Just when you thought it was safe to embrace social media!
Earlier this year, Wild Freeborn (yes, that’s her real name) posted a YouTube video, with the help of her dad, with an enthusiastic pitch: “Buy cookies! And they’re yummy!” They set up an online order system where customers in their area could purchase Tagalongs, Thin Mints and Samoas. Within two weeks, 700 orders came in.
But Wild Freeborn’s e-commerce plan hit a major snag. The Girl Scout Cookie Program, which according to Newsweek “bills itself as the largest program to teach entrepreneurship to young girls,” says it prohibits all online sales of its cookies — primarily because of safety reasons. Its guidelines state that Internet use should only be for advertising.
I understand the drive for a parent to do what he can to help his daughter sell more boxes. But the rules are there for a reason, and you should adhere to those rules. This father knowingly broke a rule. Some people have criticized the Girl Scouts for not allowing cookie sales online, but I don’t think those people understand that the policy is there to keep it fair and safe for the girls participating. People may not realize that Girl Scouts don’t make a ton of money on the cookie sales. The primary goal of the cookie sale, along with the fall nut & calendar sale, is to teach the girls entrepreneurial skills along with the life lessons of honesty and fairness. The lessons learned from selling cookies is the main point of the exercise, not to harass you outside your local super market to buy some Thin Mints to line their pockets.
[Bryan Freeborn] told Matt Lauer of the “Today Show” last week, “We knew there was a policy that it wasn’t OK, but we thought we were taking orders and promoting the cookies and we seemed to think that was within the spirit of the rules. The whole intent was to help my daughter meet her goals, utilizing up-to-date marketing principles.”
He knew there was a rule against this, and yet let his daughter break those rules to meet her goal to go to camp. To me, the lesson that it’s okay to break the rules when you want something bad enough is not as important as fairness and honesty. Had this just been a YouTube video, I don’t think the GSUSA would have taken issue. The online ordering system the father set up is where the line was crossed, essentially allowing his daughter and her troop to “steal” sales from other girls. Bear in mind that I work in online marketing myself, and while I’m usually the first person to advocate brick and mortar organizations to leverage social media and online marketing to their benefit, I still stand behind the Girl Scouts in their decision in this case.
None of the articles I read commented on whether or not the girl had to forfeit those sales; my best guess is that they let those orders stand at the time the website was taken down. I’d love to see her embrace social media in other ways with working on different badges or other troop-run fundraisers to help them go to camp. That would allow her father to teach her what he really thinks he’s teaching her, about updated marketing tactics and technology, without the underlying questionable rule-breaking message.