All across the nation, little girls and their mothers post themselves in front of grocery stores, on street corners, and up and down neighborhood streets, always with an array of the most delectable assortment of cookies imaginable in their Red Radio Flyer Wagons. Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas, Treefoils, Do-Si-Do’s, and All Abouts wait anxiously on display for their next customer to snatch them up greedily.
During the Girl Scout Cookie season all resolves for healthier eating die as men, women, children, and pets see the little girls with eager eyes and a plethora of cookies staring up at them begging courteously to, “Please support our troop!” And for three dollars a box, what sick person wouldn’t support this battle for little girls everywhere?
It is a war cry for battling troops across the nation. Girls strive to sell enough cookies to be privileged enough to wear the Smart Cookie Badge. Each year, the prizes are more extravagant, and the badge symbolizes the fantastic prizes that lay ahead. Last year it was a family trip to a ranch in Northern California. This year, it was the Disney Cruise: a week of freedom for the parents and a week of playing for the children. Never had the mothers wanted their daughters to obtain the badge more.
Orange County Brownie Troop 528 received their sales pitch during the last week of February. Mothers and daughters alike rallied in defense of whatever supermarket they would blockade, what neighborhoods to patrol, and what street corners to take over. Teamwork was the key; two girls, two mothers, one hundred boxes for each team to start with. They would inevitably run out within the first couple of days if positioned properly.
Little Maddy Sullivan and her mother Linda were paired up with Little Becca Krentz and her mother Jane. They would meet at the Ralph’s on the Corner of Antonio and Santa Margarita Parkways at oh-600 hours on Saturday, February 25th and begin the long, vigorous haul of cramming cookies into every person within eyesight. Other mothers seethed with jealousy over this prime location. Everyone wanted to sell at Ralph’s; it was a mecca for fabulous food at a cheap price, and people flocked there every weekend to obtain their groceries.
One mother in particular felt gypped with her position. She wanted Ralph’s, but she got the RSM Post Office. This mother was the reigning champion two years in a row- her daughter always won the highest prize. Alice Richards, the richest woman in Orange County, once married to the richest man, was going to win. No matter what she had to do, no matter what backhanded ways she had to play, no matter who she hurt, her daughter would sell the most cookies.
“Jane? Hi, it’s Linda, Maddy’s mom?” A pause. “Hi! Well we can each bring the girls’ wagons, and – oh you have the card table? And the troop leader gave you a troop sign right? Okay, good. I have the safe, and I made us a pitcher of lemonade. We’re going to be out there for a long time. Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 6 am?” A brief pause followed, then: “Oh of course I’m bringing coffee! I’ll pick you up a Starbucks. Oh, oh no problem. Don’t worry about it. We’re a team, remember? Okay, bye now!”
As her mother carried on an animated phone conversation, Maddy carefully loaded box upon box of cookies into her red wagon. Her mother placed the phone on the cradle and turned towards her daughter.
“Now Maddy, do you want help with that?” Maddy shook her head; she was doing fine working on her own and imagining what a week with Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and Belle would be like. “Daddy will be home in a bit and it’d be great if you could have all of those in the wagon so we can actually eat our dinner on the table.” Maddy nodded and picked up her speed while her mother turned towards the stove, humming the Brownie Smile Song softly under her breath.
The early morning marine layer was still creating a dense layer of dewy film on the ground as the two girls and their mothers posted themselves outside of Ralph’s. Cookies of all sorts were on display around them, and the two little girls were outfitted from head to toe in the Brownie Gear, patches and all. They were a matching jubilee of brown jumpers, sashes, and knee highs, and their orange, yellow, and green cookie boxes helped to add to their bright and sunny demeanor. They were ready for a full day of cookie selling. Now all they had to do was wait until the lines started to form.
“Hi, would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” The girls had taken up position on either side of the exit door so the shoppers had to pass both little girls and then their mothers before escaping to their cars, cookie boxes in hand.
By noon, the cookies had created quite a stir among the shoppers, and they were down to thirty boxes.
“Do you think we should get more boxes? We’re definitely going to need them for the rest of the week, and I don’t think it would hurt to restock.” Linda asked Jane as she placed another ten boxes on display.
“How many boxes? One hundred? Two hundred?”
“Four hundred.” Linda answered adamantly. Jane looked at Linda in shock, and the girls paused in their cookie pleas.
“Are you kidding? Do you think we’ll sell that much?”
“We need to sell that much. We’re already almost done with a hundred anyway, and can’t run out. It would look unprofessional!” Linda smiled at a potential customer and said under her breath, “You want your daughter to get the badge, don’t you?”
