San Francisco Girl Scouts Getting Crushed by Cookie Sales Competition from DoorDash
After missing out on in-person sales in 2021 due to the pandemic, many Girl Scouts were eagerly looking forward to ramping their cookie peddling back up this year, but found themselves dealing with new struggles from supply chain-related shortages and competition from older Scouts who were delivering cookies using the DoorDash app and dominating local cookie supplies.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a labor shortage at a bakery that makes the Scouts’ famous boxed treats left area girls “scrambling to find cookies earlier this month.”
Scouts sell the cookies to raise money for trips and projects for their troop, and there are badges and prizes awarded for top sellers. Many Scouts work hard to sell as many cookies as possible, reaching out to their neighbors, parents’ friends and coworkers, and setting up those ubiquitous tables seen outside grocery stores this time of year. Cookie sales are the main, if not only, fundraiser for most troops.
Liz Johannesen told the paper that her third-grade daughter had sold out of her entire supply within weeks and was unable to get any more. They were frustrated to then discover that every single cookie variety was available to order on DoorDash.
DoorDash, the Chronicle reported, launched a new partnership with the Girl Scouts for this year’s sales, “[b]ut not all girls were given the chance to participate.” The company itself limited the program to Scouts in the fourth grade and up, and some troop leaders further restricted participation to older Scouts.
Economic divisions seemed to play a role as well, with DoorDash requiring those selling Girl Scout cookies through their app to be able to guarantee a certain amount of inventory — hundreds of dollars of cookies that a family might be stuck buying themselves if they were unable to sell them all.
A DoorDash spokesperson told the Chronicle that only 1% of local Scouts were selling cookies via the app, and that the company had partially waived its usual fees for the cookie deliveries to support the Scouts.
The whole situation felt like “a perfect microcosm of the Silicon Valley ethos,” said Johannesen, with a small percentage of Scouts who had greater financial means and access to the technology being able to crowd other Scouts out of the market.
The supply chain problems and the DoorDash issues were unrelated, but Johannesen was far from the only parent who expressed frustration and suspicion.
Alex Kao’s eighth-grade daughter is a Scout and he had volunteered as her troop’s “cookie coordinator” for the past six years. Kao told the Chronicle that he had never seen the local “cookie cupboards” — the stockpiles of crates of cookies stored in volunteers’ garages and sheds — with such low or even empty inventories. He described Scouts “standing outside a Safeway with no cookies and they look sad.”
Kate Foster has two daughters, ages 6 and 8, who are both Scouts selling cookies the “old-fashioned way” in person, and she said they were going to fall too short of their goals to get the coveted patch for cookie sales to sew on their uniforms. It was tough to watch, she said, acknowledging that it was “tricky” to balance technological advances and still “making it fair for all Girl Scouts.”
Kao’s concerns about DoorDash’s interference were somewhat assuaged by learning that it wasn’t the corporation directly selling the cookies, but other Scouts who were partnering with the app, but he still thought it was creating an “equal access” problem.
The app’s same-day $3.99 delivery fee also undercut the Scouts’ $12.99 delivery fee for online orders, and while the Scouts’ website allows orders nationwide, shipping can take up to 15 days. Johannesen emailed the Girl Scouts and suggested that next year the app should limit its delivery radius so that one seller can’t cannibalize cookie sales from girls in neighboring towns.
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