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Local Girl Scouts Head to Cookie College

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

You're friendly Girl Scout is likely to knock on your door or greet you at your neighborhood grocery store beginning this weekend. That's because February marks the official start of the Girl Scouts cookie season. But selling cookies is not what is used to be. In fact, the 'Girls in Green' recently attended Cookie College at the University of San Diego to perfect the art of selling cookies. KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis reports.

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Hundreds of smiling, bright-eyed young girls wearing green vests with every scout patch imaginable filter into a conference room at the University of San Diego.
 

They're serious about cookies, and they've traded their Saturday to attend workshops about being savvy cookie entrepreneurs.
 

Twelve-year-old Ealina Meadow says her cookie sales have fallen a little flat.
 

Meadow: Last year, I only sold to my family friends so this year I'm going to try to sell to their friends or I'm going to try pairing up with a company.
 

And Ealina hopes to get some tips on just how to make more sales at one of the workshops. In this session, they're being coached on the art of the comeback.

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Cookie Coach: How about, 'I just ordered some at work.' What would you say? How about, 'Oh great, which ones did you order? You forgot to order Thin Mints! Those are our most popular.' Or how about 'I can't afford them?' You might hear that one. It's good to say, 'Its for a really good cause,' but also 'You deserve these cookies.'
 

Ten-year-old Chase McCarthy and 13-year-old Rebecca James are taking notes. They're the top cookie sellers in their troops, but this year they're expecting some disappointed customers. The shortbread cookie All About has been replaced by a trendier cookie called the Dulce de Leche .
 

McCarthy: They're really good. Its kind of like your normal cookie with caramel chips and caramel drizzle over it. And it tastes really good.
 

But all the caramel in the world might not make a difference this year. People are tightening their purse strings which means people might cut back sweets.
 

Cookie College organizers invited public relations expert Sarah Znerold to help the girls craft their message.

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Znerold: So I'm going to talk to you about how, in PR, we try to look at all the different ways we can help out clients reach their audience.
 

Each Girl Scout reaches inside a free tote bag stuffed with PR tools including a flash drive with business cards, letter and fliers they can print or email.
 

Znerold: So you're going to plan ways to get in front of them again, and again, and again, and again.
 

And that's something that Girl Scout Rebecca James knows all about.
 

James: Like some people wouldn't answer their door, or some people weren't home, so my dad and I made fliers. I put my first name, my troop number, and my dad's cell number (on the fliers). And then I put all the different types of cookies with pictures of them next to each description, and I left it under their doormat. And so when they came home they saw that. If they wanted any they called us. And we got a lot of orders. So that was one way I sold cookies.
 

That kind of initiative gets the seal of approval from PR specialist Znerold.
 

Znerold: The girls were amazing! From hiring a singer and writing a custom song, to having a full costume giant cookie, to building a six-foot pyramid of cookie boxes, to maybe we can have thin mints on the pillows of hotel rooms instead of the normal mints.  
 

But despite all the creative and calculated ideas, Rebecca James and 13-year-old Samantha Reina say they'll continue to rely on some tried and true ways of making the sale.
 

James: My little sister, her and I are very close, so what I will do is take Stephanie, that's my little sister, and go out. And then people see her and say, 'Oh she's so cute!' And then my sister says, 'Yes and my favorite boxes of cookies are Thin Mints,' and they're like 'OK we'll buy ten!'
 

Reina: I do what she does too, but also when the say no, I make them kind of feel bad and stuff.

 

Reporter : How do you make them feel bad? 

 

Reina: I just give them this look, like 'Oh, okay.' And then they'll go 'Oh wait. I want two boxes!'.
 

And the more the boxes these girls sell, the more money will go towards supporting their own troop activities and regional events every year.
 

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News. 

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