Dieters, brace yourselves: A battalion of schoolgirls has taken aim at your willpower.
Armed with Trefoils and Do-si-dos, these persistent peddlers have infiltrated sidewalks, malls, and your Facebook pages -- laying waste to calorie counts and racking up millions of boxes of cookie sales.
About half of the world's 1.9 million Girl Scouts participate in the annual fundraiser -- now in its hundredth year -- that bankrolls the organization's projects, field trips, and community service initiatives. (All proceeds go to the local troop and council, a Girl Scouts spokeswoman says, but local councils may award prizes to top local sellers.) And while the average Scout sells 150 to 200 boxes of cookies each season, some Samoa slingers go well beyond that, selling thousands of boxes apiece.
Here, five top Girl Scout cookie sellers spill their trade secrets.
Julia Vieira Reis -- Girl Scouts of Connecticut
- Level: Cadette (11 years old)
- Favorite cookie: Savannah Smiles
- Personal record: 2,200 boxes
In 2014, the Scouts launched a digital cookie platform that lets scouts make sales through personalized websites -- particularly useful for those with relatives across the country. Last year, Julia created a parody video of Adele’s “Hello” (“Hello from the outside, I must have knocked a thousand times”) and uploaded it to Facebook. The video was a hit among her friends and family, and drove lots of traffic to her personal cookie page.
Julia is also a master of the personal brand: For Christmas, she asked her mom for business cards that list her website and her mom's phone number. Now when she goes door to door, she leaves a card with customers: “That way, if they need any more, they can call you,” she says. “So you can continue to get sales.”
Najah Lorde -- Girl Scouts of Greater New York
- Level: Ambassador (15 years old)
- Favorite cookie: “Not a sweets person”
- Personal record: 2,833 boxes
Like many Girl Scout troops, Najah’s sells cookies as pre-orders, so she doesn’t have the product on hand to tempt potential customers. Luckily, Najah is a master of phone sales. On the first day of her troop’s cookie season, Najah borrows her parents’ cell phones, locks herself in her bedroom, and calls everyone on their contact lists. Then, she nails the upsell.
“I try to get them to buy a little more than they originally wanted,” she says. “Say they wanted to buy two boxes," which would cost $8. "I’ll say, 'Well, I mean, if you buy five boxes, that’s just $20, so instead of giving me a bunch of bills, you can just give me one bill and then we’re good to go.'”
Najah also does face-to-face sales at church, school, and her parents’ offices. Killing the cookie game she says, is all about determination. “Everywhere I go is a possibility of a new sale.”
Dierdre Moore - Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma
- Level: Ambassador (17 years old)
- Favorite cookie: Tagalongs
- Personal record: 3,624
Talk about motivation: Dierdre’s troop uses the money raised in cookie sales for some pretty serious travel. In 2015, her troop went to Costa Rica; this year, they’re going to Greece. (Greece!) That gets the whole team fired up, says Dierdre, who estimates that she's sold upward of 10,000 boxes of cookies over her dozen years in the Girl Scouts.
And numbers matter: Every season, her troop floods the zone outside local shopping centers and superstores, setting up multiple cookie booths. Working with other scouts is “definitely an advantage,” she says. “Especially if there are two doors at a Walmart. We can get both doors.”
Althea Collier -- Girl Scouts of Greater New York
- Level: Cadette (12 years old)
- Personal Record: 1,500 boxes
- Favorite cookie: Samoas
Althea’s Manhattan neighborhood isn’t great for door-to-door sales -- too many apartment buildings, she says -- so she has to improvise. Every weekend, Althea and her dad set up a cookie booth in front of Columbia University, in an area that sees a lot of foot traffic from students and passersby.
Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, she admits. “I was really scared the first time we did it,” Althea says. “I didn’t get many sales that day, because I really just wanted to go home.” When she took a second stab at it, she knew she had to go all in. “The next time I decided to really put myself out there, she says. “I told myself to be brave.” Now, she says, “I always try to sell out.”
Cassidy Hunt -- Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles
- Level: Ambassador (17 years old)
- Personal record: 3,500
- Favorite cookie: Thin Mints (but she offers a caveat: “It's like having to pick out your favorite child”)
As a Girl Scout veteran, Cassidy has loads of cookie-selling experience. But the years she has over most scouts can be a detriment, she says. “People usually want to buy their cookies from a little girl with pigtails,” she says. “I have to put a little more work into it.”
To snag customers, Cassidy pushes the philanthropy angle, talking up the community service projects and educational opportunities that the cookies help fund -- an annual food drive for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, for instance, or making holiday cards for kids in juvenile detention.
It’s not easy, but Cassidy -- and the rest of the girls on this list, for that matter -- does the bulk of the work herself, without much help from her parents. “I want to be the center of sales,” she says.