The great Girl Scout cookie debate hits Newsweek

The great Girl Scout cookie debate hits Newsweek-attachment0

An Asheville Girl Scout’s innovative cookie-sales scheme has garnered national news.

If you been bah-humbugging the power of Facebook and other social media, take a glimpse at a story that’s posted on the Newsweek Web site. It’s “The Cookie Crumbles,” by Kurt Soller, a New York-based technology reporter who went online looking for Girl Scout cookies and found Asheville’s very own YouTube’ing Girl Scout, Wild Freeborn.

Mountain Xpress first reported the story back in January. The saga goes like this:

• Asheville Girl Scout gets her dad, Bryan Freeborn, and college students to hawk her cookies on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit,StumbleUpon and del.icio.us.

• It works: Combined with some traditional door-to-door and booth sales, Wild Freeborn gets almost 1,000 sales.

• Some Girl Scout parents call for an end to the project, arguing that the organization’s rules prohibit online sales.

• Although the Freeborns aren’t selling online and are merely taking advance orders, they agree to pull the YouTube video in which 8-year-old Wild urges people to buy the cookies because they help Girl Scouts everywhere … and because they’re yummy.

• Subsequently, the national Girl Scouts office starts its own cookie-hawking Web page (http://girlscoutcookies.org/).

When the Newsweek reporter called, Bryan Freeborn says his first reaction was, “Wow — the time we spent with social networking [for Girl Scout cookie sales] works! It shows what we can do.” While speaking to Xpress, he got a message that the story had already been picked up by other networks.

The digital cat is out of the bag, and Freeborn says the whole thing started when he was faced with two daunting tasks: 1) choosing which online project to assign local college students he was instructing; and 2) figuring out how to help his daughter sell all those cases of cookies. The students at UNCA needed “a project that benefited a nonprofit,” and his daughter had just come in “and hit my office up for Girl Scout cookies,” says Freeborn, chief operating officer of Asheville-based Web-design company Top Floor Studio. His daughter had also asked him why not apply his professional know-how to her goal of selling 12,000 boxes of cookies. “We had no idea what kind of response we would get,” Freeborn says.

He points out that the online effort didn’t interfere with on-the-ground, door-to-door and booth sales — hallmarks of the Girl Scout Cookies Program, the primary entrepreneurial project for girls in the organization. And he argues that the strategy didn’t violate the organization’s prohibition against online sales. “We were just taking orders for future sales,” Freeborn says. He also contends that the Girl Scout’s fine print on the issue sends mixed signals and is confusing.

In the Newsweek article, Soller points out some of those signals, observing that few of the Girl Scout badges deal with new technology (the CyberGirl badge requires the Girl Scout to send an e-mail — a “paltry” task for any of today’s girls). He concludes that the national organization’s “digital strategy seems confused and behind the times,” and that it seems to be squelching entrepreneurial spirit rather than encouraging it.

For his part, Freeborn emphasizes that his daughter has learned a great deal from the experience. “She knows what social media is. She knows the difference between going door-to-door versus working your network,” he says. And she knows how to up-sell — that old-fashioned technique of asking buyers to take just one more box and make it an even $14 for four boxes of cookies.

Wild also knows the value of networking with everyone who can help you accomplish a goal — even her little brother. “She helped him carrying lots of boxes of cookies,” says Freeborn. Perhaps these skills will serve Wild well on her way to another dream, learning fashion design. Says her dad, “You’re going to be more successful if you use your network.”

Margaret Williams, contributing editor

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

31 thoughts on “The great Girl Scout cookie debate hits Newsweek

  1. I blogged this when the video first went up and received some interesting comments, including one from Matt Markie, who is interviewed in the Newsweek article (edgymama.com/2009/01/help-send-an-entire-girl-school-troop-to-summer-camp.html). Dude asked me to take down my post, which I didn’t. I say Wild is innovative and the Girl Scouts need to join the 21st century.

  2. Freddy

    Wow, if you can’t figure out why your url needs an http://www. in front of it, and you’re a professional blogger, I am really amazed that a 7-year old can come up with a facebook, twitter and youtube video!

    Maybe Wild can give you some pointers, or maybe her Dad can. I’m sure you can find his company’s name at any of the latest online, not to mention – national news articles.

