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Girl Scouts: Just Say No to E-Commerce

Back in the days of the pre-Internet America, spring was often marked by a gentle knock on the door from a fresh-faced Girl Scout trying to sell you some cookies and learn a bit about capitalism in the process.

Nowadays, however, capitalism has met high tech, and a quick search on eBay recently produced 63 listings, including one for "six fresh boxes" of the ever-popular Samoa Girl Scout cookies that had started at $14 and 12 bids later were up to $31.

The description of the listing reads: "The world's most deliciously different cookie!! Tender vanilla cookies, covered with caramel on top and bottom, and then rolled in toasted coconut, and striped with a rich cocoa coating. Made exclusively for the Girl Scouts. Help a Grandma with 3 Girl Scouts. I can't possibly eat ALL these cookies!"

The "Thin Mint" cookies also were pretty popular and it seems quite clear that e-commerce is very much in vogue among computer literate children, their parents and even the customer-neighbors.

How are you going to say "no" to the Girl Scout next door? Which probably accounts for one eBay listing that says: "Another over-order, but the girl next door met her quota ... at my expense. Please help me lose weight, by taking these off my hands (which would eventually go to my thighs)."

Some of the Girl Scout cookie listings on eBay are clearly from adults; others are from newly registered sellers and it's a bit more difficult to tell who's doing the merchandising.

However, if the point of the annual cookie sale is for Girl Scouts to learn how to set sales goals, manage money and develop marketing skills, well, why not hawk them on eBay?

Perhaps because Girl Scouts of the USApolicy expressly forbids online cookie sales, saying, "They may not be conducted by anyone at anytime." E-mail, however, can be used to spread the word.

The Girl Scouts say on their Web site that the prohibition is "for safety and security reasons..."

The Girl Scouts National Board of Directors adopted an online sales policy that reads in part: "Sales on a Web site on the Internet of any products sold in 'council-sponsored product sales,' such as Girl Scout cookies, candy, nuts, calendars or magazine subscriptions, may not be conducted by anyone at anytime." Online auction sales are specifically mentioned as a no-no.

San Jose, Calif.-based eBay requires that its sellers be 18 or over, but spokesman Kevin Pursglove told internetnews.com that "we see quite often that a parent will work with a child; however, the adult has the responsibility for the account, especially in the selling area, because sellers must have a credit card."

"Parents have told us it's a great way for kids to learn about personal responsibility and how to manage money, and one would assume that's what's happening here," he said.

The Girl Scouts site even has an area called Money Smarts where girls can "learn the ins and outs of earning, spending, saving and investing." And there's a Girl Scout cookie FAQ.

Pursglove said that to his knowledge eBay has not received any complaints from the national Girl Scout organization.

Several telephone calls to the national Girl Scout headquarters seeking comment on the matter were not returned, although a spokeswoman has been quoted previously as saying that "we want the girl to be the person making the sale."