Girl Scouts go digital with cookie sales

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COLUMBIA - For nearly 100 years, it's been a tradition for Girl Scouts to go door-to-door, stand outside of supermarkets, and bring their cookie sign-up sheets to their parents' workplace in hopes of selling their infamous cookies.

Beginning in January, Girl Scout troops, including some in Columbia, will launch a Digital Cookie Program that allows customers to purchase cookies online and have them sent directly to their doors.

Lora Brinkman, a troop leader in Columbia, said she thinks the new program will help develop the girls' communication skills.

"Direct sales are obviously very important because, the girls, they learn to budget and they learn financial literacy and customer service, but going digital is going to add to those," she said. "Because, in the digital age that we live in, they're going to have to learn to provide good customer service through an email or through their apps or whatever."

On Dec. 16, Brinkman trained seven of her girls and their parents on the new digital cookie program.

The program consists of two different components - the COCO Mobile app and dashboard. The app allows girls to take orders and credit card payments right on their phone, while the COCO dashboard allows the girls to create personal online accounts, set up their sales goals, track their progress, and send out emails to their family and friends to collect orders online.

"There's several girls in my troop who have friends and family out of state, and before, they could take their orders and say ‘can you mail me a check,' or something and then you wait months to get the cookies to them or you ship them yourself," Brinkman said. "With them going digital, you can send an email to those friends or family and they can order their cookies and have them shipped directly to their house. It's more convenient for the girls and for the customer."

Going from paper to digital raises concerns among some parents about keeping their children safe from the possible dangers of Internet interaction.

Amy Brinkman, a mother of a cadet Girl Scout , said, "I wouldn't say I'm not worried about it, because there's a risk with anything you do related to using the computer or the Internet. I have a responsibility as a parent when she puts her phone in her hands or puts her hands on a computer, so I exercise that same responsibility."

The Boone County Sheriffs Department Cyber Crimes Unit offered tips for young teens to stay safe online.

  • Set ground rules about online communication
  • Discuss risks and concerns about posting and sharing private information
  • Get involved and take control

For their safety, Girl Scouts under the age of 13 will not be allowed to sell cookies online without permission from their parent or guardian.

For those cookie lovers who like to stick to tradition, Columbia troops will continue to sell cookies outside of businesses and through paper order forms.