By Deborah Kelly Kloepfer
Girl Scout cookie season is upon us. I must confess, I haven’t thought about Tagalongs or Samoas, nay even Thin Mints, for years – likely because no one comes to my door anymore to sell them. Every now and again, I see stands at malls or shopping plazas, little girls dressed in green hawking shortbread. But the golden days of cookie sales are, I fear, gone.
When I was a Scout, selling cookies was an activity requiring treks through the neighborhood and doorway exchanges with little old ladies. As unfathomable as it seems today, I am quite sure I wandered around unaccompanied in my little uniform, badge sash and felt beret, intent on giving my carefully memorized sales pitch to any random adult who would listen.
While today the Girl Scouts “require” girls to travel in pairs or with a parent, my mother seemed unconcerned about my vulnerability as I took off alone with my color-coded cookie brochure, order sheet and stubby little pencil.
Decades later, my youngest daughter tried scouting for a while, and when she went off to scour our Buffalo neighborhood for customers, we walked around together, me waiting discreetly curbside and just out of sight while she climbed porch after porch, chatting up grown-ups, most of whom she didn’t know.
The closest neighbors, of course, could be counted on for a box or two, but once we were out of familiar territory, the quest began: anything could happen from a door being slammed in her face to a kindly grandmother ordering “a box of each, dear” – a bonanza!
During these early forays, no actual cookies were exchanged – they arrived weeks later, requiring another outing to deliver them to the paying customers. The whole process was labor-intensive, but neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night interfered with completing the transaction. Selling cookies was an adventure, demanding pluck and persistence, conjuring both anxiety and pride.
As time passed, adults got more and more involved in this undertaking. Pop-ups appeared in church parking lots and at Little League games.
Parents would take cookies to the office and strong-arm employees or colleagues into buying a box or two of Trefoils or Do-si-dos. Kids waited at home to hear how many boxes they had “sold” that day.
Recently, I was horrified to discover that one of my grown daughter’s friends had set up a website for her first grade “Daisy” Scout daughter. My jaw dropped. Despite online claims that “Daisies” do not sell cookies, this little girl is running a sanctioned digital cookie enterprise that would put many small businesses to shame: “Selling cookies is teaching me confidence, public speaking, sales and entrepreneurial skills.”
A hundred years ago, Girl Scouts baked cookies at home (really!) and sold them door to door in wax paper bags. Although I, admittedly, would probably never buy home-baked goods from a stranger in my driveway, once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, little girls rang doorbells and visited with neighbors. The world was less fraught and complicated then. And life, like cookies, was sweeter.
Deborah Kelly Kloepfer, of Buffalo, recalls selling Do-si-dos door to door.