Why you should stop selling your kids’ cookies

Like most other workplaces in America, the bulletin board in the employee kitchen at the world headquarters of NewsCut has its share of “buy this stuff my kid is selling” sign-up sheets. The problem, as some see it: The kids aren’t selling anything. Mom and Dad are.

This debate usually rears its head around this time of the year — Girl Scout cookie time.

“This goes beyond helicopter parenting. Ensuring that kids sell their own cookies is responsible parenting,” argues Kelly Richmond Pope on the Washington Post’s website.

Selling cookies, I learned more than how to resist the temptation to embezzle. Since my parents were not involved in the process, other than walking me around the neighborhood, the buck stopped with me. I was in charge of all orders and counted my money every night. I learned never to set unrealistic sales goals; to always take responsibility for my work; and that if someone says “no,” have confidence, because another will say “yes.”

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call. It was my friend’s 7-year-old daughter with her Girl Scout Cookie sales pitch. Not only was she poised and professional, she closed the deal by asking for the names of friends who might be interested in purchasing cookies. I was impressed — and ordered three boxes of Thin Mints.

If she follows my old-school approach to Girl Scout Cookie sales, she may not be the sales leader in her troop, but she could be the next Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Barbara Walters or Gloria Steinem — all legendary Girl Scouts. I trust that they sold cookies themselves, learning about accountability along the way.

Sign up to buy stuff on the company bulletin board, and you’re helping to create tomorrow’s white-collar criminals.

  • MrE85

    Not going to touch this one. I’ve already been chewed out on Twitter for buying a box of cookies before the official launch date.
    As Freud might have said, if his daughter was a Girl Scout: Sometimes a cookie is just a cookie.

  • Dave

    We were at Creative Kidstuff in St Paul last spring and a couple girl scouts had their table set up inside the store. So in this case, the scouts themselves were doing the selling. I gave them $5 but declined the cookies. Am I the only one who doesn’t get the big deal about the cookies? They always taste old and stale to me. I suppose they are because they need to have truckloads ready all at the same time.

    • BReynolds33

      Keebler makes all of the best flavors all year round, too. Grasshoppers are 10x better than Thin Mints.

      • Dave

        Thanks for the tip. It should be noted that the arrival of thin mints every spring has risen to the level of cultural touchstone.

  • BReynolds33

    At our office, the girls come in with their parents and walk to each office. It’s adorable and I can’t help but buy them. Even if I don’t want them. Sly little devils.

  • joetron2030

    One bit of advice, especially if you don’t want the cookies but want to help the particular troop: Donate the money you would have spent on the cookies directly to the troop.

    The troop that sold you the box of cookies only gets something like $.50 for every box sold.

  • Pej

    Bravo Bill, this needed to be said. I fully expect the ‘champion’ sellers are really the ones with the best parents-at-work-network. We have a few “pushers” on our floor that come in every day with two-dozen boxes and walk out empty handed, all credit to the daughter for “selling”.
    I really loathe door-to-door sellers of anything, adult or child, and have a city-approved “No Peddlers” sign in plain view. Most of the adults heed it, few of the kids do, even with an adult in tow who can plainly read…

    • Jack

      Amen! I always felt bad when my son was younger and needing to sell candy bars as a school fundraiser. I finally leveled with him and wrote a check directly to the school. He understood school got all the money and that was the key.

      We aren’t out of the school fundraising yet but now if it is something meaningful that the neighbors would appreciate (like a pancake breakfast), we just buy the tickets and hand them out.

      Having said all that, I will buy from the neighborhood kids that I do know as I feel it is payback for us hitting up neighbors years ago for a couple of fundraisers that I couldn’t personally fund. I make sure to let the parents know that it is okay.

  • Kassie

    Another angle would be that the parents are helping sell the cookies because otherwise their child will not be able to fully participate in the program. The money those kids (or parents) earn for the cookie sales often goes to going to camp or a special trip. Without the cookie sales, many parents may not be able to send their kids to camp. And not every child lives in a neighborhood where it is safe to go door to door. In Minneapolis, without a permit, it is illegal (though the permit is free.)

  • Melanie

    I’m baffled by how many of my coworkers will take on the responsibility of selling cookies for their kids. It gets more absurd each year. First it was just the quiet sign-up sheet in the lunchroom. Then came the emails — to our work accounts from the adult cookie seller’s work account. Next were the “personal biographies” of the children — sentences about why you should buy cookies from them (or, more accurately, their parents) After that came the cutesy photos of the kids to go with their biographies. I guess the people who brought their kids to the office to let them go from cubicle to cubicle selling cookies were bordering on teaching their children something about responsibility and / or commerce. Then again, I had a boss who brought her kid to work and then went with the kid to each person’s desk, hovering over the kid as she gave her cookie pitch. So basically kid is asking me to buy her cookies while her mother, my boss, stands there staring at me. I guess there’s an important lesson there after all. You can sell a lot of things through intimidation.