Sure, Girl Scout Cookies are Sweet — But are They Worth the Dough?

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Writer Lisa Rowan talks about Girl Scout Cookies at the TPH office. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

You’ve probably already heard of Charlotte McCourt.

The story of the 11-year-old Girl Scout from New Jersey went viral after she wrote a letter to a family friend hoping he would buy a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to donate to the troops through the Cookies From Home program.

Her letter made its way to television host Mike Rowe, who read it in a video that has surpassed 9 million views on Facebook.

McCourt’s letter likely warmed the recipient’s heart, but the real draw? The reviews.

The scout ranked each type of cookie on a 10-point scale, including household-name varieties like Thin Mints and Tagalongs. (Thin Mints got a 9, predictably.)

Toffee-tastic, the gluten-free flavor that costs more than the rest of the gang in most places, was a disappointment, to put it nicely. McCourt called it a “bleak, flavorless, gluten-free wasteland,” and insisted, “I’m telling you, it’s flavorless as dirt.”

Debate ensued at The Penny Hoarder office. Favorite flavors were defended. Rising prices were discussed.

We realized there are two kinds of people: those who love Girl Scout cookies and those who really, really don’t.

What’s the real deal? Are Girl Scout cookies all they’re cracked up to be? Or do their features crumble under the scrutinous eye of someone who can control their sweet tooth?

Is this fundraiser a total rip-off or the sweetest thing to grace the front entrance of your post office each year?

What would our dear patronus, Abe Lincoln, do? Obviously, he would schedule a civilized debate. And so we shall do the same.

Girl Scout Cookies are Tasty and Important

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Writer Lisa Rowan poses with Girl Scout Cookies at the TPH office. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

By Lisa Rowan, writer, producer and lifelong Girl Scout

(We never said we weren’t biased.)

Yes, I have sold the cookies — order form, sash and all. Show me a cookie booth, and I am suddenly out $20 or $30.

But beyond flavor (Thin Mints, take me away), I also know a thing or two about the business behind the cookie sale.

It’s been a long time since a box of cookies cost $2.50. But only about 25% of what you pay for a box of cookies goes to the manufacturer. The rest goes back to the Girl Scouts, either at the troop level or to the local council that oversees regional programs and camps.

It’s like shopping local, and you’re getting a cookie that tastes exactly the same, year after year.

One of the biggest events for Girl Scouts each year is cookie season because its most impactful fundraiser is also one of the most recognizable across the country. Troops and individual scouts set goals for how many boxes of cookies they want to sell each year, and they use those earnings toward upcoming activities and trips.

Sure, there’s always that parent who slides the order sheet onto the break room table and waits for people to fawn over the selection.

Meanwhile, that parent’s Girl Scout is probably going out on the weekends asking her neighbors if they’d like to buy cookies. Or she’s hawking cookies at booth sales with her troop.

Selling cookies isn’t just about being a good salesperson, because we all can’t be as witty as Charlotte McCourt. Scouts learn how to set goals and create action plans to achieve them. They learn how to manage both money and the precious inventory — skills many kids don’t get access to until much later.

Insatiable sweet tooths aside, there’s something so satisfying about buying something that’s just as enjoyable for the seller. You may be excited about the $20 you just spent on cookies that might be gone in a few days. But the Girl Scout making change and thanking you is just as excited about working toward her goals.

For many (myself among them), that contribution is worth the price of the sugar high.

Girl Scout Cookies are So Overrated

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Girl Scout cookies are pictured at the TPH office. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

By Lisa McGreevy, writer and overall sensible woman

Nobody loves a good dessert more than me, especially when it comes to cookies. Add cookies to a batch of enterprising young ladies learning about free trade and fundraising? I’m a puddle of goodwill.

I love the concept of Girl Scout Cookies. I think what they represent is terrific, and let’s be honest — I can get behind just about any plan that delivers baked goods to my front door.

But let’s talk about the actual cookies for a minute. That’s where my love of Girl Scout goodies takes a sharp nosedive.

Girl Scout cookies are overrated. There, I said it.

I won’t deny that food likes and dislikes are very personal. If we all liked exactly the same flavors, Baskin-Robbins would be a really boring place.

But, geez, some of my friends act like Girl Scout cookies are the best thing to pass their lips since the discovery of bacon.

A lot of people I know grew up eating Girls Scout cookies, so they probably remind them of their childhood. Like Classic White Wonder bread and Hot Pockets, we don’t always eat stuff because it’s good; we eat it because it recalls happy times in our past.

We’re eating nostalgia.

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Writer Lisa Rowan shows off her Girl Scout sash at the TPH office. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

If that was my only issue with Girl Scout cookies, I’d just roll my eyes and suck it up. I have a larger issue with them, though: the price.

At $5 for an 8-ounce box, those cookies ought to be fall-on-the-floor amazing. If it’s mediocrity I’m after, a 13-ounce box of generic cookies from my local Publix will set me back about $2.75.

If I’m feeling fancy, an 8.6-ounce bag of Pepperidge Farm S’mores is only about $3.50. A similarly sized box of Girl Scout S’mores will run me $5.

There are dozens of recipes all over the internet that explain how to make cookies from scratch that taste just like Girl Scout cookies, but at a fraction of the price. The added bonus? They’re fresher, too.

I’m all about splurging a little from time to time on food that brings you pleasure. But the Penny Hoarder in me just can’t get on board with paying so much for something I can get fresher and cheaper at my local market.

Your Turn: Do you think Girl Scout cookies are worth the splurge?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder who loves all cookies. Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder who prefers cake.