There are no gap-toothed Brownies hawking cookies in front of stores on Saturday mornings this year, no little wagons being pulled door-to-door, no minivans staged near Saturday-morning sports games nor youngsters stopping by local workplaces with ubiquitous boxes of Thin Mints and a stash of Samoas for sale in what is usually the largest Girl Scout fundraiser of the year.
However, there are hundreds of Girl Scouts in East county utilizing digital tools— as well as a whole lot of creative marketing— to sell cookies as the organization has since 1917 while remaining socially distanced this year to guard against the possible spread of COVID-19.
Girl Scout Troop 5146 Co-leader Amanda Bezeck, who has 18 active scouts between Alpine, Lakeside and Santee said 2021’s cookie sales look quite different from past years and that her own daughters, 11-year old Sarina and 9-year old Aubreyana had a completely different start to the season.
“Instead of spending eight hours walking door to door the first day of the season, we spent eight hours driving around several towns delivering pre-orders,” Bezeck said.
All the girls, she said, from the Daisies in Kindergarten to the oldest Cadets, have “really been learning about online creative sales, socially distant deliveries,” and patience on a whole other level.
San Diego Girl Scouts CEO Carol Dedrich said girls are “using innovative techniques this year to market cookies in a socially distanced manner” and relying on channels like the Digital Cookie online application to help them safely and effectively manage their cookie businesses online.
Alpine Troop 5810 leader Kiersten Pinard, who has 11 Brownies in her troop said there are actually four digital ways to purchase cookies this year: through the Girl Scouts website at www.girlscouts.org; with a Digital Cookie link that is specific to each scout; for delivery through GrubHub; or through the Cookiefinder application that maps the closest cookies by zip code. Additionally, she said, the girls in her troop brainstormed on Zoom to come up with creative advertising ideas such as offering a ‘buy one-get one free’ treat through Alpine Rocks to reach people who don’t spend time online or need a non-digital option. Usually a fun way for locals to find and rehide painted rocks, the girls in troop 5810 used them as colorful advertising around Alpine to mixed success.
“We left a couple painted rocks with my phone number and a ‘buy one-get one free’ message in super easy spots like in front of the Albertsons with a message to contact me directly for their cookies,” Pinard said.
Although the same person found several rocks, the girls honored the deal and started thinking of other ways to hit cookie sales goals for the year.
Meanwhile, Bezeck said she is “always online, trying to think of some new way of grabbing customers” like offering a free box of cookies with every four purchased during the Super Bowl.
“The girls have made “cookie grams” and we have left notes on doors with our contact info. My vehicle has been decorated to spread the word as well as included contact info and my girls have offered to bundle four or more boxes with ribbon and Valentine’s decor at no extra cost for Valentine’s gifts,” Bezeck said.
Bezeck said her girls have also focused on personal communication as much as possible.
“I’ve had both my own girls learn about emailing their teachers for sales since everything is digital this year. Another thing that they’ve really come to realize is the quicker we deliver, the happier the customers and more likely that they’ll return. We’ve had several recurring customers thank us for our prompt delivery,” Bezeck said.
Pinard’s 7-year old daughter, Macyn said the hardest thing about cookie sales this year is “not having the booths” because she misses talking to people.
Macyn also issued a reminder to non-cookie consumers: Operation Thin Mint is an option for anyone wanting to support local scouts financially without taking home any cookies.
In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Thin Mint, a service project that originated in San Diego in which cookies that are purchased through donated funds are sent to deployed service members all over the world. To commemorate the vicennial, San Diego Girls Scouts is trying to send 200,000 packages of cookies to troops.
“If you can’t eat cookies, this is a really good way to support scouts and the community,” Macyn said.
Anyone interested in buying Girl Scout cookies can visit www. girlscouts.org to support a local scout raising funds for her troop.