Friday, March 27, 2009

Thin Mints with a Side of Spam

Ren Reynolds points out that there are a number of interesting implications about digital culture that are actually developed in "The Cookie Crumbles: By banning online sales, are the Girl Scouts failing our daughters?" The Newsweek reporter, Kurt Soller, questions why 8-year-old Wild Freeborn should be chastened by the Girl Scout organization for creating a YouTube video and web portal for her cookie-selling efforts. Although the Girl Scouts have an online service for finding young coookie vendors in your community at, they apparently frown on web-based cookie peddling for individual sash-wearers.

"If you have an individual girl that creates a Web presence, she can suck the opportunity from other girls," says Matthew Markie, a parent who remains involved in Girl Scouts even though his three daughters are well into their 20s. Markie, and other disapproving parents, brought the Freeborn's site to the attention of local Girl Scout officials who told the Freeborns to take down their YouTube video and reminded the family of the organization's longstanding prohibition of online sales. According to the FAQ on the national organization’s Web site, "The safety of our girls is always our chief concern. Girl Scout Cookie activities are designed to be face-to-face learning experiences for the girls."

The relative safety of using the Internet versus knocking on strangers' doors is debatable. "First of all, selling things online is no less safe," says Peter Fader, a director of the Interactive Media Initiative at Wharton, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania. "And if we want to teach our kids to be able to operate in society as responsible adults, online savviness is going to be part of the overall portfolio."

In videos like "Girl Scout Cookie Bitch Girl," members of the YouTube community had previously lampooned the organization's reluctance to use retail store shelf space to market their product more conveniently to customers, because such easy consumer access would be contrary to the group's aim to foster the values of entrepreneurial free enterprise.

As a former Girl Scout myself, who went door to door and got to see my elderly neighbors drunk, undressed, and sometimes hostile to my presence during the process, I would tend to agree that this equation of Internet presence and risk seems illogical in light of real-world interactions.

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