Would you like to buy a box…?

My week-long streak of perfect writer-ly behavior has come to a screeching halt today, due to one all-consuming, life-shattering, waist-widening event.  I like to call it The Onslaught, but you probably know it as Girl Scout Cookie Time.

For the first time this year, I have 2 daughters in 2 different troops, which makes for an incalculably difficult game of “let’s make sure we play fair.”  The complex algorithm I developed based on effort, cuteness, and volume of pleas as we go door-to-door has not worked out for me, so I’m going with the not-so-sophisticated “split the sales down the middle” model.   (If I begin shaking and whimpering at any mention that my 3rd daughter starts kindergarten – and Daisies – next year, please try not to judge me. I am not prepared for that moment.)  This balancing act is made even more teetery by the fact that there are 2 different cookie moms I have to answer to.

Do you know about cookie moms? Cookie Moms, those brave and merciless rulers of the Shortbread empires. Women with the will power to have 44 cases of Girl Scout cookies piled up in their dining room for weeks on end without having a massive sugar binge every night. Women who remember to the penny how much you’ve turned over and when.  Women who stand outside your local super market in the cold for 4 hour shifts, sounding cheerful and somehow not screaming at the little drippy-nosed, shrill-voiced, vest-wearing pixies who STILL can’t make change for a five.  I do NOT want to cross the cookie mom.  Her level of control frankly scares me.  It’s very Don Corleone.  If I want to say that Girl 1 sold 52 boxes, then I will be damn sure I received and paid for 52 boxes from Cookie Mom 1.  Ditto troop 2.  And I know that if I keep returning all the undesirable boxes (Cranberry Citrus Crisps, I’m looking at you), pleading for more Samoas and Thin Mints, then may God have mercy on my soul!

Well, in the midst of my cookie math, door-to-door sales, and facebook posts about cookies, I was suddenly inspired.  What would be better than a satirical book about Girl Scout cookies?  A peek into the dark (chocolate-y) underbelly of the cookie beast?  Pop culture is mad about shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad, in which up-until-now-model-citizens see a market to exploit and inexorably begin crossing lines, pushing their wares.

Just think about it.  In my youth, you walked around with that arm-long color-coded tiny-printed cookie order form.  You asked teachers, neighbors, mom’s friends and total strangers to order cookies.  If  you were lucky, your dad was the first one to hang it up in his break room at work.  (Mine was a cop.  On the night shift.  He sold a LOT of cookies). Then you went around again a month later, delivering the goods.  That was the 80’s. And it would make a lame book. Today’s 21st century sales have turn-around times to beat Amazon, if you even bother to take orders. Here’s how we do it in my ‘hood.

(I use that term super-loosely.  I pretty much live in Pleasantville.)

The Cookie Moms pick up an initial mini-van-load of product and parcel it out in their dining room under cover of night.  They then give each of us street-level dealers an assortment of product to offload.  We grab our girls and spread out, canvasing the neighborhood, knocking on doors and making back-alley deals out of our trunks at school drop-off.  We make sure the buyers have a cell phone number to call in case their husband finds their stash in the freezer and polishes it off.  We get texts to bring an extra box of “TMs” to the playground at 10am, or to drop off 5 boxes of “PB ptties” in time for the game on Sunday.  (Yes, I did get those texts.)  If the product doesn’t sell fast enough, we get a little pushy, reminding neighbors of the principle of “kid pro quo.” (Don’t try to take that, I’m totally trademarking it).  “I bought your overpriced Bear Scout popcorn last fall; you so owe me a sale!”

Some sellers offer “tastes.”  They are out in the parking lot before the basketball game giving away a few cookies to get people excited, to get the kids begging mom and dad for a box.  With any luck, those families will eat the whole box during the game and need another to take home.  All in all, it is a lesson in marketing strategies that would make Harvard School of Business or Walter White proud!  And when we run out of cookie inventory, we email, text or FB message our Cookie Moms to let them know what we need next.  I can get you another 24 boxes in 20 minutes if you need them.

The drug-trade comparison practically writes itself.  The administrative staff in my husband’s office were asking him for cookies before the release date.  They actually call the Thin Mints “crack.”  He sets a box of product out in the break room and it’s gone by noon.  It’s amazing.

And there’s territories, too!  Did you know that?  If my kids want a cookie booth, it has to be an approved booth in our territory – we can’t cross into the next town over.  We can’t just pop up a folding table by WaWa. There are actual, serious, financial consequences.  Not to mention that the other region’s Cookie Boss will go all Self-Defense-Badge on you for trying.   A friend compared it to the Beat-it video, but with pink Skechers and badge-covered sashes.

And the absolute brilliance of it all?  The sale lasts about 6 weeks. And then the cookies are gone.  Locked in the proverbial vault until next year.  Such an amazing ploy!  It’s a wonder more companies (even dealers?) don’t do it.  Boy, does that move product.  We all want what we can’t get.

Yep, it’s a fantastic, funny story. Here’s the problem. Satirical humor is so not my forte.  I’m really more rainbows and cook-outs and hurt feelings. Maybe some slapstick.   Nor are my current WIPs going to to get the love they deserve if I go off on a wild tangent that is – honestly – probably more suited to a Phineas and Ferb episode than to my body of work. So I present to you a gift – a fabulous idea ripe for the reaping.  Run with it, my friends.  Make it sing. (Try not to mix as many metaphors as I just did, though.)

I only ask one thing.  If it works out for you, I want a spot in the Acknowledgements and a case of Samoas.

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11 thoughts on “Would you like to buy a box…?

    • I’m combining sales and workouts. I’ve been “draggin’ the cookie wagon” – literally our red wagon loaded with cookies, a 4-year-old, tissues, hand sanitizer, change and duct tape (cuz you should always carry duct tape) around the neighborhood, trying to keep up with my girls. Serious calorie-burning potential. No need for additional cardio.

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  1. I remember the 2 years mom was The Cookie Don. We could not eat at the dining room table. We almost lost Tim in between the boxes. Mom may have lost her mind a little when we were off by 2 cases. Then there were the long afternoons selling cookies at the cookie table at the end of the bank line. Of course, that was when people went into the bank (what?!) to cash checks (what?!!!).

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    • When the cases of cookies get so high you imagine castles and caves amongst them, it seems magical. to the children. To the moms, more maniacal than magical. Oh, the responsibilities we take on for our children! The more intense and ridiculous they are, the more we’ll love reminiscing about them years from now!

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