it's hard to believe, but it's almost girl scout cookie time again. today we pick up our initial order of product to distribute amongst the 14 girls in our troop, and the official sale begins on sunday.
while i still love spending time with our girls, going on outings, helping them earn badges, doing all the fun stuff...cookie season only serves as a reminder of how disillusioned i am with girl scouts as an organization. because it was about this time last year that my co-leader and i had our eyes opened in a pretty awful way as to how horribly run they are.
if you don't know anything about girl scouts, let me give you a little info. troop leaders are all volunteers. every troop is part of their local service unit, which is run by other troop leaders who hold positions like service unit manager, treasurer, school organizer, recorder, etc. and then the service units all report to the council - in our case, girl scouts of greater los angeles. the councils then report to girl scouts usa. i think. i don't honestly know the hierarchy past the council level, but whatever. anyway, in order to become a troop leader you have to fill out all sorts of forms, go through a background check and endure hours of training. you have one person designated as the 01, who's the troop leader, and then you have an 02 (this can be more than one person) as an assistant leader. other troop volunteers can be designated as 03, blah blah blah. you get it.
in december 2015, my co-leader (who was our 01) received a letter in the mail from GSGLA letting us know that our troop was being audited. what they were looking for and what they needed us to do wasn't explained, and so in the holiday rush we just brushed it aside and figured we'd wait for further instruction.
it wasn't until we were in the middle of last year's cookie season that we finally heard again. this time, they were asking us for information on how our troop funds had been spent...when we were daisies, which was the previous year. still no indication of what they were looking for, and this time my co-leader contacted our service unit manager to see if she knew what was up. come to find out, she didn't even know that we'd been contacted for an audit at all and assured us that it must be random and that there was nothing to worry about. so we gathered up the paperwork they asked for - bank statements, receipts, explanations of what was spent from the bank account. mind you, we had already complied with the regular bi-annual troop financial reports that each troop is required by council to submit.
now, some of this is kind of fuzzy in my head because again - we were in the middle of the insanity that is girl scout cookie season. i remember that we were asked to explain in more detail the expenses listed on our financial reports along with receipts from each and every transaction on the bank statements. during our daisy year, we'd done our best to keep good records and hold on to everything that was related to the troop, and it was while we were trying to gather up the requested information that we of course found that there were some receipts missing. but because we took pictures at every outing, we were able to provide them with photographic evidence of where the money had been spent and even which girls had been present for them.
more and more time went by and we heard nothing from anyone as to what was happening with this audit. we'd ask our service unit manager, and she didn't have anything to report. we'd try to get ahold of the woman at GSGLA who'd been requesting all of the information from us, and get no response. and so we continued on with our year, figuring it must not be anything to worry about. it wasn't until the school year was ending and we were getting ready to go on our disney cruise vacay when they finally decided it was time to return our calls and schedule a meeting. psh. as if we had time to deal with that shit then. and so we told them we weren't available at that time and went on our vacation and had a great time.
when we got back, we found an email from GSGLA asking for a meeting. so we pulled out our calendars, found a date that worked for all of us (including our service unit manager) and then in the 11th hour the GSGLA contact pulled out and asked to reschedule. and now i don't remember why, but when the new date came my co-leader told me that she'd been told by our service unit manager (who all this time had continued to reassure us that it was no big deal) that i didn't need to attend as the 02. okay, fine. and when that morning came my co-leader came to drop something off and i asked her again if she wanted me to come with her, she said it was no big deal and not to worry and she'd fill me in afterwards.
YOU KNOW i totally regret not just jumping in that car and going along with her anyway. because what ended up happening could pretty accurately be described as an ambush. they interrogated her about each and every expense from the previous year's troop funds, and the meeting took on somewhat of a hostile tone when there were things that she either didn't remember or couldn't produce a receipt for. not to mention, they questioned her about why i wasn't at the meeting and basically insinuated that i had left her out to dry and wasn't there to support her and obviously could not be trusted. apparently there were some questions about "missing money" from our bank account that our paperwork and receipts and financial statements couldn't answer, to the tune of a couple of thousand dollars.
