Mar 11, 2009

Online Sales Controversy Surrounds Girl Scouts

845689_lemon_biscuit_series_1.jpgSo, the Girl Scouts have gotten themselves into a flap about whether they should be forbidding use of the Internet as a way of selling cookies. It seems that door-to-door is okay; and marketing your cookies on the Internet is okay; but once a girl (in this case, a particular girl named Wild) starts actually letting customers order online, that's either unfair to other girls or a safety risk. Not exactly a bright dividing line.

You'll find the whole story, called "The Cookie Crumbles," written up by Kurt Soller in Newsweek. He raises the important points that Internet sales are not necessarily safer than knocking on strangers' doors, and that a little entrepreneurship should probably be rewarded rather than slapped down, especially in a world where kids will need to know how to use the Internet (at least until the Next Big Thing comes along).

Another point that didn't get raised in the article, which may also underlie the unease with Internet sales, is that the girl in question had her parents' help in setting up the website, and not all Girl Scouts have that opportunity. That's a little troubling, but hardly new. I remember being irked as a kid when other parents took the cookies to work and sold them, while my dad worked at home and had no office to peddle sweets at. Here's hoping the Girl Scouts find a way to make this a "teaching moment" about Internet usage for all concerned, rather than get into an impossible enforcement effort.

And while we're on the topic, when is a major nonprofit going to come up with healthier snacks to sell?