Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Girl Scout cookies: The true story of how our troop sold 60,000 boxes!

Well, it's Girl Scout cookie season again. You gotta love Girls Scout cookies. Totally unhealthy, sure, but BOY are they good! I never liked Thin Mints all that much but good grief I would DIE for a Samoa. Chocolate, caramel and coconut. What's not to like? I could go through one whole box in three minutes. Two boxes? No problem. Three boxes? Don't even ask.

When my youngest daughter was a Girl Scout, our troop was HOT. We were legendary. We sold MORE Girl Scout cookies than any troop in Girl-Scout-cookie-selling HISTORY.

"Jane, " asked my friend JoAnne, "how did your troop manage to sell SIXTY THOUSAND BOXES?" I'll tell you how! We worked our tails off! That's how.

There were eleven girls in our troop so we divided up into groups. One group was assigned to the University of California. Those Cal students LOVE their Samoas! We'd drop some girls off in front of Sproul Plaza with twenty cases of cookies and come back three hours later and they would ALL be gone.

Then there was our Berkeley BART station girls. The commuters liked Thin Mints the most. Hot sellers. Sales were highest during rush hours and when the lunch crowd came out of the office buildings at noon. "Get your Girl Scout cookies! Only $3.50 a box!" One day some wannabe crook stole our money box. How slimy is that? To rip off a troop of Girl Scouts? That's pathetic.

Then there was the third group of scouts, headed by me. On every weekday after I got off of work and every weekend during March, I'd force my poor sweet daughter to go over to sit in front of the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace for hours on end, set up our ironing board and beg people to buy cookies. In the rain, in the heat, in the cold. The girls would sell their hearts out while I ran inside for change or for burritos or for hot chocolate to encourage them to go on. We weren't exactly breaking any child labor laws there but it was close.

"Girl Scout Cookies!" we sang, we shouted, we rapped.

All in all, our troop must have sold at least two tons of Girl Scout cookies. The entire first floor of one troop leader's house was totally stacked from floor to ceiling with cases of freaking cookies every year. Plus she owned a Chevie Suburban and we used to load it up with 50 or 60 cases and make trip after trip after trip. We counted our money at her kitchen table. And most of the girls were on the water polo team too and this leader was the coach so every year we sold cookies, ate cookies and swam. It was CRAZY!

Finally we sold 60,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. And the girls learned a lot. I will be forever grateful to the Girl Scouts for giving our girls so much training in confidence, math, selling ability, business techniques and how to milk a sale for all it was worth.

One woman alone bought TWO cases of Thin Mints.

Every girl in our troop won an award for selling over 1,000 boxes -- every single year.

And, finally, we saved up enough money -- it took us TEN YEARS -- to take the whole troop on a Caribbean cruise. And that cruise was totally worth all the time and trouble and effort. Totally worth it. And our girls freaking took over the boat! The waiters loved them. And the boys who had been forced to go on the cruise by their parents all were just totally blown away by our magical troop. And the Bahamas will never be the same. When I rounded the corner of a street in Nassau one afternoon on shore leave, there was our entire troop, helping some guy sell T-shirts and key chains at the open-air market.

Yes, our ship, the Explorer of the Seas, is still afloat after hosting Troop 3983 for a week -- but just barely!

PS: The girls all graduated from high school and went on to other things. But there will never be a troop like ours. Never ever again. 60,000 boxes! And it will take at least a generation before the sugar and cholesterol levels of the citizens of Berkeley to go back down.