Local Girl Scouts say pandemic changed cookie sale methods; last day to buy is March 26

Girl Scout troops around Park Ridge, Niles, and Morton Grove are wrapping up their cookie sales and want you to know the last day to order is March 26. Suburban troop leaders say cookie sales have changed after the COVID-19 pandemic and troops are using more technology to sell the sweets.

Pioneer Press spoke to Girl Scout troop leader Katie Jewell about her two troops in Park Ridge. She said she sees young girls mature, learn how to talk to adults and take on more responsibility during the cookie sale. She has led Cadette Troop 45603, which includes girls in sixth through eighth grades, for eight years. She has also led Daisy Troop 47416, which include girls in kindergarten and first grade, for two years. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What types of activities do you and your group usually do?

A: We do service projects, we do a lot of about being a good citizen… being considerate, being thoughtful, things like that. We did just go on our first camping trip, so that was pretty neat.

The big girls, on the other hand, do a lot of really neat things. They plan pretty much all their activities for the year…We typically camp three times a year. During the fall and spring, we tent camp. During the winter, we cabin camp on local Girl Scout property, and then we do two to three service projects a year.

Q: Where do you sell your cookies?

A: We prefer to sell (in front of) grocery stores. They have the best flow of traffic. So we sell in Park Ridge. We like to sell in the Uptown area where people will be moving through, picking things up for the week. And we also sell at Fresh Farms in Niles.

Q: Do any of your troops knock on doors?

A: Some kids will go out and knock on doors. It’s really a family decision. My family often does knocking on doors, but a lot of families don’t. I have a 14-year-old and when she started in Girl Scouts, that was her primary means of selling cookies. But (people) don’t answer if they don’t know you. So that option for selling cookies has really diminished over the years.

But you can walk around and if you know your neighbors obviously can knock on those doors. They’ll answer and they’ll buy from you. I wish that was still as successful now as it used to be. I think that having to interact with adults that you don’t know to sell your product, to explain why you think this cookie is a good cookie or what are you going to do with the money — all of these things are invaluable skills. And even when someone says, “no, I don’t want to buy cookies,” whether they say it politely or rudely, that’s also a life skill that you have to learn — not everyone will always say yes. So I really like doing it but unfortunately I see it going by the wayside.

Q: Do your troops do online orders?

Yes, we do online orders. And that’s pretty fun because we have friends who live in Florida and friends in California, and then friends all over the Midwest and they’re able to get their cookies in a reasonable amount of time.

My complaint with online orders is that the girls lose the opportunity that they have for face to face conversations. They don’t get to talk to the customer one on one and ask “What kind of flavors do you like?” and “I really liked this cookie and I recommend you try it.” It just becomes more mass marketed as opposed to personalized.

Q: Why would someone who lives far away purchase cookies online?

A: People like to support the youth in their lives. Some of my friends either have kids that aren’t in Girl Scouts or they don’t have children, so they like to support them. I think they enjoy hearing about what the troop is up to. We’re buying tents to go camping and things like that (so) it becomes tangible. You’re buying something that will be tasty but also is providing a specific opportunity to the girls and I think that motivates people to want to buy cookies and enjoy them.

Q: How have cookie sales changed since the pandemic?

A: It has shifted towards more online sales… I think that’s when the big shift happened away from door to door. We still sell at booths and have maybe more credit card sales, which slows things down because processing credit cards is slow but other than that, I don’t think there’s been a significant shift.

Q: Where do you store the cookies?

A: Each troop has a designated cookie manager and they have a team that goes and picks up all the cookies cases. Vans are loaded and (cookies are) stored in peoples’ homes. They are sorted out by girl and the girls sort out their orders.

The cookie manager continues to store the cookies for booth sales as well or if girls continue to sell cookies to their neighbors. They reach out to the cookie manager and say hey, I need four more boxes, and then go pick them up from that person.

Q: Do you see girls maturing and gaining skills as they sell cookies?

A: Absolutely. For younger troops, the Daisies, they’re just cute. People want to buy cookies from them because they’re adorable. How can you say no to a first grader who wants to sell you cookies?

For the cadets, they have learned how to sell cookies and so they will talk to the people. They’ll say, “Oh, you have a family member coming over this afternoon for dinner? Well, you should get an extra box of cookies for that family.” Or maybe suggest to customers instead of buying three boxes of cookies maybe you should get five because it’s five for $30.

They’ve learned a lot of sales techniques. They learned to interact with the adults and it’s gone from the adults being there with the younger girls to now the middle schoolers running the sale entirely on their own.

Q: What does the profit go towards?

A: It goes to all of our activities. We want every girl who wants to participate in Girl Scouting to be able to do so to the fullest extent without a financial burden to the family. For the younger troops we pay for all of the badges, and field trips get covered through cookie sales.

The older troop has larger expenses because we go camping more often. Obviously, buying food for a weekend is more expensive than just meeting supplies. They’re also planning a larger trip at we’re gonna go to a national park this summer, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. and spend about a week traveling together. Cookie sales are paying for that trip as well.