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Why Samoas and Thin Mints strike fear in the hearts of Girl Scout parents

My three daughters recently become Girl Scouts so I knew that selling cookies was in our future. In fact, I foolishly looked forward to it. After all, what could be more American?

By Kristen Hansen Brakeman / February 17, 2012

Taylor Turpen, 5, advertised her Girl Scout Cookies along Indiana 67 in Anderson, Ind., Jan. 31. Taylor, with the aid of her mother Dallas Turpen, were getting good response from the passing motorists.

Don Knight, The Herald Bulletin/AP Photo

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La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.

It’s the time of year that instills dread and fear in the hearts of parents across the country. College applications? No. Winter exams? No – much more stressful. It’s the annual Girl Scout Cookie sales drive.

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My three daughters recently become Girl Scouts and Brownies so I knew that selling cookies was in our future. In fact, I foolishly looked forward to it. After all, what could be more American?

But our excitement quickly waned when we found out just how many boxes the girls were expected to sell. To make matters worse, news of the incredibly high sales quotas was followed by fantastic tales of over-zealous scouts selling upward of 700 boxes each.

These had to be fish stories. Children are prone to exaggeration, right? Turns out they weren’t. Evidently, the parents of these super bionic salesgirls took the order forms to their offices and gently suggested that their subordinates make purchases.

“Uh, sure, Mr. Jenkins, put me down for 12 of your daughter’s $4.00 cookie boxes. I’ll just eliminate one of my medications so I can afford them. I’ve been meaning to try some home remedies I’ve heard about anyway.”

That wasn’t going to happen in our house. These girls needed to sell cookies the old-fashioned way, door-to-door, facing success and rejection head-on as originally intended.

We headed out on day one, eager to make a sale and finally meet those neighbors. After all, what better way to get to know them than to ask them for money? Off we went, plotting a course down our San Francisco-like hilly street, pen and lengthy blank order form in hand.

It’s funny; I never noticed all the security gates and fencing encircling many of our neighbors’ properties before. These Buckingham Palace-like homes were intimidating. We rationalized that after spending so much money on elaborate fencing, they probably could not afford cookies so we skipped these houses. Besides, their intercom technology confused us.

Not easily discouraged, I suggested we try the next street over, one that is even steeper than our own. But soon the girls started to get winded and whiny, and I could tell they were losing their will to live, let alone sell a box of cookies. We passed three more gated properties and struck out at two empty houses before reaching the highest point – and house – of the street.

We rang the doorbell and waited, panting. Finally, we heard the wonderful sound of footsteps coming to answer the door.

A friendly dad-like figure greeted us. Yeah! Our first sale!

Or so we thought. “Oh, Girl Scout cookies? I think my wife may have bought some already. Why don’t you come back in an hour?” he said casually, as if it he had never noticed that he lived on a street that rivals Mt. McKinley.

“Oh sure. Thanks.” I said through gritted teeth and walked away. Then, with the door shut, I lost it.

“Why don’t you come back in an hour?” I said mockingly over and over again. “He’s got a million dollar house, a Hummer in the driveway, and he can’t fork out four measly bucks for a box of cookies? Why that…” My kids had to grab a hold of me to calm me down. I think one of them may have slapped me.

“Let it go, Mom. It’s okay. There will be other sales. Don’t worry.” My kids said, quite sympathetically.

But I knew better. This old-fashioned door-to-door crap wasn’t going to cut it. If I had any hope of meeting those quotas I was going to have to give in and take point on this project.

Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I have, um, regular jobs or co-workers to pester so I had to throw myself on the mercy of my friends and relatives. I sent out this email:

Dear Friends and Family:

As you may know, Samantha, Chloe, and Peyton have joined the Girl Scouts and Brownies. The annual Girl Scout Cookie sale has begun, and we need to satisfy a sales quota for each child. To that end, I ask that each of you buy 56 boxes. I’ve attached an order form for your convenience. (And, please include photocopies of two forms of identification with your personal check, especially you Uncle Walter.)

Strangely, the orders have been slow coming. But I believe this whole adventure has been a good learning experience for the kids – something about business successes and failures. Or the importance of living on flat streets – I’m not sure which.

But, I do know one thing – I won’t be buying all the unsold cookies myself. I’ve heard of lots of parents doing exactly that. No way.

That’s what grandparents are for.

Kristen Hansen Brakeman is a freelance writer. Her website is www.kristenbrakeman.com.

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