For all the fathers and mothers out there, when Girl Scout Cookie season rolls around, your first and foremost emotion should be relief. It could be worse: You could be dealing with a Boy Scout instead. Those poor saps have to sell popcorn. It’s clearly an inferior product. Everyone loves cookies!
This is easy. Selling these things is all about having the right attitude, and the right battle plan. Even if you can’t leverage your gig hosting the Oscars, you and your daughter can still sell a pile of cookies while spending some quality time together.
Here are my tips for total cookie domination.
* Know your product. You got Savannah Smiles, Do-si-dos, Rah-Rah Raisins, Samoas, Trefoils, Tagalongs, and the fan favorite: Thin Mints. All these cookies taste like crunchy, sweet heaven, so focus on what makes them different from each other. Help people make a choice. Thin Mints are vegan and nut-free. Trefoils and Rah-Rah Raisins are also nut-free, and made without hydrogenated oils. No hydrogenated oils in Do-si-dos or Savannah Smiles either. As long as we’re talking about the healthy attributes of these round bits of blind ecstasy, please take note that all varieties are free of trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors.
* Work your territory, and your people. The Girl Scouts encourage you to make a personalized web page and spread the word online. I think that’s a waste of time. This is a hand-to-hand, face-to-face business. You gotta get out in the real world and interact with people. So start with easy wins. Go to family members and friends. Bring your daughter into your office. If your uncle owns a tire shop, drop by at lunch time on a Saturday. You get the idea.
* Be confident. Your daughter should smile, look people in the eye, and say, “I’m selling Girl Scout cookies. How many boxes can I get you?” People will chuckle at her precociousness, and then they’re on the hook. Put it to her this way: She’s not actually selling anything. She simply has access to a product everybody already wants. The only way to get it is to go through her, which they’re happy to do because she’s so darn cute.
* Talk up the spiritual rewards. If she sells a mere 36 boxes, she gets a patch for her sash, and the swag escalates from there, from T-shirts to hairbrushes to area rugs all the way to an iPad Mini for selling 2,016 boxes. These items are enticing, but you must emphasize to your daughter that they’re just material goods. They’ll get lost or used up or broken or forgotten on the subway. The real takeways here are a sense of accomplishment, and, more importantly, the realization of the mechanism of gaining and keeping power by means of exploiting the character weaknesses of simpletons. Once she realizes how to do that, no one can take it away from her, and no one can stand in her way.
* Once you’ve got that swagger, hit the street. You’re looking for middle-aged people with disposable income. You want suburban folks who’ve been knocked down in life, who’ve settled for running out the clock in an office chair after they gave up that dream of island-hopping the Caribbean. They’re gonna carry extra weight around the middle. They’re gonna smile hesitantly, too used to disappointment. They’re gonna look at your daughter and remember when their kids were young and full of potential, before all the dropping out and bailing out and whatnot. They’re gonna look at the cookie order form and feel the saliva bubble under their tongues, anticipating a few short moments of pleasure in its purest form: hand-to-box, hand-to-mouth, repeat, repeat, repeat until it’s all used up and the pleasure fades and must be clutched for again.
* Beef up your back end. Accounting. Logistics. Deliveries. Problem-solving. Best to keep your daughter the carefree face of the franchise. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her, and will spare her the messiness of having to lie for you. Anybody sits her down for information, all they learn is that she’s having a fun time with her dad, gaining people skills and setting goals. As for you, once the cookies start rolling in from the bakers, you’ll want to rent a storage unit. Everyone close to you knows your address, and if you keep the product in your home, you’re just asking to get raided by the feds or cleaned out by rivals.
* Assemble your crew. You’ve got customers on the street, dreaming about the sweet oblivion of your product. Gotta get it to them, and fast. Find some guys you can trust to help make deliveries: skinny guys who eat salads for lunch and won’t be tempted to get bovine off their own supply. Give them each a burner phone. Make them check in with you when they hit the storage unit and after each of the day’s deliveries. Make sure they know to tell you if the supply is getting low so you can lean on the bakers to reup. You pay your delivery guys at the end of the day. Meet someplace quiet where you can see the lay of the land. They park a hundred feet from you and walk away, open-handed. You check their cars for product that shouldn’t be there, and only then do they get their dough.
* Only deal in cash. When you deliver cookies to a customer, he pays. No tabs. No checks. Cash only. Slip up once on this rule, and you can be damn sure the whole neighborhood knows about it by tonight. You’ll roll up to your step-cousin’s place with three boxes of Samoas, and he’ll make a big show of looking in the junk drawer and the coffee can before he says, “Sorry, ’cuz, I’m a little light.” If you give those boxes away, next time you hit him up, looks like the motherfucker has moved. You head over to his lady’s place: empty. Then you see him at the mall, and he runs. Now you’re chasing this asshole past a Sbarro and an Auntie Anne’s and through a Hot Topic, all because you broke your own goddamn rule. No cash, no cookies. No exceptions.
* Vanquish all competitors. When you see another troop selling outside a grocery store on your turf, go right up to them. Pull out a roll of cash. “Know how I got this, ladies? Selling cookies.” Then buy their entire inventory. Doesn’t matter that you’re adding to their sales total. These small-timers ain’t gonna touch you. “Now pack up your little table and get out of here. Don’t ever come back. This is my block.” Call one of your guys. You’ve got a new shipment for the storage unit.
* Resolve customer complaints swiftly and fairly. It’s a fact of doing business. You gotta learn how to resolve disputes ethically. I would never advocate resorting to violence. But it’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about people: Those who are forgetful are also more accident-prone. Say a guy claims he only ordered one box of Tagalongs, not 17, like it says on the order form. He says he ain’t gonna pay for those other 16, and now he doesn’t even want the one he admits he did order. Would anybody be surprised if a guy like that fell down a flight of stairs and put his head through a wall? No, they wouldn’t be surprised, because most adults have learned to be responsible citizens. They’ve learn to honor their commitments, not just for their own well-being, but because there are other people—young, innocent, fragile people—depending on them for food and a safe place to call home. Most adults wouldn’t want to make a mistake like stepping out of a fourth-floor window, or forgetting to replace their brake fluid, or losing count of how many Tagalongs they’re desperate to shove into their fat, wet, gaping mouths. Most adults would remember that you can’t eat any Tagalongs with a broken jaw. Most adults wouldn’t want to disappoint this cute little girl. Wouldn’t you agree?
Now, how many boxes can I get you?
Geoffrey Redick is a freelance writer and radio producer. He lives in Memphis. He’s on Twitter.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
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