    Oh..I’m sorry, we’re we talking about Girl Scouts?
    I think Bryan owes them an apology for the incredible smearing they have received from this. Shame on them for making hands-learning obsolete, and facebooking “21st Century”…

  3. Ah, Freddy, I accidentally deleted the www. when I meant to only delete the http://, which is necessary for the link to go live. Thanks for your friendly help.

  4. tatuaje

    Wow, if you can’t figure out why your url needs an http://www. in front of it, and you’re a professional blogger, I am really amazed that a 7-year old can come up with a facebook, twitter and youtube video!

    Easy there, cowboy. That’s Edgy Mama your trying to talk down to. She’s a Superstar around these here parts while you’re simply a unregistered noob apparently shouldering an axe that perhaps has become a little dull. What, your daughter’s cookies not selling so well?

    And from her response I’m guessing she’s a little more tech savvy, and gracious, than I can give you credit for.

    But I’m sure Wild could give you some pointers on grammar and spelling and her dad could give you a little help on the finer points of being a gentleman.

    Way to make yourself look like a complete jerk.

    Rock on with your bad self, EM. Screw Markie AND Freddy….

  5. Opal

    “I think Bryan owes them an apology for the incredible smearing they have received from this.”

    No one in the article, including Bryan, said anything nasty about the Girl Scouts organization. The Girls Scouts actually have an opportunity now to further define their policies in light of this. If they don’t make a clear statement on their stance, then the org will potentially cause their own smearing.

  6. Freddy

    Oh..I see how it is..”unregistered nOOb” and “complete jerk” – correction of grammar is the lamest callout of all..noobs

    Good Lawd, is this the Susan Reinhart of MountainX?? Heaven FORBID! a cutie that can do no harm?

    Oh..wait..back to Girl Scouts..
    The rules where broken. Old school rules, sure..but is it Mr. Freeborn’s job to do so at such public level?

    Back to the fact that this has been a very successful marketing ploy at the expense of a very unsuspecting group.

  7. Cookie Monster

    I say Bravo to Wild and Brian Freeborn. This is the 21st Century and we are entitled to use every opportunity we have to make the world a better place through today’s technology. They have promoted the Girl Scouts and marketed their vision. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    Folks, this Saturday, the Grove Park Inn will host the Girl Scouts from 9:30am till 4:30pm in the new shops of the Vanderbilt Wing where cookies will be sold and 10% of all retail profits that day will be donated to the Girl Scouts. Bravo Grove Park Inn, thanks for giving back to our great community!
    p.s. I LOVE EDGY MAMA!!!!!!

  8. Freddy,
    Debate with me/us all you want. Your opinions are as valid as the next person’s. And yet, we strive to keep comments here in the spirit of debate and not to be condescending or rude to others, whether they be writers, commenters, or whomever shows up.

  9. tatuaje

    Hahahahaha…

    This is PRICELESS!

    The entire economic house of cards is collapsing, our country is immersed in two wars, and the planet is dying from man-made poison, yet Freddy spends his time attacking an 8 year old girl scout, the author of a local parenting column, and implicating a local web design firm (and its politico head) in a conspiracy theory involving the girl scouts, cookies, and youtube….

    PRICELESS!

    Thanks Freddy! I was getting a little bummed about the loss of that warm, sunny weather, but you’ve brought a big smile back to my face!

    Oh, by the way…. Anyone know how I can get ahold of a few boxes of Wild’s cookies? I’m in for 4 boxes!

    Keep up the good work, Wild!

  10. Tat,
    I think you’ll have to go to the GPI to buy your cookies (see comment by Cookie Monster), as I hear Wild and her dad are on their way to NYC to make an appearance on The Today Show.

  11. bobaloo

    Freddy,
    this has been a very successful marketing ploy at the expense of a very unsuspecting group.

    This little girl sold an enormous amount of cookies that benefits the Girl Scouts (the organization you’re saying it comes at the expense of), not herself personally.
    Do you actually understand what you’re typing?
    And stop being so rude.

    Some Girl Scout parents call for an end to the project, arguing that the organization’s rules prohibit online sales.

    This sounds to me like the “scandal” was ginned up by some jealous parents.

