Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Looking out for the Girl Scouts in frigid Fargo March 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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SHOULD WALMART ALLOW Girl Scouts inside their stores to sell cookies?

A West Fargo, N.D., man thinks the retail giant should show a little compassion and do exactly that, according to an article published Thursday in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

The sign posted in front of the West Fargo Walmart on Sunday morning.

The entry to the West Fargo Walmart, photographed on a Sunday morning in November 2012.

John Kraft raised his concerns in a newspaper ad after observing local Girl Scouts selling cookies outside of Walmart in temps that dipped near double-digits below zero with an equally brutal windchill.

A view of the 300 block on North Broadway, including signage for the Fargo Theatre, built in 1926 as a cinema and vaudeville theatre. The theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a venue for independent and foreign films, concerts, plays and more.

Downtown Fargo. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Believe me, the wind whips across the flat terrain of Fargo. In all seasons.

Last February I received this text from my 19-year-old son, a then student at North Dakota State University: This cheap Walmart hat stands zero chance against the Fargo wind. He proceeded to order a surplus Russian military cap online. His observation seems especially fitting in the current context of the Girl Scouts-Walmart controversy.

Randy snapped this photo of me upon our return home from ringing bells. One donor suggested we receive "hazard pay" for ringing on such a bitterly cold day. There's no pay; this is a volunteer opportunity.

Me, dressed to ring bells for the Salvation Army.

Several months ago, I stood outside the Faribault Walmart, ringing bells for two hours for the Salvation Army in zero degree temps. Layered in a flannel shirt, jeans, insulated coveralls and a sweatshirt with my feet tucked inside wool socks in insulated boots and my hands shoved inside fleece-lined mittens, I still shivered. So I understand the Girl Scouts’ situation. They reportedly sold cookies for six hours in the frigid cold, four hours longer than my volunteer stint.

I managed the cold by staying in constant motion and occasionally stepping inside Walmart to warm my hands under the bathroom hand dryer.

Like John Kraft in West Fargo, I wondered why my husband and I and the other volunteers ringing bells on that cold cold Minnesota day could not at least stand inside the Walmart vestibule. Company policy, we were advised. Company policy.

It seems to me that sometimes common sense should prevail over policy.


Girls and their moms peddled Girl Scout cookies in Courtland.

In March 2011, I photographed these Girl Scouts selling cookies from a truck along U.S. Highway 14 in Courtland, Minnesota. Temps hovered around 30 degrees that afternoon. Girl Scouts seem determined to sell cookies, no matter the weather.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Looking out for the Girl Scouts in frigid Fargo”

  1. I’ve never seen Girl Scouts selling cookies at Walmart, inside or outside, but the grocery stores in our area let them sell inside the vestibule.

    • Many groups sell fundraising products at our local Walmart. To Walmart’s credit, they could say “no,” so it is a positive that groups are even allowed to sell on the property. And Walmart does award grant dollars to non-profits, etc. But in brutal temps, I think groups should be allowed inside the vestibule.

      As in your community, our grocery stores also allow groups inside the vestibule to sell.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Would company policy be different if Walmart’s founder were still alive and in control?? Maybe……. In LaCrosse there are alternatives for shopping and I do choose/prefer other places. Last eve we did go to one of the Walmarts……..we were greeted by preoccupied sales help (when you could find them!) and a lot of unstocked shelves. This is a common situation there and Winona. I don’t know if elsewhere, also. Yes, they provide jobs but the company’s philosophy has so changed that it is far from a pleasant shopping experience and one that we try to avoid. The bell ringers and GS are most welcome inside all the other such stores, though. Very sad.

    • Same here. Bellringers and others are allowed inside vestibules (other than Walmart) to fundraise.

      The Walmart in Faribault is always short of checkers which usually means a long wait to pay for goods. Recently I was told by a Walmart employee that the store here will undergo updating/remodeling soon.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I used to be a huge Walmart fan but then something changed and it was just not fun to go there any more. The whole environment kind of changed for me and I rarely go to the one here in Mason City. If I do I usually do the self check out because the cashiers I encounter are distracted or something. I applaud any support of charitable organizations and am sure that they do that but the whole shopping experience there has changed for me in the past 10 years or so. Maybe it is me and I have a lower tolerance or something. 🙂

    • No, I think you’re right. The shopping experience at Walmart has changed. Not something I can really put my finger on, but…

      Walmart is the only Big Box retailer in my community of about 23,000. So Walmart doesn’t have competition so to speak. I only occasionally buy a few groceries there, although I do purchase most of my personal care and paper and cleaning products there.

  4. Jackie Says:

    Oh Walmart…. I make every effort to avoid this place and it’s just a walk from our home. Yesterday I was at Hy-vee and the little girls scouts were inside the store. Hy-vee is all about community as I’m sure many other business’s are, so that was good to see. I cannot buy more than one box of GS cookies, my boys wolf them down like there’s no tomorrow 🙂

    • Ha, you can’t buy more than one box of Girl Scout cookies.

      I truly do appreciate businesses that focus on community. Walmart does give back to the community also, but perhaps not as much as in the past??? My middle daughter was awarded a scholarship from Walmart upon her high school graduation and we were very grateful for that.

  5. And yet another reason to loathe Walmart. On the other hand, I have to wonder about the common sense of leaders and parents that would allow kids to sell cookies outside for that length of time in below 0 temps. I believe in grit but with a common sense thrown in for good measure.

  6. Thread crazy Says:

    Years ago Walmart and a lot of the larger retailers would have! Used to see the Salvation Army bell ringers standing inside the first set of doors when there was inclement weather. This year I haven’t seen any girl scouts at our Walmart; at the independent grocery store yes, but not Walmart. Maybe they stopped them here from selling – not sure. Anyway, bought my girl scout cookies from grand-daughter; yes, bought way too many I know but they sure were good!

  7. I agree that the parents need to be involved in helping the girls decide when and where to sell those cookies so that they are warm and safe. It would be nice if businesses would extend a welcome, but they don’t have to. All depends on how much those businesses would like the community to think of them as strong and welcome presences.

  8. Marilyn Says:

    To all my USA based friends who are freezing, have winter power outages, and are generally just miserable in the cold: I recommend thermolactyl underwear – I think it was developed for arctic / Mt Everest explorers needs. Checking online, in the USA you may now have to order from a catalog that ships the products from Europe. The garments last forever if you remember to always wash them in COLD WATER. And NEVER put them in the dryer. This is the stuff which got Princess Di in trouble with the royals when she recommended it by its brand name to a reporter.

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