DO YOU REALLY THINK WE WOULD HAVE MISSED TWO FUCKING THOUSAND DOLLARS?
they showed her some spreadsheets or some sort of paperwork with numbers on it that supposedly showed where the discrepancy was, and because she was so frazzled and blindsided she wasn't able to fully take in the information that was being thrown at her. they wouldn't let her have a copy to take with her and the confusion and anger she was feeling didn't allow her the presence of mind to take a picture of it.
a few weeks later, after we'd attempted for a third time to find information backing up this alleged missing money and where it might have gone, we were requested to attend another meeting at GSGLA. this time, you know i for damn sure was there. even the old lady, who was our 03, volunteered to come, but we decided we could handle it and headed on out. that room may as well have been pitch black with a spotlight shining on the two of us, because it sure felt like we were being interrogated by the police. we were questioned again about the supposed missing money, and all we could do was answer those same questions with the same answers we'd given all along. all of our income during our daisy year had come from dues and the cookie sale, and all of our expenses were recorded along with photographic evidence that apparently wasn't good enough. when my co-leader asked if she needed to hire an attorney, there was some reference to "no, but other leaders have been arrested for smaller dollar figures." our service unit manager, who'd been so supportive and encouraging, turned into a whole different person who apparently decided that nothing we said was true and we were obviously not individuals worthy of being trusted with anything. and yet when i asked for numbers, evidence, spreadsheets, anything that would show me this money that was apparently missing and obviously squandered by me and my co-leader...they didn't have it to show me. it was an ugly, ugly hour during which i literally wanted to throw things.
the final outcome? my co-leader was removed as 01. we were to find someone else to be our 01, and we needed to have parent volunteers who are registered as girl scout adults with cleared background checks to handle the bank account. i decided to step down as 02, not wanting to have anything to do with girl scout leadership at that point, and after a lot of reorganizing and discussion we ended up with the old lady as our official 01 and one of our trusted parents as the 02. now, had i wanted to be the 02, i wouldn't have been allowed as the 01 and 02 can't live in the same house. why? i don't know.
we had to come together for one final meeting to inform them as to how we'd decided to reorganize the leadership of our troop. this time, the old lady came and got to see for herself how incredibly unorganized, hostile and fucked up the whole situation was. it was a tense, uncomfortable meeting and at the end we were told that the audit was being closed despite the fact that we hadn't come to an actual resolution. the supposed missing money was going to remain missing, and our troop would forever be under a microscope and be watched closely from then on. sounds fun, right?
this means that the old lady has had to be present at each and every one of this year's meetings. and the two of us can't be the only adults at any girl scout outing, because apparently we can't be trusted together and obviously would be touching the girls inappropriately or some shit. now, as far as the girls are concerned nothing has changed. all of this bullshit has taken place and we have done everything to make sure that they didn't notice a thing. we did get all of our parents together and told them everything, though, so that they would know what had changed and why, and because they are rational, normal human beings they did nothing but rally around us, supporting us and raising fists at the insanity of GSGLA. my co-leader and i still do the majority of the work in regards to the meetings and organization and such, but we've also started assigning jobs to our parents to ensure that we aren't the ones solely responsible for every aspect of the troop anymore. it's worked really well so far, and the girls are still enjoying their meetings and the time we all spend together.
but as for cookie season? well, while the manual says that we can't force anyone to sell cookies we also don't have the option to opt out of sales either. and so when it came time to place our starting inventory order, we went with a very low number. we sold almost 6,000 boxes last year, with five girls in the 500 club - this year, we placed an order for just 80ish cases of cookies. with 12 boxes in each case, that gives the girls roughly 60 boxes each to sell. we aren't doing any cookie booths and we aren't setting any crazy goals. you know why? for each box we sell for $5, our troop gets $.95. the rest of that goes to the girl scout organization. NINETY-FIVE CENTS OUT OF FIVE DOLLARS. and in the case of our gluten-free and the new s'mores flavors, it's out of SIX dollars. so last year, we raked in approximately $30K in cookie sales, which means the girl scouts took over $24K. sure, that means we had almost $6K for our girls, which is a lot of money. but the notion of pimping out little girls to make a shitton of cash for an organization that is so unorganized and poorly run, who treats their volunteers like shit, and doesn't always look out for the best interests of the girls?
so yes...we are still girl scouts. we are still having a blast with our girls. and we are selling cookies starting sunday. we still appreciate all of the support we get from our friends and family when we sell GS products. but are we still RAH RAH YAY GIRL SCOUTS ARE AWESOME!??
that would be a heeeeeeelllllllll NO.