Girl Scout Cookies: A Sales Career?

(Originally published as one of my columns in The Beach Reporter 3/22/1990)

Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies? No, I’m not a Girl Scout myself, but I happen to have 200 or so boxes of Thin Mints, Shortbreads, Tagalongs, and Samoas in my kitchen pantry and freezer. Unlike Nancy Reagan, I just can’t say no. And I especially can’t say no to a pixie in a green uniform with a sash, who has the face of an angel.

I tried, I really did. A Girl Scout called me on the phone a few weeks ago and I placed an order with her. After all, she was my good friend’s daughter, and what are good friends for if not to buy Girl Scout cookies, raffle tickets, car wash coupons, and pancake breakfast tickets from each other’s kids.

Then at the gym, a man who works out there regularly came in with a sign-up sheet for his little girl. Of course, I had to help the guy out. I didn’t want him to accidentally drop a barbell on my foot. Another four boxes. I didn’t want to appear to be a cheapskate. And you can always freeze them.Two weeks later, in front of Thrifty Drugstore there were… you guessed it – more Girl Scouts. Naturally, I had to buy four more boxes from them. They were so adorable! Besides, we had already eaten the eight boxes that had been delivered three days ago. Otherwise I might have gone into Peanut Butter Patty withdrawal.

Everywhere I went for the next weeks, there they were. More Girl Scouts. In all sizes and shapes of adorableness. In front of the grocery store. In front of the bank. At my door.

At first it looked like I was stockpiling for the next big quake. But a diet of Thin Mints wouldn’t give us the protein we’d need if we couldn’t get to the store for a week. I couldn’t stick to my pledge not to buy anything from any kid who comes door-to-door. And I had the caramel clusters, super sponges, and generic greeting cards to prove it.

I decide right then and there I wasn’t going to buy any more cookies, even if the little darling had tears in her eyes. Well, maybe a few more boxes. I can always freeze them.

I tried to analyze why I was compelled to keep buying from these kids I didn’t even know. As if I was single-handedly responsible for keeping the Girl Scouts of America afloat. Maybe there was a support group that could help me out.

Then the answer came to me. The reason I had this compulsion was because I had been a door-to-door salesman myself when I was a kid. I still remembered how good it felt when someone bought something from me.

Now, as an adult, I couldn’t sell high heels to Imelda, but as a kid I sold everything. Industrial bottles of biodegradable soap for Pep Club, lemonade on street corners with my sisters, ugly greeting cards for extra Christmas money. My first “real job” was at age eleven when I sold freshly baked doughnuts door-to-door on Saturday mornings for the princely commission of ten cents a dozen.

I remember what it was like schlepping all that stuff around and asking strangers to buy something they didn’t really want from you. I remember housewives scrounging around the house for change to buy what I was selling, because they saw that look of desperation in my eyes. I remember an old man who insisted on giving me a dollar, but told me to keep the greeting cards because he didn’t have anyone to send them to. I remember how amazing it was to have earned a whole five dollars of my own.

And that is why I have 200 or so boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

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