girl scouts cookies, cookies, cookie sales

"Cookie Mother" Accuses Wal-Mart of Treading on Girl Scouts' Turf

August 05, 2009 06:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
A Girl Scout mom claims that Wal-Mart plans to sell cookies that are knockoffs of Girl Scout brands.

Wal-Mart to Offer Thin Mints Year-Round

C.V. Harquail, an Ohio mom, has accused Wal-Mart of copying classic Girl Scout cookies for their Great Value private label, Advertising Age reports. As the “Cookie Mom” for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop for years, Harquail “recognized right away the distinct flavor and texture of Thin Mints and Tagalongs, the Girl Scouts' two most popular varieties” when she tasted Great Value’s “beta” versions of the products.

In her blog Authentic Organizations, Harquail rails against the retail giant, describing its behavior as “despicable.” She explains that the success of Girl Scout cookies lies primarily in their exclusivity and rarity: The cookies sell only once each year. "The exclusivity of Girl Scout cookies is what makes the cookies really sell," she writes. "But now, Wal-mart is shoving itself in front of these little girls, and knocking on your door to sell you their almost-as-good fake Thin Mints and Fake Tagalongs, whenever you want them."

The profits made from the sales of Girl Scout cookies fund Girl Scout programs such as camping trips and other activities. The Girl Scout cookie sales started as early as 1917 as a way to fund their many events. According to the Girl Scouts official Web site, Thin Mints account for 25 percent of overall sales, and Tagalongs represent 13 percent of sales. By marketing a similar product available throughout the year, Wal-Mart would be decreasing those profits, Harquail reasons. “There goes the Girl Scout cookies’ special allure, and there go the profits that fund the Girl Scouts’ programs.”
Harquail’s complaint highlights the widespread consequences of a business decision that only seems to take the retailer’s capacity to make profit into account. “[It] makes me wonder just how much—or how little—Wal-mart really cares about the communities where its stores are located,” she muses in her blog. “Am I suggesting that Wal-mart’s brand managers set out to steal the market from the Girl Scouts? No. I’m asking why these Wal-mart managers did not think more about the potential civic impact of their choices.”

Background: Wal-Mart tries to improve its image

Although Wal-Mart has been widely criticized in the past, it managed to win over some critics, including environmental groups, by changing some practices and policies. Along with their efforts to go green, Wal-Mart tackled child labor by boycotting cotton from Uzbekistan in 2008.

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