The Girl Scouts are diving into the digital age to make it easier for you to get your fix of Thin Mints, Thanks-A-Lots and Caramel deLites.
For the first time, this fall Girl Scout troops here are using readers that attach to smartphones and tablet computers to accept credit card payments for their cookies.
“We jumped on it right away,” said Stephanie Miller, troop leader of Troop 714 in Cheektowaga, which has Daisies and Brownies in kindergarten, first, second and third grades and began using a Sage Mobile Payments reader this month.
One hundred fifty troops from the Girl Scouts of Western New York have signed up to use the card readers, and leaders say they hope the devices will boost cookie sales by offering prospective customers another way to pay for their cookies.
Local Girl Scout officials also say deploying the new sales technology allows them to meet the older girls on their own, high-tech level and to introduce the younger girls to modern means of conducting business.
“Our girls are very technology-savvy, and it’s important for us to be where the girls are,” said Cindy L. Odom, chief executive officer of the Western New York Council of Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts have embraced technology. In addition to the readers, the Girl Scouts have introduced a searchable database on their website and GPS-based smartphone apps to help people find the closest place where they can buy boxes of their favorite cookies.
Scout leaders said the use of the credit card readers fits with the overall goal of the cookie-selling program, which is meant to boost the girls’ financial literacy, business acumen and goal-setting.
The national Girl Scouts introduced the Sage credit card readers last year, though troops in the Western New York council didn’t take part in the program at first. The readers are similar to those used in a wide variety of business transactions where the seller has access to a smartphone but not a dedicated credit card terminal or reader.
Odom said she became interested in trying out the credit card readers after hearing from leaders in other councils that cookie sales rose by 15 percent for troops that used the Sage readers. Previously, cookie buyers here had to pay with cash or personal check.
“It presents more options for the buyers,” Odom said.
The Sage mobile payment devices attach to smartphones or tablets and are linked to an application installed on the phone or tablet. Local troops decided on their own whether to request a Sage reader, which costs $20.
The user enters the value of the transaction, runs the card through the reader and has the buyer sign his or her name on the screen with a finger. Buyers can ask to have a receipt emailed to them and the troop leader receives emailed records of each transaction.
The readers accept Mastercard, Visa and Discover but not debit cards. The local council covers the 2.1 percent fee charged for each transaction, and the money is deposited in the troop’s bank account within two or three business days.
Of the 2,000 Girl Scout troops in the nine-county Western New York council, 1,378 are selling cookies this fall and 150 are using the readers to help boost sales. Miller thinks that will change.
“As of next year, this will really take hold – they’ll know about it,” Miller said.