Wal-Mart Accused of Moving In on Girl Scouts’ Turf

Discussion
Aug 06, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Wal-Mart
Stores is taking some heat from a mommy blogger who says the chain’s
Great Value cookie line includes knockoffs of the Girl Scouts’ popular
Thin Mints and Tagalongs.

CV Harquail recently tasted
some cookies at the BlogHer conference in Chicago and immediately recognized
them as Girl Scout cookies. The only problem is that they weren’t from
the Girl Scouts but beta versions of cookies being considered for Wal-Mart’s
private label line.

“The exclusivity of Girl Scout
cookies is what makes the cookies really sell,” Ms. Harquail wrote. “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.”

Michele Tompkins, a spokesperson for the Girl
Scouts of America, expressed hope that Wal-Mart rolling out similar cookies
would not adversely affect the organization’s ability to raise funds. “I
would hope that people realize,” she told Advertising
Age
, “that when they buy Girl Scout cookies, they’re
also helping little girls.”

Ms. Harquail wrote that she is not suggesting
that Wal-Mart had a malicious intent when it developed the cookies. She sees
it as more a case of the company’s managers not really considering “the potential
civil impact of their choices."

Discussion Questions:
Does Walmart have a problem if it rolls out cookies similar to those sold
by the Girl Scouts? Assuming it intends to go ahead and bring these cookies
to market, how does it avoid being seen as a company that is picking on little
girls?

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24 Comments on "Wal-Mart Accused of Moving In on Girl Scouts’ Turf"


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Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
11 years 9 months ago

I can understand the Girl Scouts would prefer not to have competition. But I will also assume that P&G, Kraft and Nabisco would like all supermarkets private label to not mimic their brand profiles as well.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

This is silly. If it was anyone else but Wal-Mart this would not be an issue. I doubt that these cry-baby mommies would bother to attack other grocery chains that sell the same kind of private-label cookies.

If the Girl Scouts have some sort of legal claim, then get in line and sue Wal-Mart. This mommy needs to grow up and shut up or she is going to ruin it for the rest of the Girl Scouts that rely on Wal-Mart as a place to sell the cookies. Wal-Mart is a high traffic location for Girl Scouts to sell their cookies. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Walmart doesn’t aim to take any business away from the Girl Scouts. And the Girl Scouts need not worry because believe it or not, most Girl Scouts cookies are sold to friends, relatives, and neighbors that want to help the young women, even more-so then for the great taste of thin mints.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

You have to admire how Wal-Mart consistently pushes the envelope in many of their activities. This is a trait that risk takers display and that works in their favor many times. In this instance, however, Wal-Mart should learn from Dairy Queen and consider either licensing the Girl Scout Cookies or co-market them with a portion of the revenue going to the Girl Scouts. In this way they can turn a potential negative into a positive for all.

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Peter is on to something here. Consider what a PR coup it would be for Walmart to license or otherwise partner with the Girl Scouts to increase the value of their cookie sales year-round. The downside, of course, is that everyone from the Boy Scouts to the Pink Pistols would be lined up at Walmart’s door looking for a similar deal or howling “discrimination” in the press. Maybe it is better to just rip off Oreo’s like everyone else.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 9 months ago

Girl Scout cookies aren’t an endangered sort.
They’re good to eat and help girls become smart.
But Walmart is a wolf seeking things to capture
So everything on this earth is within their rapture.

Who knows what goes on in hearts in Bentonville?
They always seek more things to ring up in the till.
Is universal health care next for the Arkansas bear?
Probably not and for Girl Scouts they should forebear.

Randy Friedlander
Guest
Randy Friedlander
11 years 9 months ago

I cannot count how many times I’ve been accosted by Girl Scouts and their parents who have set up a table outside the entrance to Walmart or Sam’s Club to sell Girl Scout cookies. Presumably they have the store manager’s permission to do so. If I want Girl Scout cookies, I have many opportunities to buy them, but only at those times of year when they are being sold. I don’t see any issue with Walmart’s attempts to cater to a market need that’s not served the rest of the year. However, the opportunity to co-brand Great Value cookies and support the Girl Scouts organization might be the best idea of all.

Jason Williams
Guest
Jason Williams
11 years 9 months ago

Keebler has been selling Thin Mint knock-offs for years in the form of their Grasshopper cookies. The Girl Scouts will always be recognized for the fundraiser of their cookie campaign. I don’t see Wal-Mart’s rolling these out being an issue.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Someone needs to explain some Retail 101 to the Girl Scouts–it’s good to be innovative or the first, but you’d better keep going! Walmart SHOULD knock off the Girl Scouts…my question would be; why hasn’t someone done it sooner??? Competition will only force the GSA to get better in the short and long run.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
11 years 9 months ago

I doubt that very many Girl Scout cookies are bought because they are unique. It is because you want to help a friend’s or relative’s little girl. They are trying to make a big deal out of nothing in my opinion.

With that being said, perception can be reality and this could damage Wal-Mart’s image if it gets too much traction. The suggestion of using some of the profits to help the Girl Scouts at first sounded like a good one, but after thinking about it, it would amount to the same thing as Wal-Mart admitting it is deliberately copying them. They have a tightrope to walk. Now is when the PR people will earn their money or not.

