Twelve-year-old Jadyn Carter, of Edmond, hit her goal of selling 500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies this week. Her mom and troop leader posted the feat on Facebook, thanking family, friends and associates. Some 60 percent of sales came from calling on fire stations and office buildings, Devonne Carter said.
Meanwhile, a single mom in Florida was fired this month for selling her daughter's Girl Scout cookies at work, according to a story trending recently on the Web, and a recently released survey shows 27 percent of working Americans hate being asked to buy products for their co-workers' kids.
The Florida woman, Tracy Lewis, worked on the American University campus for 28 years as an employee of food service provider Bon Appetit and was fired for selling the cookies in the on-campus convenience store, according to a report by Fox News. Lewis said she never pressured any customers to buy the cookies — she simply stacked them on a cart in the store.
Oklahoma City labor attorney Nathan Whatley said it doesn't matter. “An employer may legally restrict employees from soliciting co-workers to buy cookies or other items,” said Whatley of McAfee & Taft. “Some workplaces ban all types of selling by employees,” he said, “while others may only prohibit employees from running a side business or soliciting sales of commercial products, as opposed to sales for charitable or community causes such as the Scouts or a school fundraiser.“
Restrictions usually are directed toward limiting employees' personal use of company time, Whatley said, and limiting infringement on a business opportunity of the employer, like selling Girl Scout cookies at a store that sells its own cookies.
According to a survey by Accounting Principals, 27 percent of workers hate being asked to buy products because they feel pressured to buy or don't need the product, 24 percent said they will buy anything co-workers' kids are selling and the remaining 49 percent only consider buying products they like.
Stillwater storekeeper Chris Norris said the only solicitation he allows are order forms posted on bulletin boards. Norris said he forbids employees from asking co-workers to contribute.
Executive sales consultant Mike Crandall, of Sandler Training, tells clients solicitation is OK, “as long as everyone clearly knows it is voluntary. We find there is a tremendous difference between selling and providing them the opportunity to buy,” Crandall said.
Business consultant Bill Bendure goes further, warning “allowing solicitation in the workplace opens a company to the same solicitation by labor unions. Whatever a company allows a child or the parent of a child to do, the company must allow others and outsiders to do as well,” Bendure said.
In preparing employee handbooks for organizations, human resources expert Gayla Sherry generally includes a policy regarding solicitation, and that employees should not feel coerced or obligated to buy. “The common practice is to allow employees to sell items out of the public view, such as in break or lunch rooms,” Sherry said. “Some organizations will go so far as to allow employees to sell Avon, Mary Kay cosmetics, but also in a private area away from the public,” she said.
Meanwhile, a rule shared by advertising professional Vonda Rice and marketing instructor Mallery Nagle is the kids have to do the selling. “Salesmanship is part of the lesson,” said Nagle, who teaches at the University of Central Oklahoma. “What gets all over me is when the kid is nowhere in sight.”
Accounting Principals found workplace buyers do consider affordability. One-fourth of six-figure earners buy when asked, according to the survey, compared with 28 percent of those who make $75,000 or more and 16 percent of those in the $30,000 to $50,000 salary range.
Nona Merriman, who works in injury prevention at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, said she's found the reverse; those who have the least, give the most.
“They understand the need and tend to have bigger, more sympathetic hearts, even if their pockets may be smaller,” said Merriman, who said she regularly rounds up or donates dollars at sales registers when asked. “I think this is true of most Oklahomans,” she said, “we are a very giving bunch.”