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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Post #178 - Girl Scouts: Do You Care That Keebler Is Selling You Out? 3/1/01

I recently contacted Keebler regarding their lower cost knock-off versions of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and Samoas that are available everywhere year-round.  They never responded.  A reader suggested that I contact the Girl Scouts regarding this relationship.  Good idea!
Dear Girl Scouts,

I’ve been a big fan of your cookies for my entire life.

Every spring, everyone scrambled to find a local Girl Scout to place the big order.  As a paperboy, I always heard whispered tales of Mrs. Fredricks, who stashed them in her basement chest freezer, in order to have uninterrupted cookie supplies year-round. 

Based on Mrs. Fredericks’ treatment of her paperboy, I would assume that she was buying, not out of obligation to Scouting, not out of fondness for her local Girl Scout, but out of pure fondness of Thin Mints and Tagalongs.

Recently, I noticed something odd.  Keebler had “knock-off” versions of Thin Mints (Grass Hoppers), Samoas (Coconut Dreams), and Tagalongs (Peanut Butter filled chocolate cookies).  These packages had more cookies, and cost almost half of what Girl Scout cookies cost.  This concerns me.

I realize Keebler produces Girl Scout Cookies.  I asked Keebler for more info about this relationship, with no reply.  I had always assumed that you give Keebler a contract, recipes, the specifications, the quantities, and the delivery dates, and they come back with cookies. 

I view Girl Scout Cookie patrons as one of three categories (with some admitted overlap, of course):  1) Family, friends, coworkers of Girl Scouts, who feel obligated.  2) People who are passionate about scouting, who feel obligated.  3) People who absolutely love Girl Scout Cookies (which is a big percentage).  Category three contains the folks, who in days past, would have filled their chest freezer.  Now, why would they if a) they don’t feel obligated and b) they can buy the Keebler knock-off version year round?

Keebler is cutting into the Girl Scouts’ proceeds by having these knock-off versions.  They aren’t exact—the Grasshopper is sweeter and chocolatier than the Thin Mint.  The ingredients, fat, sugar, carb contents are all slightly different.  Does this bother the Girl Scouts?  Does Keebler provide some secret donation in exchange for this?   I guess I’m wondering if this bothers you.

Any information and clarification that you can provide is greatly appreciated.


Subject: RE: From GSUSA Web Site: Girl Scout Cookies
Fri, 4 Mar 2011 -0500

Thank you for your message to Girl Scouts of the USA. We appreciate your interest in GS Cookies and all your kind words. We are aware of the vast array of cookie products available on the retail market for
consumers however the Girl Scout Cookie program is so much more than the actual cookies.
The activity of selling cookies is directly related to our purpose of helping all girls realize their full potential and become strong, confident, and resourceful citizens.
Girl Scouts learn life skills and are able to realize their goals-and they have fun! Customers get a great product and get to support girls in their own community.  All of the proceeds support Girl Scouting in the local community.
Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program girls develop five essential skills: Goal setting, Decision making,Money management, People skills,Business ethics

Many successful business women today say they got their start selling Girl Scout Cookies. During cookie activities, girls are members of a team working towards a common goal, with each girl striving to do her
best. Every local troop/group is encouraged to set realistic goals, such as planning field trips and community service projects, to accomplish during the year. The money earned from cookie activities helps the
troop/group achieve its goals.
All of the proceeds-every penny-from a local council's cookie activities remains in the area where the cookies are sold. This revenue is used to benefit girls, some of it directly by remaining in the Girl Scout
troop/group treasury and some of it indirectly by subsidizing the cost of providing the Girl Scout program in the local area.
Money from Girl Scout Cookies helps local councils: Recruit and train volunteer adults to work with girls.
Provide the financial assistance needed to make Girl Scouting available for all girls. Improve and maintain camp and other activity sites. Keep event/camp fees for all members to a minimum. Sponsor special events and projects.

Each local council sets the price per box, based on its needs and knowledge of the local market. The price per box may vary from one council to another and from one year to the next. Today's prices reflect
the current cost of purchasing cookies from a licensed baker, the increased cost of ingredients, and the realities of providing Girl Scout activities in an ever-changing economic environment. Amounts going to
girls are set by the council's board of directors. The cookie vendors pay a licensing fee to Girl Scouts of the
USA per box produced, which in turn returns to local councils in the form of assistance and resources
from GSUSA.
I do hope this information is helpful. Best wishes and thanks again for contacting Girl Scouts.
Rosa, Information Specialist,
Girl Scouts of the
My reponse, sent 3/5/11:


As a former Boy Scout, I understand the tent posts of your organization, and appreciate you taking the time to explain.  I understand that Girl Scouting is much more than cookies and fundraising.  I know a Girl Scout.  She’s great.  She sold over 100 boxes to friends, relatives, friends of relatives, friends of friends, coworkers of relatives, neighbors, customers of relatives, kind folks at the grocery store, and so on. 

 I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of people who buy these—people with Celiac who can’t eat them.  People on diets, who won’t eat them.  People with diabetes, who shouldn’t eat them.  People who don’t even like them.

At the end of her effort, she was short of her troop’s individual goal by 15 boxes.  Guess who bought those 15 boxes?   

I was glad to do it.  I love the cookies.  But as I was writing that check, I couldn’t help but think—how much less “special” Santa Claus might be to a young child, if someone named “Harold” gave that young child gifts every Wednesday.  In this case, Girl Scouts is Santa.  Cookie Season is Christmas Season, and “Harold” is Keebler.  Cookie season isn’t as special because “Harold” is cutting the anticipation, and the “what’ll I do when I run out” aftermath.  “Wednesday’ll be here again soon.”

As part of a disagreement with a friend, I bought some of these knock-offs for a blind test.  I must admit, the cashier gave me a dirty look as I handed her my Grasshoppers and Coconut Delights.  I was embarrassed—I felt downright slimy.

On the surface, they look similar.  The ingredients are different enough, and the Thin Mint version tastes different enough.  The Samoa version tastes very similar, but is round.  At the end of my blind trial, I determined that these cookies, while inferior, would cure my Girl Scout cookie craving.

It sounds like Keebler is a little like Fight Club, and we all know what Rule #1 is about Fight Club.  So you buy cookies from Keebler.  And as thanks to you, they turn around and make a knock-off version.  Apparently, you’re not able to comment.  Maybe you don’t want to because the long arm of a massive corporation packs a whollop.

It’s disappointing to me.   Keep up all the good work with the Girl Scouts.

Thanks for responding,

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