Jeff Bulger
Guest
Jeff Bulger
11 years 9 months ago

While I understand being distressed whenever Walmart decides your turf is next, does the GSA really want to tell its members that the appropriate thing to do when faced with legal adversity is to cry and complain?

Walmart is doing nothing illegal. GSA has two options–whine or compete.

I am disappointed to see that whining won.

George Anderson
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Think it’s important to distinguish between the objections raised by a mother of a Girl Scout and the entire organization. Girl Scouts of America was not critical of Wal-Mart’s move.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 9 months ago

I think one of the unique attributes and therefore a driver of demand is the fact that not only is buying cookies doing a good deed to support the local Girl Scout Chapter, it’s also the temporal nature of the sale. The fact that they are not on sale all year long, the fact that they are being sold by someone you know or someone you can place a face to and therefore you either have or can create a unique engagement to the brand. Wal-Mart will not be able to replicate that.

Although I do get a craving for those caramel cookies every once in a while, I am not sure I would seek them out since I rarely buy cookies and never shop the “Mart” or the “Shack.”

Wendy OConnor
Guest
Wendy OConnor
11 years 9 months ago

As an avid reader of Retailwire, a Merchant and a Girl Scout Leader, I can tell you from my experience that most people who buy cookies do it out of loyalty to the Girl Scout. You get onesies and twosies from the ‘cravers’ but for the most part, it’s family and friends. Let Walmart sell the cookies. Until they get a cute brown vest on the outside of their building, they are not going to make any headway into our GS sales!

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 9 months ago

I think it behooves Wal-Mart to find a nice way out of this, via some sort of gesture to the Girl Scouts. Regardless of who is “right” or what the motivation is (profit), a mega retailer really doesn’t want to be in a P.R. battle with the Girl Scouts, whether it’s just a few of them, or the group as a whole.

Gayenel Rice
Guest
Gayenel Rice
11 years 9 months ago

The fact the WM is selling Girl Scout cookie knockoffs does not preclude anybody from buying GS cookies during the limited time they are sold. I think this is a great idea on WM’s part. I hope WM doesn’t cave in to the crybabies who will find something else to complain about when this “crisis” blows over.

Scott Knaul
Guest
Scott Knaul
11 years 9 months ago

I Agree with Al, this is no longer an issue about who is right or wrong, it’s about how Wal-Mart can get out of this situation without looking like the bad guy…again even if they did nothing wrong.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 9 months ago

As a practical matter, I think Walmart is smart enough to immediately back away from these cookies, and go in another direction with their PL cookie program. This is another one of those issues that you simply can’t win on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. If you’re going to take on the Girl Scouts you might as well take on motherhood and apple pie.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 9 months ago

I believe this is a great example of Walmart at their best and worst. It is why people love them and hate them. I love Girl Scout cookies, I just hate that I can only get them a certain time of the year. Having them at Walmart gives me (the consumer) access to a product I want, when I want it, at a good price. On the other hand, the PR of Walmart hammering the Girl Scouts does not help their image of destroying everything in their path. Couldn’t they cut a deal with the Girl Scouts and make a donation to them?

Walmart does need to give some thought to the damage they do in trying to squeeze for every dollar.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Yikes–I hope that the “Thought Police” accusations of “Retailers moving in on Girl Scout turf” doesn’t take hold. As I travel the country, I see Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Baseball Teams, and Veterans standing in front of Walmart, Kroger, and countless other retailers.

The Girl Scouts aren’t getting their turf trodden upon. You’re trivializing a point here. People buy Girl Scout cookies, Little League decals, and chocolates from schools, etc, because they believe in institutions of great value.

Let Retailers make private label cookies (and many other items if the Consumer will buy them). The Consumer will still invest in items that provide psychic and intrinsic value. Let it go, before you get some nutcase Congressman (woman) seeking an investigation.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
Wal-Mart has never had a PR problem from by rolling over Grandma and Grandpa’s small town grocery store employing local families for years, Uncle Fred’s Hardware store that been a community fixture for years supporting the Girl Scouts and the local little league team, cousin Ed’s Appliance store that had been servicing everyone for years making house calls when the refrigerator died on Saturday. So why should they be considered to have a PR problem for trampling over the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or every single community-based program supporting good and trying to make a buck to continue to do it? With all the claims of PR issues that Wal-Mart is supposed to have, one would never be able to tell by the numbers of cars in their parking lots and by their regular sales reports. Nothing they have done in the past or the wake their growth has left behind them has been a PR issue. So why would this be any different? The best thing for the Girl Scouts of America to do… Read more »
Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
11 years 9 months ago

I find it interesting that most of the comments are in defense of Wal-Mart, but at the time of this writing, the answers to the poll question are evenly split.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Businesses have to be sensitive to their customers and the culture of a community. It’s not by accident that Wal-Mart is choosing to knock-off the Girl Scouts’ primary revenue stream. Competing with customers is generally a bad idea. Even worse; they missed a golden opportunity to collaborate with an organization most everyone supports.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

“gafpromise” makes an interesting point about the poll split. Perhaps those voting “No to Walmart selling similar types of cookies” are convinced that the Girl Scouts don’t know how to work their way through the world, and they need to be “saved by Big Brother.”

Fiddlesticks! My little Girl Scout grew up and captured her Ph.D. These young woman have the chops to make it on their own.

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