Girl Scout Cookies Online — Good Entrepreneurship, or Sign of the Apocalypse?

My son Tyler won his Cub Scout Pack wreath-selling championship three years in a row. He did it the old-fashioned way — by personally calling his relatives and parents’ friends, and personally touring his dad’s office every year asking for the order. His younger brother Ryan followed that up by winning the Pack wreath sale trophy twice more.

The most innovative technology they had available to them was the telephone.

So it was with great interest that I read Newsweek’s article on 8-year-old Wild Freeborn, a Girl Scout in North Carolina. With her father’s help, Wild set up an online cookie sales operation, complete with YouTube video.

In a short time, she received 700 online orders for cookies. And, of course, other parents complained to the authorities. It turns out that the Girl Scouts prohibit online cookie sales.

There are several conflicting interests at work here: There is a great deal of value in teaching kids how to sell face-to-face or on the phone. That’s a skill that, if learned properly, will serve them all their lives. And some issues of fairness exist as well, since some families don’t have access to the technology that would allow online sales.

The other side of the argument was offered in the article:

“First of all, selling things online is no less safe,” says Peter Fader, a director of the Interactive Media Initiative at Wharton, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania. “And if we want to teach our kids to be able to operate in society as responsible adults, online savviness is going to be part of the overall portfolio.”

In addition to losing a teaching moment, Fader says the Girl Scouts are missing out on a sales opportunity. “It wouldn’t even be a transition—it’d be an expansion,” he says, noting that the program could allow cookie sales online through personal Web pages hosted by area councils. With some troops reporting sales down by as much as 19 percent this year, getting online would be a simple step that could invigorate the locally minded fundraising goals of the program.

My kids are long past their wreath-selling years, so I don’t have a personal rooting interest in this. But I’m interested in your thoughts.

Should the Girl Scouts, and other fundraising organizations, allow online sales? Why or why not?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment field below.


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