When Girl Scout cookie season rolls around next year, troop members selling the treats door-to-door in Carmel will need a license and a criminal history report to avoid violating city code.
The Carmel City Council voted at its June 18 meeting to make several changes to its ordinance regarding door-to-door solicitors in response to updates in federal law that prevent municipalities from treating vendors from commercial entities and non-profit organizations differently.
The changes, approved 6-0, state that all door-to-door vendors seeking to make a sale must first obtain a license and pay $20 for a criminal background check. This includes Girl Scouts selling cookies or anyone else selling items to benefit a nonprofit, a category previously exempted.
City councilor Jeff Worrell said June 21 he felt the council had little choice but to vote to comply with federal law, as other communities not in compliance have faced class action lawsuits. He said the changes aren’t targeting Girl Scouts, the nonprofit group that appears to be most affected.
“If you are selling a commercial product, it doesn’t matter who you are, and that’s unfortunate,” Worrell said.
Carmel-based Girl Scout Troop 378 leader Beth Richardson is concerned about how the changes will affect her group. She said the girls only make 60 or 70 cents per box of cookies sold and that each Scout would need to sell approximately 30 boxes just to cover the criminal history check fee.
The cookie sales raise funds for Scouts to participate in STEM activities and go on camping trips, among other things.
“We’d hate to have a (deterrent) be that they have to pay for this ability to go door-to-door to sell,” she said. “There’s concern for how it’s going to impact the Troop finances and what we can do with these girls as we try to work through the Troop year.”
City officials pointed out at both June council meetings that Girl Scouts appear to be decreasing their door-to-door sales in favor of public booths and other selling methods. But that’s not the case for Troop 378, Richardson said.
“At least in my neighborhood the day (the cookies) go on sale you see Girl Scouts out all over,” she said.
Deana Potterf, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana chief communications officer, stated in an email that Scouts are embracing technology that wasn’t previously available to make sales.
“Digital Cookie provides an opportunity for girls to set up their own webpage to sell cookies to their friends and family,” Potterf said. “And girls now can take credit card payments at cookie booths in front of stores across central Indiana.”
She declined to elaborate on the official stance of the Girl Scouts organization regarding door-to-door cookie sales.
Worrell said the city could have scrapped its solicitor ordinance altogether to comply with federal law but decided against it.
“We certainly talked about that, but that means anyone could come to Carmel and knock on your door at 11 p.m. or 2 a.m.,” he said. “It could become the wild, wild west.”