Poppy Miller, a 12-year-old girl scout, held her mother’s oversized iPhone 6 in her small hands, punching in the letters of a UCLA student’s Venmo username.
She took orders and distributed Thin Mints and Samoas to the people who had stopped at her troop’s booth on Bruin Walk, busily working to help her new customers.
The girls sell cookies at booths from late February to early April, and 90 cents of the five dollars per box go back to the troop. UCLA alumna Amy Miller, Poppy’s mother and leader of Girl Scout Troop 495, said selling on campus is more pleasant and yields more profits than selling at a store.
The attention of potential customers has made UCLA a coveted place to run a cookie booth. Troop 355 of the greater Los Angeles area has been on a waitlist to sell at UCLA for five years, since sixth-grade scout Isabella McMahan was a Brownie, because their unit is made up of about 80 troops. They were finally able to set up their booth on Bruin Walk last week.
McMahan was hopeful her troop would sell more cookies than they had all season, even on a cold and rainy afternoon at UCLA. She said girls typically sell more boxes of cookies on campus than they would in front of a local store or school. Other troops from her district have sold up to 480 boxes in four hours at UCLA, which she said is about quadruple the average amount sold at the usual locations, such as grocery stores.
“It’s easier (to sell at UCLA) because in middle school no one really has a lot of money, but here they have jobs,” said McMahan through a toothy grin.
Students welcome the girls with open arms, Amy Miller said, relishing the nostalgia of girl scout cookie sales.
“At first, when they started selling on campus, I tried to avoid them because I’m trying to eat healthier, but I knew I would be tempted,” said Natalie Shea, a first-year business economics student. “I started seeing them more and more, and they’re really cute little girls, and I was also a girl scout when I was a kid, so I caved and bought some.”
Shea said she’s noticed the troops use the mobile payment app, Venmo, to cater to college students.
Girl Scouts often use Venmo now to make it easier to buy cookies, Amy Miller said. Another way they encourage students to purchase cookies is to inform them that a portion of their money is going back to the community through the troops’ collaboration with organizations such as homeless shelters and animal rescue.
Amy Miller said another perk of taking her troop to UCLA is showing the girls her old university campus that they can attend one day.
“I like walking around and showing them the sculpture garden, and just getting them excited about college and education,” Amy Miller said.
She said it is encouraging for the younger girls to be able to look up to engaging young adults who support their endeavors.
“The students that come here are really great. They come from all over the world, they’re really down to earth, they usually stop and talk to the girls and encourage them,” Amy Miller said, smiling as she watched her daughter carefully describe the cookie varieties to a student.
Last year, Poppy Miller met a UCLA student who was a former scout.
The student said that her gold award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, was what helped her get into UCLA. That motivated Poppy Miller to work hard and aim high in scouts and school. She lists UCLA as a school she could see herself attending to study to become a teacher.
The girls learn independence through managing their money, time and effort – something that college students are discovering for themselves, Amy Miller said.
Behind her cookie sales booth on Bruin Walk, Poppy Miller looked up at Kerckhoff Hall and smiled at passing students.
“This is one of our favorite spots to booth because the students are so happy to see us,“ Amy Miller said. “It’s just a really nice, welcoming experience for the kids.”