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Why Girl Scouts Still Shouldn’t Allow Internet Sales March 16, 2009

Posted by Trisha Lyn Fawver in General Rambling.

This is really irritating me… I caught wind of this story the other day and wrote about my take over at GirlScoutGuide.com: a young girl in North Carolina, obviously with the help of her father, created a video promoting her sales of Girl Scout Cookies and put together an online ordering system for the purchase of the cookies.  Since this does not follow the policies of the Girl Scouts, they were asked to remove the website and video from YouTube.  For some reason a lot of online marketers and tech chic people are painting the Girl Scouts in a bad light because they're not embracing social media and technology and allowing girls to sell cookies online. 

This has been covered on the Wall Street Journal's website, which was of course picked up by the tech-set crowd at Silicon Alley Insider, and there was coverage on the story on the Today show.  All these outlets seem to be preying on the "but she's just a little girl!" emotion card and making it out to be that the Girl Scouts are luddite monsters who are just too afraid to embrace new technology and social media and modern marketing.  Anyone actually familiar with the girl scouts knows that's not the case – I earned several badges related to technology and the internet myself as a scout in the mid to late 90's.  The reason is fairness and safety – they want to make the selling environment that these 5-18 year old girls engage in as safe and as fair as possible.  Since when are the basic principals of safety and fairness something you'd rather toss out the window to teach you daughter about breaking rules?

I want to shake the hand of a commenter at the WSJ's article going by "Mom & Leader" for her clear defence of the Girl Scouts.  Here are some highlights of what she says:

"I personally believe Girl Scouts officials made the rules they do first and foremost for the SAFETY of EVERY GIRL. This seems obvious to me, doesn’t seem like it should require defending."

Some would say that the instances of internet predators have calmed down since the mainstream adoption of the internet, others would say they've gone up.  This girl's dad was obviously monitoring what was going on, but that wouldn't be the case generally speaking if the GSUSA opened up the rules to internet selling.  There's a substantial potential, unfortunately, for unsupervised girls to make arrangements with suspicious characters to buy cookies and fall prey to pedophiles, kidnappers, you name it.  Putting that aside, since the girl is only eight it's obvious that while she may have been able to post a video to YouTube (should she know is a different arguement), I can guarantee her dad set up the online ordering process, so really that's unfair in that it's him selling the cookies, not her doing her best to do it.

"Secondly, the rules are in place to ensure fairness to ALL girls.  This was violated from what I understood – and I could have misinterpreted the article – by the intended “pre-orders” the video was soliciting. There are set timeframes so that cookies are sold by everyone at the same time and therefore the playing field is level. If they were taking orders before the start date then that calls into question the fairness issue. As the rules are currently you are welcome to send e-mails letting those out-of-town relatives know that its time to place those all important orders. Nobody said Grandma has to order from the neighbor girl."

Allowing girls to sell on the internet  gives them a broader reach over the girls in other areas.  And believe it or not techy douchebags, there are still families who don't have internet.  So allowing some girls who have the advantage of an internet connection to out-sell girls without an internet connection in a different region or neighborhood isn't fair.  And I agree with Mom&Leader – I read it to think they were selling outside the designated time for orders as well.

"The “Official” rules don’t address the other issue I found with this fathers decision(s), but the GS Promise and Law do. Namely “Respect authority” In this case the GSUSA is that authority in that they have made a rule in an arena which you have chosen to participate in. I feel as a parent setting an example is a major key in teaching our children – even when by doing the right thing it could mean not reaching a much-desired goal. (12,000 boxes? whoa!) Admittedly he chose to ignore a rule he was aware of."

I added the emphasis on that last line.  Back to my previous point about teaching girls to break rules ahead of teaching them about fairness and safety.  The world isn't perfect, to be sure, but the Girl Scouts are doing nothing but attempting to instill good code prinicipals and beliefes in it's members.  Knowingly breaking a rule is a terrible example to show your child; explaining to them why it's fairer and safer to not sell online is a much better lesson for a child, regardless of gender.  I'm all for the technological upbringing of children, but think about the core principals in what you're doing because that will ultimately stick with the child longer than being able to make a YouTube video to sell cookies.

My main issue, personally, is the issue of fairness.  Inherently, some troops already have a huge advantage over other troops in cookie sales based on their location.  A troop in an affluent suburb is likely to make more sales than a troop in a economically depressed inner city.  That's just the reality of business in general, whether you're discussing fundraising like this or opening up a retail store – that much is common sense.  The Girl Scouts are just trying to keep the field as level as possible knowing that things like region, economic conditions, availability of parents to volunteer, etc. is out of their control.  But allowing sales on the internet IS under their control, so they're doing what they can to give every girl the opportunity to do their best and reach their cookie goals.

Another commenter there, GS Leader, said it best: "When you have internet sales by one troop, you are actually “stealing” sales that may have supported another troop. I know it is not like that in the real world, where everyone is out for themselves, but while selling Girl Scout cookies teaches entrepreneurial skills it also teaches morals of honesty and fairness."

So I'm sorry but all the people who are giving the Girl Scouts attitude for standing strong on their policy of not allowing use of the Internet to sell should chill out and realize WHY the rule is there in the first place.

Posted via email from From the desk of Trisha Lyn Fawver

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