Cookie Buy-Back Plan Leaves Bad Taste in Some Girl Scout Mouths | News
Just the thought of Thin Mints or Samoas brings to mind Girl Scout goodness.
But there's a bad taste lingering in the mouths of some Twin Cities Girl Scout troops.
The girls are now required to pay -- out of their own profits -- a portion of all their unsold cookies. And Denise and Olivia Mortensen of Minneapolis aren't happy about it.
Olivia, now 13, has been in the scouts since she was in the first grade. Selling cookies has paid for all kind of fun trips and activities for her and her fellow troop members.
"The girls work really hard to sell these cookies," said Denise.
"I mean, the reason we're selling these cookies is to do stuff together as a troop and have fun as a troop," said Olivia.
This year Olivia's troop sold 200 cases of cookies (there are 12 packages of cookies in a case) making a profit of $1,440.00. The problem is that they didn't sell another 62 cases that they pre-bought from their scout council, the Girl Scouts of Minnesota, and Wisconsin River Valleys. The council serves 45,000 girls in 49 counties -- the eighth largest council in the nation. Last year, its scouts sold 5.3 million cookies, ranking the council number one in sales nationwide. This year it hopes to retain the title, even though overall sales fell to 5.1 million.
After the six-week selling season (during which the scouts earn badges and prizes) ended March 25, Olivia's troop had a choice -- they could either hold on to the 62 unsold cases and continue to try to sell them, or they could give them back to the council. But there was one important catch -- the Scouts implemented a new rule last year that those returning unsold cases will be charged $10.75 a case to cover the cost of the the bakers' expenses. Normally, each unsold case costs $42.
Olivia's troop had to pay back a total of $666.50 for each of its 62 unsold cases. That means they only made $773.50 this year for their trips and activities.
"The council shouldn't be taking that much money away from us," Olivia said.
According to Sarah Danzinger, the public relations manager for the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, "We hate when we hear these stories." But she points out that the council actually swallows three quarters of the actual cost of each returned case. That's $31.25 a case. And this year it's taken back about 100,000 cases. "We've got to draw the line and we want to make sure that the whole council, and all the girls and camps don't suffer because of mistakes made by one troop," she said.
Denise Mortensen begs to differ. "I think that's terrible to draw the line on the backs of the girls," she said, referring to her girls and all the others forced to return cookies. "Some of these girls won't sell cookies next year because of this." She says the rules are especially unfair when looking at the breakdown of proceeds from every $3.50 box of cookies. The girls selling the cookies get 61 cents. The bakers get 89 cents. The rest -- $2 a box -- goes back to the council.
The Girl Scouts say that all the returned boxes are donated to military families or local food shelves. They don't re-stock or try sell them again after making the girls pay to return them.
The Girl Scouts' cookie-selling empire probably won't crumble with this controversy, but Olivia Mortensen is definitely dejected. "I think it takes the joy out of it," she said.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at email@example.com