  12. Freddy

    I think tatuaje had some sort of seizure -
    He may have fallen off his chair and split his head open, can someone go check on him? This is a very serious issue.

  13. sauerkraut

    The national and regional leaderships of the girl scouts need to decide whether the education they want the girls to receive is a positive experience or one in which heavy-handed make-the-rules-on-the-spot rules.

    The girl scouts selling the products which pay for the new cars, mortgages and other things of the national and regional leadership make only 60 cents for every $3.50 box of girl scout cookies they sell.

    Wild Freeborn has done what the girl scout organization has missed during the past 20 years: make loads of internet sales.

    Slow and plodding in the wrong direction appears to define today’s girl scout organization. Our girls deserve better.

  14. John

    I wish more of the money went to the girls locally. It seems that the way the money is distributed is a little top heavy. That being said, I buy lots of them every year.

  15. can’t girl scouts get to camp without spreading 12,000 boxes full of processed high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils throughout the country? here’s some diabetes and heart disease so we can go to camp. can they sell vegetables? seeds? have a car wash? why the damn cookies? how do boy scouts make their money? i’d be much more impressed if the ‘new idea’ involved a new product for girl scouts to sell, rather than virally marketing these boxes of garbage.

  16. Skippy, I think the Boy Scouts get a lot of their money from the Mormon Church. To be honest I do not have the facts on that, but I recall seeing something to that effect on Penn & Teller’s show BS

  17. Girls are allowed to come with other fundraising ideas, but the rules they must follow and the way they have to phrase things to get projects approved is daunting.

    Of course, teaching girls corporate-speak and filling out of forms could be thought of as prepping them for today’s economy…

  18. khyber Pass

    I’d be in sugar shock if i ate GS cookies, but got to admire the kid’s spunk. Instead of complaining about the economic conditions she does something innovative. Maybe she should be out on the playground getting fresh air and sunshine instead of staying indoors letting the GS corporate people keep her in their dark room 20th century confinement?

    I just want to know where the people live who gave her all those orders and will they pay up when the cookies are delivered, to how many different people in how many different regions of the country?????? Or was their a geographical limitation on the orders?

  19. khyber Pass

    Freddy, never mind the misspelling. I’m aware of it. At least i didn’t write lite, luv, or any number of other spelling abominations…..

  20. KP,
    Yes, there is a geographical limitation. Wild is only taking orders from folks around the Asheville area so she can deliver the cookies in person. There’s no shipping or exchange of $ over the Internet involved.

  21. Rob Close

    I’m really confused about Girl Scout Cookies.

    For instance, on their website it says:
    Q: Are any preservatives used in Girl Scout Cookies?

    A: No. Girl Scout Cookies do not contain preservatives. They are all made with pure vegetable shortening, are kosher, and freeze well to extend their shelf life.

    And yet, I see TBHQ listed in every single type of cookie. The first line of it’s Wiki Entry:
    “TBHQ is a highly effective preservative for unsaturated vegetable oils and many edible animal fats.”

    2nd Point: Hydrogenated Fats. These cookies are full of ‘em! 15% of your daily amount in EACH Samoa! (30% in your meager serving of 2). And what’s even worse, they HIDE this behind “Zero Trans fats PER SERVING”, which = half a gram of trans fats per serving. So 4 cookies = a full gram of trans fat. But the package implies that there is none. Evil, evil marketing.

    Why do we allow such terrible processed food to be associated with something as innocent as Girl Scouts? Is anything fair game under the guise of fundraiser?

    And really, what skills are these girls learning from these fundraisers? How to annoy people as they leave K-mart? How to guilt people into buying their products with their cuteness & youth? I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to teach useful skills – Imagine if they actually had the girls bake the cookies themselves, and sold fresh, healthy cookies? But nah, let’s just let another corporation make it’s 30% and take the easy, hydrogenated path…

  22. Piffy!

    well said, skippy.

    those cookies are poison, not food. Despite people’s Pavlovian response to them.

  23. shadmarsh

    everythings poison. seen what’s in the oceans/topsoil/air nowadays? Geez, relax, and have a freakin’ cookie.

  24. Freddy

    The only thing that is poison is the rot that is now embedded in my brain from this thread..

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