Just yesterday I bought my yearly two boxes of Thin Mints from some incredibly adorable little girls selling the Girl Scout cookies from a card table outside my local CVS. I had planned on buying them from a Girl Scout I have never met, though the agency of her mother, who sold them to me last year. But she never got in touch with me—I think she’s another one who is steamed at me for some post here (over at Windypundit, it’s slam Jack Marshall day by another former commenter) —so the adorable little girls got my 20 bucks this year.
Today I encounter an interesting opinion piece that holds that mothers like my friend are “cheaters.” JM Finster writes:
As with any fund-drive, the idea is to support the cause, but with the cookies, uniquely, customers buy them to give “the awesome girls who sell them,” in the words of the Girl Scouts, “the opportunity to learn essential life skills, soar in confidence, and quickly discover the leader within.” Research has shown that none of that happens when parents sell the cookies at work..So it is that the cookies land on a desk in a skyscraper without a Girl Scout in sight.
The cookie drive should be better than that. Selling is crucial to every endeavor, in that it requires the ability to make a convincing presentation, to answer questions, and to project self-assurance. Everyone needs to do that, in one form or another, but that last attribute, in particular, is sometimes lacking in the best of us, especially shy young ladies.
Since Girl Scout troops keep track of sales by individuals, even offering prizes for the best results, parent-cheaters can hardly resist the chance to prove their own sales skills and boost their girl to the top of the ranking. …If a Scout comes over to the house for a sales call, a parent will undoubtedly come along as an escort. That’s all right, except that the parent will do all the talking, no matter how hard one tries to give the awesome girl standing off to the side the opportunity to learn essential life skills, soar in confidence, and quickly discover the leader within. With the adult recording the sale and later delivering the cookies, their daughter the Girl Scout—all in one stroke!—wins a prize for outstanding sales and loses the chance to learn something about sales…For the sake of the runny-nosed little girl, who keeps poor sales records, lets her boxes get crushed in the back of the car, and exhibits more enthusiasm than smooth-talk, kindly sidestep the parent-cheaters and let her learn. In fact, make her learn and insist she does the talking.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz to kick off March:
Are parents who help Girl Scouts sell more cookies cheating?
There are a lot of ways of looking at this one. I always have thought of the cookie drive as fundraising, not an exercise in learning sales skills. Maybe it’s both, but if so, the two objectives are in conflict. Would the Girls Scouts prefer to have their members lose sales to learn from their mistakes? Some how I doubt it. And who asks questions about Girl Scout cookies? I walked up to the little Girl Scout at the table and said “Oh! Girl Scout cookies! I’ll take two boxes of Thin Mints, please. How much?” The mother behind the table just smiled.
Wouldn’t the girls learn as much from listening to mom’s sales pitch, if one was necessary to close the deal, as they would from doing their own?
The prizes raise a different ethics issue. When my Cub Scout troop sold Christmas wreaths to raise funds, I went door to door trying to get orders, but I recall that my dad sold a few at his office. Was that cheating? One year I finished third in wreath sales and got a ribbon or something. There were no rules about what could be counted as a scout’s sales; the winning scout sold a ridiculous number, and everyone assumed that it has been a family project. If I talked an adult into being my sales rep and he sold some wreaths, is it wrong for me to get credit for them?
I’m eating a Thin Mint right now.