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Some employers ban workplace selling — even Girl Scout cookies

Surveys show most working Americans buy any and all products their co-workers' kids sell, though a Florida mom was fired this month for selling her daughter's Girl Scout cookies in the workplace.
by Paula Burkes Published: March 31, 2013

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.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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