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Avoiding eye contact with the cookie vendors Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Mar 09 2013 12:00 PM

They move with the precision and force of an invading army. Rumor has it the Navy SEALs who assassinated Osama Bin Laden trained with them at their East Coast headquarters.

Girl Scouts of the USA — don’t let their gap-toothed smiles and braids fool you. Those girls mean business.

Typically the troops arrive on site via minivan or dark-colored Ford F150. Doors swing open and large men jump out to unload tables and brightly colored boxes in front of a grocery store. The last to emerge from the tinted-windowed vehicles are, of course, the scouts who, with perfunctory thank yous, dismiss their advance men.

The entire operation lasts less than 60 seconds. Nevertheless, the entire cookie-selling campaign can’t end soon enough.

Call me un-American. Call me a cookie curmudgeon. Call me anything you want, just don’t call out to me asking if I’d like to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy sweets. I do. I just don’t need the guilt of telling a doe-eyed kid no. I also don’t want some mother’s stink-eye following me to my car because I told her daughter no. I don’t want to send a box of Samoas to our troops in whatever place they happen to be defending our freedom. I simply want my shopping experience to be simple, boring and angst-free.

But that’s hard to achieve when you have to pass through the Valley of Tagalongs on your way to the produce department.

And it’s not as if the little mercenaries leave you alone once you’ve breached their perimeter.

I’ve seen recon patrols inside the market. They weren’t actively peddling their cookies, they just happened to wander up and down the aisles dressed in their uniforms while holding a box of Do-si-dos and smiling. It’s a fiendishly clever ploy — fiendishly clever in the same way military leaders employ psychological operations to win hearts and minds through the power of suggestion. That’s why I avoid eye contact with them. Yet the guilt lingers. But why should it?

While other solicitors are run off store property like rats from a nursery, the Girl Scouts are seemingly welcomed with open arms and fanfare.

Supporters say that selling cookies teaches girls important life skills like salesmanship and money management. But is that what we want — one more generation of people selling us garbage we simply don’t need?

But it’s hard to say that to a kid who is in the scouts because, really, it’s just a fun way to make friends. They’re probably not aware that collectively they generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the brand they are selling and that in addition to badges and sashes and trips, the money they raise pays salaries and administrative costs. Girl Scouts just want to have fun. They don’t want a lecture.

So that’s why I shop in the shadows, waiting for the occupation to end. So that I can buy a pack of Oreo cookies without damaging a 12-year-old’s psyche. 

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