Girl Scouts Pull Plug on 8-year-old’s Internet Cookie Sales Pitch

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Last month it was shrinking Girl Scout cookie boxes (See “Economy Shrinks Girl Scout Cookies,” March). Now, the very same treats are making national headlines because Girl Scouts of the USA is prohibiting an 8-year-old from taking her cookie sales spiel to the Internet.

Wild Freeborn of Asheville, N.C., hoped to sell 12,000 boxes of cookies to win her troop a free camping trip. She asked her father to use his professional web design knowledge to help expand her customer base. The result: a winsome appeal on YouTube, complete with order form.

And that is where the fracas began; the exact details vary according to who is talking. The national Girl Scout representative called Wild’s online ordering form competitively unfair; a local troop organization leader criticized the technical ineptitude of her headquarters; and Wild’s father denied his daughter broke any rules to begin with.

Wild’s local troop council received a few complaints about her sales approach from parents of children competing for the same prizes, and the council’s cookie sales manager asked Bryan Freeborn, Wild’s father, to take down the order form.

He complied but argued that no Girl Scout selling rules were violated, because his daughter collected payment for her Internet orders and delivered the cookie boxes in person. The bigger point, according to Freeborn and the local council’s chief executive, Molly Keeney, is that the prohibition of online sales shows how out of touch the national Girl Scouts’ governing body is with the use of the Internet as a communications device.

National Girl Scouts spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins told Youth Today that Girl Scouts of the USA wants to incorporate the Internet into its cookie program’s future. But for the time being, she said, it is concerned about the girls’ safety and that Internet sales conflict with the program’s goal of teaching girls valuable life lessons, such as face-to-face communicating.

Freeborn does not believe the Girl Scouts really have a plan for Internet sales.

“I would think that while the Girl Scouts are doing interesting things with technology, [for them] to say that we are going to incorporate this – we just don’t know when, we don’t know how – that means it’s not a priority,” Freeborn said in an interview.

Tompkins said her group has been talking about Web marketing for a long time.

“We’re moving in the right direction. We try to move at the speed of girls. We encourage girls to use the Internet to reach out and market to girls,” Tompkins said.

The 8-year-old, meantime, is still a Girl Scout, but she sold about 800 boxes, not the 12,000 she had hoped for.