Winning the Real “Girl Scout Cookies” Lottery

By Chris Roberts |

In the cookie business, the windy stretch of Mission Street out past Silver Avenue in the Excelsior is prime real estate, Carol Lei tells me. This is her second year in a row of good luck while standing with her 14-year old daughter Danielle under the soft neon green glow of a storefront here in the dusk of a Sunday evening.

In the past two hours, Danielle sold 200 boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs — about the best and most brisk sales pace you can hope for selling Girl Scout Cookies in San Francisco, Carol says.

Like everything else in the city, selling the $5 boxes of famous baked goods is competitive. There are more cookie sellers than there are prime cookie spots. The only way to get a spot in front of a busy Safeway or hungry FiDi office drones is to win a lottery.

But if an area isn’t included in the lottery, it’s the Wild West: claim it and it’s yours. Unclaimed prime turf, however, is a rarity.

So the Leis were the first ones to make what now sounds like a common sense connection: in 2012, they were the first to try to sell Girl Scout Cookies in front of a licensed medical cannabis dispensary. And despite success — and the worldwide headlines last year after Mashable’s story on the Leis’ strategy of selling cookies outside medical cannabis dispensaries went viral — only one other Scout mother has asked about the wisdom of setting outside a pot club, and warily.

Carol Lei didn’t reassure her — in fact, she shook the competition off. “I said, ‘Find your own spot,'” she says to me, smiling, her cap embroidered with shiny, sequined letters that read “I LOVE COOKIES” and shone emerald-like in the neon glow from the illuminated cross marking longtime SF dispensary The Green Cross‘s storefront.

Nowadays in the cannabis world, “cookies” immediately brings to mind the “other” Girl Scout Cookies: the current in-strain of boutique high-shelf flowers. About a mile up Mission Street from where we stood in either direction are two dispensaries that both using the name “Cookies” in their business name.

These days, you can buy “Cookies” hats, t-shirts, grinders and accessories. Carol’s DIY-looking hat, however, was not authentic Cookies clothing, the brand pushed by local weed seller-turned rapper and businessman Berner (his Cookies family runs the club near Geneva Avenue).

As far as we knew, neither of those club have had a “real” Girl Scout Cookies sale in front of their doorsteps yet. The true Cookies-Cookies ultimate meeting of the brands has yet to go down. Other Girl Scouts, take note.

And last year’s hubbub doesn’t appear to be repeating itself. I was one of several newspeople invited out Sunday to see the Leis show that a pot club in the Excelsior is a perfectly appropriate place for a 14-year old to be after dark (with supervision, of course). I showed up ten minutes before sales ended at 6 p.m., and was told no news crews had turned out. [Update: our friends at Smell The Truth were onto it, of course, and did a story as well].

By now, this is old news, with no drama. Officials from Girl Scout Cookies of Northern California had said last year they have no qualms with a girl selling cookies in any location as long as it’s appropriate and she’s not out there alone. And Green Cross, which has not had a complaint, not even for double parking (which was serious enough to have led to the dispensary being chased from its original location on Fair Oaks near Noe Valley a few years ago), seems to be an exemplar of the theory that cannabis dispensaries do not cause crime.

Carol Lei has heard that theory before, and has reason to believe it: she met industry players like Green Cross president Kevin Reed while serving as commission secretary for the city’s short-lived Medical Cannabis Task Force. She learned first-hand that these are earnest businesspeople — and, after a member of the task force bought an armload of cookies from her following a meeting, the notion of a partnership clicked.

By the way, the goal for Girl Scouts is to sell 1,000 boxes of cookies during the month-long fundraiser. Danielle got 20 percent of the way there in two hours outside of a cannabis dispensary.

And she plans on coming back on Saturday for Valentine’s Day.

At least in this town, a kid selling cookies outside of a cannabis dispensary isn’t a big deal anymore.