their mothers); I think the awards and the lessons learned may be misplaced.
Yes, Madie successfully gets the credit (and all the cheap Girl Scout issued incentives) for hawking 225 boxes of cookies. At $3.50 a box, my Madie AKA “Madie the Money Maker” raked in $787.50 in cookie sales. That’s a lot of dough (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). But, today, as I stood at the bank, counting and recounting the all those checks and cash with the bank teller, I couldn’t help but rethink this whole thing.
Our troop also mandated that checks not be written to the troop, but be written to us personally. Apparently a troop with 35 girls is hard enough to manage. Add in a few dozen checks from each girl and all that random cash and even our designated “cookie mom” (an accountant by trade) is overwhelmed. As such, all cash and checks get processed via my account and I write one whopping check. Hence, my visit to the bank.
Madie opted to stay home and play with Daddy. I opted not to have her bouncing around the bank lobby. But what exactly was Madie gaining from this experience? Who in our house learned what in the last two years? And who should be the recipient of said incentive awards?
Wilson, a born salesman who stands erect with his fingers flatly together, his arms outstretched and explains to potential buyers; “You can order the cookies now and pay for them later. They are $3.50 per box which is 350 pennies.” At least, that was last year’s enthusiastic pitch. This year, he was less animated. I’m sure the fact he received no badge or accolades (or Legos) did not go unnoticed. This year, it took far more convincing to get him to leave his toys to haul his own “cookies” around the neighborhood. And if the first pass through the neighborhood (the selling pass) wasn’t painful enough, there was next to no way were we going to get him out to tote the actual cookies around to deliver.
I resorted to busting open some of the boxes we ordered for ourselves and bribing him. Perhaps I should call it an “incentive”; it makes me sound like a better mother that way.
I understand the need for the incentive program, but I wondered what was being incented. Madie was only interested in selling enough cookies to get what will probably end up being a four inch high stuffed giraffe. Last year, she was finished selling cookies the minute the calculator told her she’d sold enough to have earned a rainbow colored nail file in the shape of a butterfly.
We had one day stellar day when cookie selling started to become a fight between Madie and me. She’d finished her homework and wanted to go sell cookies. I had dinner to prepare. After which, I said we could go, but by the time I was ready, she was engaged in play. To which I pointed out this was “it” for the day; as in go now or we’ll have to go another day and she became angry with me.
I explained I wasn’t the one that wanted a stuffed giraffe or a bratty child. Either way, I was no longer willing to take her out selling. Cookies are supposed to equate to fun; not family fights. Needless to say, she didn’t sell cookies that day.
As if all the little battles along the way weren’t enough to make me yell, “I give! Next year I’ll just write a check to the troop and take you to the Dollar Store where you can pick out three pieces of junk,” we stumbled into the cookie distribution process.
I discovered that all those cookies- a mere 171 boxes (the rest were boxes donated to deployed American troops) filled the back of my SUV. Like “put down the row of seats” filled the back and move in the cookies. They then overtook the dining room while we prepared them for delivery. Madie standing on a chair, me getting frustrated and trying to sort them all into bags, Wilson “helping” by opening more boxes, me trying to write names on cards with orders and totals and Madie stapling the cards to the bags.
A frantic (and a little bit painful) two hours later, we started the delivery process. Seems simple enough, but catching people at home these days proved to be a week’s worth of after school activities. We are down to one last customer delivery. I figure at this point, if we can’t make the delivery, I’ll just be out the $7.00 and be the proud owner of two (more) boxes of thin mints.
So weeks of ordering; days of distributing; and a mini accounting project. That’s the Girl Scout cookie selling business in a nutshell. I’m not sure what we all really gained; other than the expectation that next year we’ll be doing this again.
One neighbor, whose own Girl Scout is now in college, acknowledged Madie’s Top Seller accomplishment as we left her porch.
“That’s hard work, selling all those cookies,” she conceded, “For Mommy too!” I turned back to her and said, “No kidding! She gets a giraffe- what’s my reward?” To which, she placed a hand over her heart and facetiously batted her eyes, “Why, pride, of course! Mother’s pride!” I suppose she’s right. I am proud. And I have learned one very important thing; I certainly don’t want that stuffed giraffe.