Cookie season begins for Plum Girl Scouts

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Chilly temperatures and scattered snow showers won't keep Darla Burns and her daughters from knocking on doors this month. Those Thin Mint cookies aren't going to sell themselves.

Burns, a Girl Scout Cadets troop leader in Plum, wants her daughters to sharpen their communication skills by selling in person, rather than relying on technology.

“It's easy to just set something on the computer and send it out,” said Burns, who leads a troop of a dozen girls, ages 11 to 14. “(With door-to-door cookie sales) you have interaction. You're using communication skills, leadership skills. It's realizing a goal and doing the legwork to obtain it.”

She follows the Girl Scout philosophy in her approach to selling. Call it old-fashioned, but sales of Girl Scout Cookies have not gone cyber.

Scouts kicked off sales of Trefoils, Tagalongs and Samoas in Western Pennsylvania on Friday, with cookie rallies planned to “gear up” the girls for the fundraiser, said Lisa Shade, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

The organization serves 36,000 Girl Scouts in 27 counties.

The rallies encourage the girls to sell cookies safely — for example, never go without a buddy and never enter someone's home, even if they're a neighbor.

Door-to-door sales teach the scouts important lessons that they wouldn't learn if sales went online, Shade said.

“If people could go directly to Girl Scouts (of the United State of America website) to purchase cookies, the girls are not going to get those experiences that contribute to their future success,” Shade said.

“But we don't completely shun technology,” she added.

Some troops, such as Lisa Brown's in the Mt. Lebanon area, use technology to take payment during “booth sales” — sales held in late February and early March outside stores or other venues. Brown leads a troop of Seniors, who are in ninth grade, and another troop that has Daisies through Cadets, girls who are in kindergarten through middle school.

Last year, Brown's older girls accepted credit-card payments using a smartphone while selling at a booth at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Girl Scouts' national headquarters last year released a “cookie locator” app in iTunes and the Android market to help customers find booth sales based on their location.

Location is a reason cookies aren't sold online, troop leaders said. While local troops are selling cookies now, they are sold throughout the year in different parts of the country, said Sabrina George, a troop leader from Pine. She oversees three troops in the Pine-Richland School District and one at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Edgewood.

The kinds of cookies sold also vary from region to region.

“In Pennsylvania, we get the coldest, snowiest months of the year, but other areas are selling in April or July,” George said.

“We don't want to take sales away from those other troops, plus the girls wouldn't learn the meaning behind it all.”

The girls receive about 70 cents per box sold, which the troops set aside for a trip or event.

Burns' troop wants to go to New York City with this year's proceeds, but the $600-per-girl cost means they might need some more time to plan.

Brown's troops hope to go on an international trip soon. In recent years, the troops have sold enough cookies to visit Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Philadelphia.

“That's a real motivating factor for them. They enjoy being part of such a positive cultural phenomenon since everyone knows Girl Scout Cookies and everyone loves them,” Brown said.

“Sure, the girls who are big sellers are going to get the tchotchke prizes, but everyone is going to benefit.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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