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DIGITAL DO-SI-DOS

The Girl Scouts have finally taken some of the misery out of selling their iconic cookies

Heather Timmons
By Heather Timmons

White House correspondent

Technology is about to make the hunt for Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties a little easier.

Starting Dec. 12, customers can order cookies from scouts online for the first time ever and have the boxes shipped directly to their homes. The organization also has a new app that will point you to local troops’  booth sales in your area.

The 102-year-old nonprofit’s decision to go digital might just be the great leveler—not only for people who want to buy the cookies, but for the girls selling them.

As many Girl Scouts veterans will tell you, cookie-selling traditionally has been a tough racket—and an unequal one. If you had a parent who worked in a big office, you were golden. Mom or dad brought in the cookie order form, left it near the coffee maker, and boom—dozens, maybe hundreds of boxes sold. It was even better if your parent was the boss.

But if your parents worked in a restaurant, or a gas station, or a supermarket, or even had their own small business, then your best option usually was to hit the pavement. In the northern US, that usually involved a miserably cold day (selling season always seemed to coincide with winter months), and stomping to strangers’ doors trying to peddle your wares while a parent waited in the warm car. Or there were booth sales, where troops or individual scouts set up, often outside stores, shivering in the cold and smiling at strangers.

When the cookies arrived, scouts with parents in big offices could rely on mom or dad to drive the cookies to work and that was that. (Deliveries also were easy if you lived in a big apartment building.) But anything else required the same time-consuming, parent-intensive, door-to-door travel, this time with the added fun of balancing armfuls of boxes and making change.

It was a process that was—let’s face it—much easier on kids and parents from white-collar homes. If you weren’t, it was especially hard on kids who had two working parents, because all of this door-knocking and booth-setting up and sitting required a lot of parental involvement.

Now, all a Girl Scout will need to do to sell a box of cookies is know someone’s e-mail address, which she can use to “invite” the person to her personalized web page. The page will be hosted on the Girl Scouts’ “Digital Cookie” platform, where buyers can do their own ordering and use a credit card to pay. The scout’s personal information will be limited to her first name, and whatever else she puts on her (parent-approved) website.

It is likely to usher in a whole different era of Girl Scout Cookie-selling hustle, one that has more to do with collecting e-mail addresses and digital sales than it does with where your parents physically work or your pre-teen sales patter. On the downside, raising the technological bar for participation might make it even more difficult for girls from poorer families, and give an sizable advantage to those from tech-savvy households. And, of course, we might all need to get ready for an onslaught of “Buy my cookies” spam.

But if a scout prefers to go door to door or deal directly with buyers, she can still do that. Only now, she’ll have a mobile app she can use to take orders.

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