This fueled Jane, and she knew what she had to do. With a sense of purpose leading her step, she became a mommy on a mission; a mommy ready to load up on four hundred cookies and bring them back to her daughter and teammates as soon as possible.
An hour later, Jane returned from the Troop Headquarters. She parked her Suburban next to their tables and opened the trunk. Four hundred boxes of cookies spilled out onto the street, creating a swimming pool of orange, green, and yellow. Jane, Linda, Maddy, and Becca began frantically placing the boxes into some semblance of order. But they were too slow; customers saw the cookies arrive and they arrived at a frenzied pace, demanding their rightful box of cookies:
“Can I have a box of each please?”
“I’d like two boxes of Do-Si-Do’s, one box of Tagalongs, and one box of the Samoas.”
“Three Samoa boxes, please.”
“Mommy! Can we get all Thin Mints?”
Armed with their new stock of cookies, this team sold until five pm, when, exhausted, both Brownies fell asleep in their chairs. The peacefully shut eyes of both the little girls worked through their mothers’ hearts, and Jane, Becca, Linda, and Maddy went
Three weeks before the selling season, the Girl Scouts had taken preorders in their respective neighborhoods, going door to door, ringing doorbells, knocking door knockers, and always greeting whoever answered the door with,
“Hi, my name is Maddy Sullivan, and I’m with troop 528. We’re trying to sell as many boxes as possible to raise money for the Girl Scouts. Would you like to see our cookie catalogue?”
Maddy stood at the door, both hands handing the cookie catalogue to the customer. Her mother would stand at the front of the driveway repeating the speech as Maddy spoke it. This was the speech they had agreed on, that Linda had made Maddy rehearse and memorize before they even dared to step out upon the streets.
“Oh thank you, Maddy! I love Girl Scout cookies! What are your favorite types of cookie?”
Maddy’s winning smile gleamed up at the grown-up she was currently wooing. “I love Thin Mints and Tagalongs.”
“Well you know, maybe I’ll get a box of those…How about two boxes of Do-Si-Do’s and one box each of your two favorites.”
Maddy and her mother had started equally excited; every time a customer ordered another box of cookies, a Disney princess danced in Maddy’s eye, and a week’s all-expense-paid vacation danced in Linda’s.
That Sunday was spent delivering boxes of cookies. The preordered boxes had filled up Linda’s garage, and her husband wanted her to get the cookies out of there as soon as possible; there was no room for the cars. Even Maddy’s tricycle was parked in the driveway next to her mother and father’s cars. Until every last preordered box had been received by eager cookie eaters, Linda would not sleep, would not stop, and would not think.
“Maddy! Let’s go! We don’t have all day!” Linda stood in the driveway as her daughter slowly ambled down the stairs. She had an All About in each hand and was trying to eat them as fast as possible. It was her breakfast; there was no time for healthy eating. Cookies had to be delivered.
“Mommy, I’m tired!” Maddy complained as she took the wagon handle in her hand.
“Well the sooner we get this done, the sooner you can take a nap.” Linda wiped a cookie crumb off of Maddy’s upturned face. “Oh, Maddy! You have cookies stuck in your teeth.” She thrust a water bottle at her daughter. “Rinse.” Maddy followed her mother’s directions, rinsed out her mouth, and then they were off.
Maddy followed her mother to each door with her red wagon handle in a vice-like grip to ensure the delivery of unbroken cookies. Maddy proceeded to march up the driveway and give a box to the recipient, carefully transferring the baked delicatessen from her tiny, outstretched hands into the hands of the waiting adult. Linda watched eagerly, watched like a hawk, ready to save the cookies if they slipped from her daughter’s hands.
And so Sunday went until Linda noticed that Maddy had abandoned the red wagon and stopped in a neighbor’s yard, attracted by the bright color of the flowers.
“What type of cookie do you want in your lunch today, Maddy?” In the spirit of selling, Linda had purchased forty boxes of cookies for her family. Half of the pantry had been cleared out to make way for them. The boxes were being consumed at an alarming rate, but cavities and Linda’s newest health kick were on hold.
“Umm…” Maddy darted enthusiastically to the cupboard and extracted an orange box. “Dosidos.” She put the box down in front of her mother and waited impatiently while she placed five cookies in a Ziploc bag inside her Care Bear lunchbox.
“Now, be ready for Jane to pick you and Becca up from school today. We’re meeting in front of Ralph’s again to sell those cookies.”
