Girl Scouts use technology to reach customers in new ways

HARLINGEN — Girl Scout cookies are back and if you want to know when and where you can buy them, it’s as simple as downloading an app on your phone or tablet.

The Girl Scouts have come a long way from the first time they started selling cookies in school cafeterias, more than 100 years ago.

The 101-year-old cookie program teaches the girls leadership, money management and now technological innovation.

Websites created by the bakeries allow the girls to reach customers in new ways.

At the start of the cookie season, girls are given a link in which they can activate to sell cookies.

Jennifer Allen has been a troop leader of Troop 4138 in Harlingen for the past four years.

Last year, with more than 25,000 cookie packages sold, they were the top selling troop in the council that includes the Valley, Corpus Christi and Laredo.

Allen said the website is completely optional but girls who do use the site tend to sell more cookies.

In fact, the top two sales girls from last year both had an online presence.

Both girls sold 2,016 boxes of cookies.

“The bakeries make it easier,” Allen said. “You register the link, enter a name and a goal.”

Allen’s troop is made up of 69 girls, one-third of which took advantage of the website last year.

But with an update to the digital platform making electronic sales more user-friendly, Allen estimates that number will go up.

Allen said the website teaches the girls financial literacy as well as allowing them to grasp the idea of online presence on a smaller scale.

But the inclusion of technology doesn’t mean the girls are done with the old ways of selling cookies.

Now, during the six-week cookie season, scouts can customize their cookie sales.

Going door to door, booths outside large stores and online ordering, Girl Scouts have many more opportunities to make the sale.

“Even if you don’t get a lot of sales, if you don’t try you’re not going to get any,” Allen said.

Troop 4138 officially began the cookie sale season this weekend with a booth outside of Lowes on South Expressway 77.

“We try to run a booth every day of the season,” Allen said. “It’s optional to participate in the booth and in fact it’s optional to sell cookies.”

Allen said one of the top things she has learned the past four years as a troop leader is making things mandatory does not always get it done.

“They have to be the ones to say I want to sell this many boxes and they have to be able to communicate with their customers,” Allen said.

The cookie season will begin this weekend and run until Feb. 25.

Want cookies?

Download the Girl Scout Cookie Finder app and type in your zip code to find a booth or Girl Scout near you

Growth of the Cookie Program

1917 – The first cookie sale: scouts began baking and selling sugar cookies in high school cafeterias

1920s – Scouts sold sugar cookies for 25 to 30 cents a dozen

1930s – Cookie sales spread nationwide among scouts with 125 councils holding cookie sales

1940s – World War II led to flour and butter shortages and Girl Scout calendars were sold as an alternative

1950s – A total of 29 bakers were licensed to sell Girl Scout cookies with three varieties: Sandwich, Shortbread and Chocolate Mints, aka Thin Mints

1960s – Cookie varieties grew and thousands of cookies were being made annually by 14 licensed bakers

1970s – Four bakers were licensed to ensure uniform quality and the Girl Scout logo began to appear on the boxes

1980s – Seven different cookies were available including Thin Mint, Do-si-dos and Trefoils

1990s – Licensed bakers were narrowed down to two with low-fat and sugar free cookie selections

2000s – New box designs debuted and all cookies were kosher

2010s – Introduction of the Digital Cookie platform allowed girls to reach customers in new ways