How to Survive Girl Scout Cookie Chaos
Girl Scout cookie season can be brutal
But can you combat the chaos?!?
Imagine the hyperventilating gasps and heart palpitations the first time you hit submit on your initial cookie order - I mean, you are literally putting your troop on the line for hundreds (well, usually thousands) of dollars in cookies! No one said this job was for the faint of heart, but how on earth do you confidently and strategically get to this point?
Deadlines, forms, and planning, oh my!
Long before the launch of your cookie season, you formulate your mission. Do you know where your cookie season will take you? If not, sit down and prepare! Start with a list of dates and deadlines ... when are you, the "cookie manager" expected to take action? Do you need something from the girls / parents before you can take that action?
My council uses Little Brownie Baker and starts cookie sales on January 1 - right in the middle of holiday break, so I haven't typically seen my girls in a few weeks (and won't see them for at least another week). Knowing this, I need to get cookie information to the girls and parents by early December - at the latest. A catchy one-page flyer with all the links and deadlines works perfectly as a reference sheet.
Divide your deadlines into time frames. For example, my girls need have their permissions slips completed and start the initial planning in December - so this is time frame #1. Then pre-order sales start (time frame #2) and pre-order submission deadlines (time frame #3), followed by cookie booths (time frame #4). Putting the time frames as colorful headlines draws the readers attention to the most important data. With a timeline in hand, dissemination the responsibility - the when, where, and what needs to be done and by whom - transfers (at least in part) to your troop members.
So far so good, but that dreaded initial cookie order submission hangs over me in mid-January. How do I feel confident when I press that submit button?
Cookie booth domination
Get in front of the cookie booth race
Cookie booths were my biggest eye-opening experience my first year ... they are big business to a lot of people. This comes with overwhelming competition, staking out territories, and very "un-Girl Scout" like behavior. Which brings me to my first cookie booth tip - book your cookie booths as soon as you are allowed to schedule them. You will find that all the hot-selling locations fill up quickly. No one wants to be left with a huge stock pile of cookies and no where to sell them at -- trust me, I've been there!
With cookie booths booked, be prepared for the unexpected ... what happens if you show up and someone else is in your cookie booth spot at your allotted time? Yep, I've had this one happen too! This is when you see a whole new side to the jolly "Girl Scout" volunteer behavior. Both groups have inventory to sell, but what do you do? Easiest solution, follow my second tip, get a signed permission form from the store owner when you book your cookie booth slot. In my council, to whomever holds the golden cookie booth permission slip goes the spoils.
My girls have never been super competitive when it comes to selling cookies. Don't get me wrong, they like selling them, but the allure wanes after the first couple weeks of standing in the cold pushing cookie boxes to the masses. Which brings me to my last cookie booth tip for today ... book your cookie booths for the first couple weekends of cookie booth season. These slots sell the most and then you have extra time to off-load any unsold inventory to other troops (we can transfer out boxes that we have not sold to other troops in our council).
Okay, so now we have our booths planned, but how many boxes of cookies do we plan for?
The Initial Cookie Order Conundrum
Plan, gather, add, pray, take a deep breath, and click submit
Pre-order sales have started, and numbers are flying all over - Digital Cookie says one thing, eBudde says another, then you have these paper forms and some how you have to make sense of it all. Admittedly, I am a numbers person and I love spreadsheets. But, I also insist that everyone wears their big girl panties and takes some level of responsibility. I create a simple Google Form for submission of paper form orders. The responses feed into a spreadsheet so I can easily track and monitor my numbers. My Google form looks like this:
Remember that permission slip every parent was suppose to complete last month? Well, those that did not complete it are reminded to do so in the form before it will accept their paper form cookie order. We also require payment for the boxes before delivery (then the parents accept payment from the customer, similar to how Digital Cookie works). Not every council works this way, but this is the simplest method for me. I prefer everything to be electronic so I don't have to stress over chasing people down for payment.
Our initial Digital Cookie sales transfer directly to eBudde, so once I enter the paper sales collected through my Google Form, I am all set for the girls' initial orders. Then it is time to focus on our troop's order for cookie booths. Following the tips laid out above, I usually have 2-3 booths scheduled for opening weekend. I check the schedule to see when our cookie cupboards (where we can pick up extra cases of cookies) opens and what days/times they are open. In the past, they haven't opened until after the initial weekend. This year, they open earlier, BUT they are only open in the morning on Saturday. So, I need to order enough cookies for my initial 2-3 cookie booths.
Cookie sales vary widely depending on the area. I keep track of past sales on a spreadsheet, so I know exactly what we sold in our favorite locations on opening weekend. For example, this is from 2020 (note, Lemon-Ups were new in 2020 so sales were higher, and Toffee-tastic had a shortage, so we were unable to get more cases after our initial order).
Based on my historical data, for each opening weekend booth I plan for:
2 cases of Lemon-Ups, Trefoils, and Do-si-dos
4 cases of Tagalongs
6 cases of Samoas and Thin Mints
1 case of S'mores and Toffee-Tastic
Since Adventurefuls are new and seem to be selling well, I am planning on 3 cases per booth this year.
Until you have historical data, your order for your opening weekend booths is largely based on what other leaders around you recommend. I caution this ... don't over order. It is so stressful! Only order for the opening weekend booths and plan to get more cases for your next weekend booths.
Sounds simple right?
Stay tuned for more ways to take the stress out of being a Girl Scout leader!