Economics Mobile Social Networks

Girl Scout Cookies Sales In An Electronic Age (With Potholes, 2)

Part 2 of 2: Go to Part One: Girl Scout Cookies Sales In An Electronic Age (With Potholes, 1)

I learned the end of January that the Girl Scouts have entered the electronic social media space. Part one of this two-part article reviews the Girl Scout Cookie Finder, a tool that supposedly will help you discover local (by zip code) cookie sales. In this article, I review the Girl Scout Cookie Locator iPhone app. The app was built using EachScape and is credited to Little Brownie Bakers and Girl Scouts of America. It has issues, too. A lot of them.

About Those Potholes: the iPhone Cookie Locator App

Cookie booths are slated for local grocery stores and malls from February 25 to March 20. That tidbit was (and still is) missing from the app home page. However, at launch in January, one month before sales were to begin, the iPhone app “saw” only a week into the future.

iPhone App - No Results
iPhone App - No Results For Atlanta, GA
Home Screen - Girl Scout Cookie App
iPhone App Home Screen

The “Find Cookies Nearby” feature is mangled. This is the number one use case for any mobile application: “do x” based on where I am right now.

I said “no” the first time it asked if it could use my location. I wanted to use the zip code feature and thought of my action as “cancel” not “never.” However, the application won’t reset. I’ve quit and restarted the application several times, but I repeatedly get a fail message.

If the application will not allow a “not right now” click would it even allow you to change locations?

Find by zip code works but find by city and state seems mangled.

When I played with at the app a second time last week, it was working for 98036, although 98036 was not working when the app went live on January 25. However, the app still (9 Feb) returns no results for Atlanta, GA (spelled out or abbreviated) although it does return results for Seattle, WA. It will now return results for 30101 (Atlanta), although it did not do so at launch or last week. (Clearly, the app wasn’t ready for prime time when it launched.)

The application needs an “x” to clear the search field. I’m guessing that people might check the zip codes for both work and home; the app forces you to backspace in order to clear the field.

Search Failed
Search Failed
Cookie Locator Search Options
Cookie Locator Search Options

I searched my local zip code for “the next 7 days”, even though I knew that the results would be null, to see what the error message would look like.

The iPhone app provides a more useful 404-type result than the web-based Girl Scouts Cookie Finder web application, but it’s still missing basic information like sale dates. The application needs to repeatedly advise folks of the national sale dates — February 25 to March 20 — and ideally include any local derivation from those dates.

Next, I selected “all” dates because that’s the only selection that will yield results. The application default is ordered by date. However, the dominant information — the primary information for each result — is the venue. This seems a odd to me: date should be the dominant response when I search by date. Moreover, the venue name is prefixed by a number. That number, which is almost certainly a reflection of the fact that there are many Albertsons and Fred Meyer grocery stores in the database, is meaningless to the end user and should not appear in results!

iphone app - cookie location
Venue Details - Note The Unreadable Text
Cookie Locator Results - By Date
Cookie Locator Results - By Date

If I am searching by date, I want to first know dates and times of cookie sales. Optimally, this screen should highlight Fri Feb 25, 4:00pm-6:00pm (the first date and time). I would click the arrow and then see a list of the venues that have cookie sales during that time frame. The next time frame is 4:00pm-7:00pm; the next, 6:00pm-8:00pm. This is the logical ordering for date.

What happens when we follow the arrow in the default view mode?

We see what we already know (venue, date, time) and an address. There’s some text that’s not readable and three options: map the location (useful if this is not your neighborhood), share this info (shrug – Facebook, Twitter, email), or add it to calendar (good reminder option).

What is the hidden text? It’s something pretty important:

Please note, Girl Scout Cookie booth sales are volunteer led and subject to change.

This disclaimer is missing on every venue where the venue name takes two lines.

This issue with information readability makes that unnecessary numeric identifier even more important — it should not be visible. It’s clutter! However, there are at least three other things that can be done to make this disclaimer visible. First, use the same type size as on the initial screen. Second, remove the space between the address and the date/time line; changing font size make it clear that the information is different. Third, move the three function buttons closer to the bottom of the screen.

iphone app location
iPhone App : Sort By Location
iphone app proximity
iPhone App : Sort By Proximity

The app has two other “sort” options: proximity and location name. Remember, this dataset is everything in the 98036 zip code.

The important information in proximity is location, not date or time of sales. Venues are listed by how close they are to the center of the zip code.

The best proximity view would be a map with locations highlighted. Clicking a location would take you to the schedule for that location. The second best view would be a list of locations (without those numbers that appear before the name). We would then follow an arrow to see the schedule for that location.

However, the proximity view that we get is a very long list of locations — an entry for every scheduled sales time! How many different locations are there in Lynnwood? There is no easy way to figure that out with this application. (Yes, the app is moderately hamstrung by the fact that I have to select “all” venues but many venues have more than one scheduled sales booth per day.)

Moreover, location should be the “meta” location: it should be Albertsons, not Albertsons north door and Albertsons south door. Those door locations are important, especially if the schedules are different, but they are not important at this step.

This set of criticisms holds for the “sort by location” view, where the venues are listed in alphabetical order, with the optimal view being a list by venue (meta) name. But a map view could be a second option.

The remainder of the app has nothing to do with finding cookies. There’s a useful description of all the cookies, along with nutritional information. However, every Council doesn’t sell every cookie, so this could also lead to disappointment. The “cookie personality” is a bit boring. The “alert” is the offer of a two-times-per-week email to remind you about upcoming cookie sales.

Both the web app and the iPhone app have clear shortcomings but are valiant first steps. They reflect quite a change from 1912, when Juliet Gordon Low held the first Girl Scout meeting in Savannah, GA. According to, the first cookie sale was in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where cookies were first sold in December 1917 “in the high school cafeteria as a service project.” That’s a pretty tight social network, very geography-based!

With or without the assistance of these two applications, I’ll be heading to my local Albertson’s later this month, where I normally feed my craving. How about you?

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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