The doorbell rang.
When I answered it, I found staring up at me two big brown eyes. The owner of these eyes was wearing beige pants and a patch-covered waistcoat, her hair in brown pigtails with big green bows.
Her dad stood a few feet away making sure
she I behaved appropriately. He smiled and he, too, had brown eyes that beseeched me to not disappoint his girl, to give her a shot and not give him reason to perk her up as she turned rejected and downcast from my door.
By her feet she had a box of boxes. And I knew from past experience that they contained cookies with weird names like “Do-Si-Dos” and “Tagalongs.”
As those big brown eyes and that sweet smile implored me to buy, my inner voice said “No” but I learned that big, eyes and wide smiles win out over small inner voices. And I found my outer voice saying “Yes”.
I bought a box, filled out the form, handed over the money. I nodded to Dad; we were complicit in living out the rules of the parenting jungle. No words passed between us but we understood – keep a kid happy in a particular moment and earn their parents’ goodwill for a very long time.
I closed the door, sighed, and put my newly purchased box of cookies on a shelf by the door…next to five other boxes I’d bought earlier.
Kindness depends on consequence
Girl Scout cookies are delicious but no-one will concede they are healthy. One of my paleo truths is that when the consequence of an action is minor, be kind. The time to be tough, even rejecting, is when the consequences are dire. For many, the consequences of these cookies laden with sugar, gluten and chemicals are dire.
TheGirl Scout cookies fundraiser forces a challenging dilemma for many a paleo peep.
Recently, I asked on my Facebook page what strategies people had for handling Girl Scout cookie season. Among many responses there was one that particularly stood out:
My rule of thumb is to never pass a Girl Scout cookie sale or lemonade stand without making a donation. They’re KIDS and it’s good karma.
And I have some sympathy for that sentiment, too.
Happy, smiley Girl Scouts
Just last week, when I picked up my kids from school, I saw the Girl Scout troop loading up their parents minivans with boxes, laughing and smiling, excited at the prospect of selling them, raising money for themselves and, if they sold enough cookies to feed the state of California, earning themselves a small prize.
When the girls sell a box they are filled with a huge sense of accomplishment as any professional salesman will tell you. Selling cookies is, in fact, a form of hunting for Girl Scouts. It’s cute in pursuit. And you are their prey.
So how do we create a win-win for both parties? We don’t want to eat these gluten- and sugar-filled
heavenly delights monstrosities but we don’t want to disappoint the girls or deal with the horrible feeling many of us get when we turn them down.
Putting this in perspective
First, you need to know that the local troop selling you your cookies get only a small proportion of the price of a box. An internet search threw up numbers of 30 – 90 cents per box depending on location, most troops get around 55 cents per box sold. The rest of the $4 cover price goes to the bakers and the council and prizes if the troop elect to work the incentive scheme.
Second, they do learn life skills. They sell, they bond, the shy ones summon their courage and approach strangers. They do math, learn about filling in forms correctly, handling money, being responsible. Some of them learn about competition, especially those whose parents don’t do the work for them.
Third, they need money to do their field trips and learn their skills to earn their patches. I was a Girl Scout once, I know what it was like. The vast array of patches I earned up until the age of fifteen helped tremendously in differentiating me during those first, faltering interviews with prospective employers.
A different spin…However, another way to look at it is that by supporting the Girl Scout cookie fundraiser, we’re condoning the concept of little girls, wearing a particular form of dress, approaching strangers on the street, getting these strangers to give them money, and furnishing them with society-sanctioned drugs in return.
And that bothers me.
So what can you do when you walk into your local grocery store and see them there with boxes upon boxes on top and under the table? Or the door bell rings and puppy dog eyes look up at you imploringly while her pigtails swing in the wind? Can you satisfy the crowd of voices that are chattering in your head all at the same time?
Here are some ideas for dealing with Girl Scout cookies:
1. Smile. Everything goes down better with a smile. Even if your heart is wailing.
2. Hand over your money. Buy as many as you want but when they ask you which cookies you would like, tell them you wish to donate the money to their Girl Scout troop. They will get 100% of the money for their field trips and activities that way, instead of just a small fraction.
3. Have your boxes of cookies sent to the military. They are all set up for it and will just put your money aside to be allocated later to their “cookies for troops” program. Tens of thousands of boxes are sent to military serving overseas each year so they won’t look at you oddly. Many Girl Scout troops also nominate a non-profit organization to which to donate unwanted cookies, so ask about that too.
From a paleo perspective and keeping on the straight and narrow, I’m mostly in favor of the above where you don’t actually get the cookies in your sweaty little hands but, if for some reason you do, you can try these options.
If your hands don’t shake when you’re holding the cookie box…
4. Donate to a food bank. If some appear mysteriously in your pantry, you need to get them out of the house ASAP. Drive straight down to your local food bank or collection bin. If you buy some on the street, do it straight away. I can buy cookies outside my local Starbucks and five minutes later they can be in the food bin located at my local library. I get a five-minute walk in the sunshine and I’m showing my kids a worthy lesson. Win-win-win-win!
5. Give them away. Make someone else who doesn’t share your food preferences very happy. Leave them in the kitchen at work, or take them to a meeting, especially a meeting where you want to win a concession – you’ll make friends. Or you can make up a gift basket full of different types of Girl Scout cookie. (This works perfectly as an item for those fundraisers that spring up in, er, Spring.) Or donate it to a senior center. If you’re crafty, you can glue sticks to the cookies with royal icing (it’s okay to do this so long as you don’t eat it :-)) and make a bouquet.
6. Donate them to the homeless. I once bought a box of cookies outside a store, and walked around the corner to find a woman panhandling. Her toddler son was playing in the dirt with a saucepan lid (which just about did me in). I’m not sure Girl Scout cookies were what she was hoping for, but I hope her son enjoyed them.
7. Shellac the cookies to make drawer pulls. Yes, I actually read that somewhere. I don’t recommend it, but it might be your thing.
8. Launch a pre-emptive strike. If you buy every year from the same person things can get a bit tricky, so anticipate the situation and pull off a surprise attack. Walk up to them and say that rather than buy the cookies, this year you’d like to donate the money to their troops/the military/local homeless shelter this year instead.
I would buy four boxes from the daughter of a friend of mine every year, without fail. So when I decided to stop buying them, I sent her an email before she approached me. Told her I’d like to donate money to her troop and asked her how should I do that. They were delighted! Make sure you differentiate between the Girl Scout troop and the military kind. 🙂
If none of the above work for you,
9. Say “No, thank you, and good luck.” Keep on walking. This is important. Dealing with rejection is an important life skill. But don’t be surprised if they try to change your mind, some of them also learn that it can take more than one try to get you to buy. Don’t be the person to teach them that.
I have been deeply ambivalent over Girl Scout cookies for many years because of the contents of the product and none will pass my lips, but my nearly-thirteen year-olds are allowed to use their allowance money to buy them if they choose. They know I don’t think it’s a good idea and they know why, but they are old enough to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. I doubt more than one box will come through our door; it’s amazing how spending one’s own money concentrates the teenage mind on what’s important.
What are you doing about Girl Scout cookies this year? Am I being too harsh in my characterization of Girl Scout cookies as “society-sanctioned drugs”? Tell me in the comments because comments make my day, they really do!
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