Maddy nodded and pulled her lunchbox off the counter. “Okay, bye, mommy!” Out Maddy frolicked to the street where she raced to the bus stop, happy to share her cookie selling progress with her fellow Brownie classmates.
Everyday that first week Jane or Linda picked the girls up and drove straight to Ralph’s for cookie duty for three hours. More cookies were bought, consumed, and enjoyed by eager customers. The lines never lessened, and customers continued to leave the table like they had just won the cookie lottery. By the end of the week, the mothers had proudly sold six hundred cookie boxes, and the girls no longer fantasized about a week long fantasy adventure; they now fantasized about sleep.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan; cookies were delivered and sold with military precision, and the team continued to rake in the money. That is, until Tuesday.
“They were here when I got here.” Linda had received an urgent phone call from Jane while picking up Becca and Maddy. The very blonde, very buxom Alice Richards and her very blonde, very prissy daughter had taken over the exit to Ralph’s. They had refused to relinquish their position, and they were ready to wage a counter attack against their troop members.
As Jane met the girls in the parking lot, Becca exclaimed, “Kelly’s mommy has really big boobs!” She looked at her mother, then said, “Yours aren’t as big as hers.” Jane shushed her daughter, and the team looked towards the problem.
Alice was currently bending over to show off her plastic bosom and to take a box of cookies from her Escalade, which she had taken the liberty of pulling in front of the exit.
“Alice is playing dirty, hmm?” Linda asked, revulsion evident in her tone.
“Can we go to another store?” Jane asked as Linda tapped her fingers against the hood of her minivan.
“No! This is our ground. They’re trespassing. I’ll handle this.” Linda stalked towards the perpetrators, her purse banging against her hip with every determined step. She stopped directly in front of Alice, crossed her arms, tapped her toe, and said: “Alice.”
The blonde woman straightened up, and Linda found herself face to face with the most fake smile she had ever encountered.
“You’re in our spot.”
“We are?” Alice asked in a sickeningly sweet voice. As Linda opened her mouth to speak, Alice leaned over the table, closing the distance between them and letting her massive cleavage show. “Too bad.” Her voice was a low growl, her eyes catlike slits in her made up face.
Linda angrily raised her arm to give Alice a good slap across the jaw.
Alice backed up. “You wouldn’t.” She egged her on.
“Won’t I?” Linda asked just as Jane reached her and grabbed her arm.
“No, you won’t.” She pulled Linda away from the potential disaster area and rebuked her as they walked away, “Don’t stoop to her level. She’s not worth it.”
Linda barely heard her; she was seething with anger. As she reached her wide-eyed Brownies, she said, “Girls, we’re going to the other side. I’m not going to let that blonde bimbo win another year.” Linda snatched up Maddy’s hand, dragging her along with her.
“Mommy, I can’t walk that fast. Mommy, slow down! Mommy!” Linda’s rage had blocked out even the sound of her own daughter. All she heard was the Girl Scout Battle cry.
After selling fewer and fewer boxes, it was clear that their new position was not advantageous. Linda scowled, Jane tapped her foot impatiently, and Maddy and Becca had proceeded to start a game of “I Spy.” The two women watched in dismay as the lines continued to form in front of their rival’s table as they sold, sold, and sold.
“It’s because of her fake breasts.” Jane whispered covertly to Linda. “All the married men want to flirt with her boobs while their wives are inside shopping for the family.”
“She bought those with the alimony her ex-husband pays.” Linda added spitefully, and then switched back to their cookie plight: “We should go early this week and take back our rightful place. We need to show them that we can outsell them!” Linda banged her fist down on the card table, and unsold boxes of cookies scattered.
Cookie selling was a war, a war that Linda had to win.
The second week proved to be a disappointment for our little team. Despite great attempts, Linda and her troops failed to outsell their previous week, barely remaining in the running for a badge.
“Mommy, Kelly said that her team sold a thousand boxes in one week.” Maddy had just walked in the door Monday afternoon to find Linda fervently reading the Girl Scout Manual with a half-eaten box of Samoas in her lap. The team had taken the day off from their usual post to call relatives, coworkers, and acquaintances and convince them, through Maddy’s sweet little voice, to buy more cookies.
Linda stopped with a Samoa halfway to her mouth. “That’s called an exaggeration, Maddy.” Linda retracted her hand and placed the cookie calmly on the table. “What’s Kelly’s last name again?”
“Richards. Why, mommy?” Maddy let her purple backpack slide to the floor and land at her feet.
