Why Does Selling Girl Scout Cookies Cause So Much Stress for Leaders?

Top Girl Scout Cookie Selling TipsCredit: Photo by Hannah Gold

Photo by Hannah Gold

It’s that time of year when girls around the country bundle up, ring your doorbell and ask “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” 

You will also find troops of girls standing outside your local supermarket, big box store, or if they are lucky enough, inside a vestibule at your local library asking the same question.

Girl Scout cookies fund the activities of many troops.  Big trips to water parks or the zoo, and even trips that require a train ride are paid for by the girls hard work and efforts, as well as the work of their leader and Cookie Mom.

This business activity, although not a part of the original mission of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scout of America, does teach the girls many things.  It also gives leaders a great big headache and for many, causes much aggravation and drama.

Yes, drama over selling Girl Scout cookies.

How can leaders avoid the pitfalls and make selling cookies a fun and less stressful activity for themselves?

Tips for Selling Girl Scout Cookies from Actual Scouts!

Tip #1 Set Realistic Goals

Part of selling cookies is to teach children business skills. Setting goals, working as a team to create a business plan, setting the plan in motion and then deciding how to spend the rewards of goal setting are all part of cookie selling.

Leaders of younger Daisies and Brownies need to see the kind of parental involvement they have and if the goals the girls set are attainable.  You want them to succeed the first time they sell.  If the girls think they can sell 1,000 boxes, that is not a realistic goal, especially if they are only six years old!  Set smaller goals and as they girls gain experience (and you do too, as a leader), the bar can be set higher.

Tip #2 Limit Your Booth Sales

Girl Scout Cookie Booth Sales TipsCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APark_Road_Shopping_Center_Walkway.jpg

Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APark_Road_Shopping_Center_Walkway.jpg  

In the Girl Scout leader forums that I visit, there are many venting posts pertaining to booth sales.  A booth sale is when a troop is signed up for a particular location for a time frame of several hours.  It is the job of the troop leader to make sure that these slots are filled.

With the hectic schedule of children today, many leaders find themselves at the booth for the entire time simply because no one signed up for all the slots or if they did, they bailed and did not show up.  

While booths can be the most lucrative way to sell a lot of cookies in a short amount of time (especially if you are lucky enough to get a high traffic area), by signing up for just a few most girls will want to be there to receive cookie credit towards their badge. Limited opportunities make the handful of slot times more precious.

You can always have more girls at each slot to accommodate everyone, the sales will just get split more ways.

My Third Tip-Keep in Mind Parents Are Not as Committed as You Are

Tips for Selling Girl Scout CookiesCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASelling_girl_scout_cookies.JPG

By Drmies (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason you are the leader of your daughter’s troop-no one else wanted to do it! Participating in Girl Scouts is a fun activity and in comparison with dance or horseback riding lessons, it is very inexpensive.

No parent is under any obligation to sell cookies for their daughter, as this is a voluntary activity that is supposed to be girl led. In my opinion, parents should only be a supervisor with booth sales and with door to door sales.  Selling cookies on Facebook, Twitter, via email or at the office really does not help the girls learn anything.  After all, do you go in and take your daughter’s science test for her in school and let her get credit for the grade you earned?

No, you do not.

There will always be gung ho competitive parents who will hustle for their child, and others who do not.  It is not fair for a leader to judge a family based on cookie-or lack of-cookie sales. If a family does not sign up for a booth, what can you do about it?


If a family tells you that they will not sell cookies what can you do about it?


Troop money is troop money, and girls cannot be left out of activities simply because they sold no cookies or fewer cookies that the troop goal per girl.  Yes it is a harsh life lesson for top sellers to learn, but these are the rules. Are they fair?  If you sell cookies, they are not. However, Juliette Gordon Low did not establish the organization so that only a handful of girls benefited.  

Plus, you would be penalizing a child who has no control over her parents’ decision to sell or not sell. It is against GSA policy to require a set amount of cookies to sell.  If a girl's parents want to make a donation to the troop in lieu of selling cookies, let them.  You will not change their minds and aggravating yourself will not change things one bit.

My 4th Tip-Do Not Advertise What Each Girl Sells

When my older daughter was  a Girl Scout, she had a hyper-competitive leader.  Her daughter had to be the top cookie seller, and it was a neck-and neck race between her and the Cookie Mom to see who would come out on top. In fact, the leader, her husband, and her brother-in-law all sold cookies for her daughter so she could win every year.  What did this child learn?

Every other week, she would send home a newsletter with each girl’s selling stats.  There were a few who sold very little, and I always felt sorry for those who were at the bottom.  It was not their fault, but at least they sold something.

If that were my child, I would have been pretty annoyed and would have said something! You may be offending a parent in your troop by publicly embarrassing them, and that creates a lot of ill will.  And if you offend the wrong parent, you may find yourself in even more hot water if she reports you to the local Council.

Families have different priorities and circumstances, as well as financial situations.  The top selling girl in my daughter’s troop really did not sell all those cookies, yet the child who sold 25 boxes at the booth sale or going door-to-door learned more from selling those twenty-five than the leader’s daughter who “sold” 750 boxes with lots of help.

Girl Scouts is about sisterhood.  Creating a competitive environment helps no one and can create animosity in the troop when girls start flaunting “their” sales.  Share troop goals and achievements, but otherwise, keep individual sales private.

The 5th and Final Tip-Don't Sell Cookies

You don't have to!

If you do not like drama and extra work, then you can opt out of selling Girl Scout cookies. My troop sold them once, and it was beyond stressful for me, especially since my Cookie Mom was totally unreachable and unreliable. 

Since I already do everything for my troop, I made the decision not to sell cookies ever again.

Over the years, I have stood my ground, even though the girls and my co-leader wanted to sell. The bottom line is that I am responsible for everything, and I do not need more work in my life. We pay for things out-of-pocket, and due to this, I became expert in finding free field trips and free or low-cost guest speakers and workshops.

The bottom line is that there is a lot of work involved with selling Girl Scout cookies. Remembering not to stress over things you cannot control, along with setting realistic goals, will help make cookie season a fun one for all involved.