“No reason. Maddy, don’t leave your backpack there! Put it in your room and change out of your dirty school clothes.” Linda stood up and began flipping through Maddy’s school directory. “Oh, and do you want Tagalongs or Thin Mints for snack?” Maddy picked up her backpack. “Mommy?”
“Do I have to have cookies for snack? I had them at lunchtime and at recess, and my tummy kinda hurts. Can I have an apple?”
Linda stopped searching, her hands resting on the page. “I’ll cut one up for you.”
Maddy skipped down the hall to her bedroom while Linda immediately called Kelly Richard’s mother.
“800 boxes. She was lying, that little brat.” Linda commented out loud as she hung up the phone. Yet the truth was dismally clear; the other teams were selling more than they were.
As the week progressed, Linda’s frenzied pace all but killed the three other members of her team. Jane and Linda began selling while the girls were at school, then proceeding, with their daughters in tow, to anywhere people might buy cookies; Target, Starbucks, Botox clinics, salons. They were relentless. Not a moment did they stop, and they barely rested to shove a couple cookies into their famished mouths, the scum from the last cookies creating a sticky film on their unbrushed teeth. Tagalongs had replaced vegetables, Thin Mints had replaced bread, and Dosidos had replaced chicken. Every night Linda and Jane recounted boxes, afraid because the boxes weren’t depleting fast enough. Every night Maddy and Becca fell asleep the minute their heads hit the pillows, their stomachs aching from their lack of nutrition. Their days of playtime, cartoons, and drawing had been snatched away and replaced with the cold, hard world of sales.
Early Friday morning the situation became perfectly clear to Linda. The unsold cookie boxes made piles up in her living room: the couch and armchair were a jubilee of cookie colors, the remote was lost in the bright cookie mess, and the television was barely visible behind the ominous box towers that could fall at any minute. Linda stood in the middle of her family room, bags gathering underneath her eyes, hair sticking up at all angles, counting and recounting the number of boxes.
Maddy appeared in the doorway and walked sleepily towards her mother. In her haze, she failed to notice the cookie tower in front of her.
“Maddy! WAIT!” But it was too late. Maddy and her mother watched in horror as the cookies rained down around them. Each box made a resounding thud as it hit the floor, and the thunderous noise did not stop until each and every box had scattered around the room. Linda collapsed on the floor with her head in her hands.
“Sorry, mommy.” Maddy said, gingerly sitting down next to her.
“I don’t know how we’re going to sell all of them.” Linda’s voice shook.
“To get a badge, we have to sell them. All of them. And if we don’t, then we have hundreds of cookies just sitting here, and I’ve wasted Lord knows how much money on a prize we won’t even get!” She chuckled nervously and looked around the room with a wide-eyed, panicked look. “I don’t even have enough kitchen space! We’ll have to rent a storage unit or”
“Do I have to get a badge?” Maddy asked.
“Why would you say such a thing?”
“Did you ever get a badge?”
Linda traveled momentarily back to her childhood in Orange County, a time without fake breasts, extravagant cars, and a time when it was the Brownie’s job to sell cookies and not her mother’s.
“No, I never got one,” she answered. “But we’ll get you a badge this year, dammit. I haven’t worked this hard to be brought down by a couple hundred boxes of cookies.”
The Week After the Selling Season
“On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law!”
Maddy, Becca, and the rest of the local Girl Scout Troops in the Orange County area had assembled at the Girl Scout Court of Awards after their selling season had come to a close.
Each Girl Scout who had participated received the Cookie Count Badge, and Linda watched sadly as Maddy received her badge. Despite their mothers’ attempts, neither Maddy nor Becca had received the coveted Smart Cookie Badge nor the prize for the most cookies sold.
As for Kelly Richards and her team of four, they received the highest cookie honor. They were going on an all-expense-paid Disney Cruise. Kelly’s mother, it turned out, bought the extra 300 cookie boxes to place them in the lead.
For months after, the Richard’s family gave Girl Scout cookies as gifts, used them at potluck galas, and her children’s dentist was appalled at the state of their cavity-infested teeth. It was also rumored that Kelly’s mother was carrying around extra cookie weight, ruining her impeccable figure.
Linda and Jane sold the extra boxes of cookies on eBay, and they made quite the profit. Unfortunately, it still paled in comparison to their desire for the Smart Cookie Badge and the prizes that came along with it.
The rest of Orange County and its Girl Scout Troops went back to their normal lives, free from the wear and tear of cookies for another year. Their mothers began to plot their selling strategies for next year, secretly hoping that their daughter would win the highest award. Next Spring. Next Cookie Season.