Elizabeth Brinton

Elizabeth Brinton

Elizabeth Brinton (born 1971), sometimes referred to as the "Cookie Queen," holds the record for selling the most Girl Scout cookies (more than 100,000 boxes in her time as a Girl Scout). The Gold Award-winning Girl Scout was born in Fairfax, Virginia to parents Fullerton Brinton (descendent of George Brinton McClelland ) and mother Noel Chambers Brinton (cousin to Cisco CEO, John Chambers). Brinton joined her local Brownie troop in 1978 and first established her hold as a record cookie seller when she won a local Washington, D.C. contest by selling 11,200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in 1985. She went on to sell a record 18,000 boxes in one season and more than 100,000 boxes in her time as a Girl Scout. More than twenty years later, her record still has not been broken.



Cookie Years

Brinton's cookie career began at age six when she knocked on her first door, order sheet in hand. When the neighbor said, "No thank you, dear. I’ve already ordered some," Brinton chirped back, "Why don’t you eat some of mine while you wait for your other order?" The 250 boxes she sold that year started her on the road to a sales career that would end with 100,000 boxes sold and the nickname "Cookie Queen".

A year later, she abandoned the door-to-door technique and began peddling the cookies where the crowds were: at Washington, D.C. area Metro train stations. It is this "booth" method that enabled her to sell the record 11,200 boxes and win a Tandy Radio Shack home computer in her local Girl Scout cookie sales competition. Winning the contest with such high numbers started a mass media frenzy and news outlets across the country picked up the story. Brinton was invited on CBS Morning News with Phyllis George in 1985, where she was first dubbed "Cookie Queen". She was parodied on Saturday Night Live and a comic strip from Funky Winkerbean was penned about her. She continued to make news media appearances pushing for the opportunity to sell cookies to President Ronald Reagan.

After much hype and pressure from her state representatives Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA-10th District) and Senator John Warner (R- VA), Elizabeth received an invitation to the Oval Office to sell President Reagan the first box of Girl Scout Cookies that season. The sale made headlines and opened a storm of controversy as Girl Scouts across the nation complained because she had sold one day early. She made the "Capitol Offences" issue of Regardie’s magazine. Brinton sent a quick rebuttal to the magazine pointing out that she had received permission from the Girl Scout organization to sell one day early to the President.

That same year, Brinton went on to sell cookies to Vice President George Bush, Treasury Secretary James Baker, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, among other notables. Her "Cookie Queen" status garnered her invitations as a keynote speaker at sales conventions around the country, requests for interviews from media around the world, and awards from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia State Legislature, and both houses of Congress, all declaring her "Cookie Queen" and record Girl Scout cookie seller.

"Cookie Queen" became such a popular name that the U.S. Post office would routinely deliver mail addressed only "Cookie Queen" to Brinton's home in Falls Church, Virginia. Her place in trivial history was cemented when she became a question on Jeopardy! and in Trivial Pursuit.

Later years

After graduating St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia in 1990, Brinton enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania. There she earned a BA in American History. After Penn, Brinton went on to work in Public Relations and Communication for environmental organizations in the Washington, DC area. Twenty years later, the Cookie Queen is still remembered and still receives requests for interviews about her high selling record and her time in the news media spotlight.

During U.S. Chief Justice John Robert's confirmation period the Washington Post released transcripts of his private journal, including his comments on Brinton. In a memo to Fielding dated May 7, 1985, Roberts addressed the ethics of allowing a Falls Church Girl Scout to meet the president in the midst of the annual cookie drive. "Elizabeth . . . has sold some 10,000 boxes and would like to sell one to the President. The little huckster thinks the President would like the Samoas," he wrote, before concluding that he had no objection to deviating in this case from the White House's practice of avoiding "an implied endorsement" by the president.

Now living in Munich, Germany, Brinton continues to work in communications and public relations.

Sales secrets

It wasn't just hard work that enabled Brinton to sell so many cookies – although she would often work a 40 hr. week during the one month cookie season. It was the innovative method of selling that Brinton made popular. She left the time honored practice of knocking door-to-door and originated the booth method of selling, which Girl Scouts all over the country have adopted. In addition, Brinton was a believer in the hard sell. She could be heard hawking her wares at Metro stops, shopping malls, and any place where people gathered.

"I push a lot," she is quoted by the Washington Post as saying, "Sometimes they would try to sneak past you, and you look them in the eye and make them feel guilty. After all, the cookies taste good, and it's for a good cause."

One local businessman attending one of thirteen-year-old Brinton's sales speeches voiced a common skepticism to local newspaper, the Virginia Pilot. "At first my sales people were wondering what a poster-girl type Girl Scout could tell me about my job. Eight minutes later they changed their mind."

Brinton often spoke about how the keys to selling so many Girl Scout cookies could be applied to any sale. Her speech at Sandler Foods and Haynes Furniture sales convention in Virginia Beach 1985 was quoted in the "Virginia Pilot" Business Section on November 3, 1985:

For many years, I have sold a lot of Girl Scout cookies. I believe that my success can be attributed to the five basic traits of the professional seller:

Number one, set high goals Number two, sell yourself and your products Number three, know your product well and believe that your product is best. Number four, know your territory and customers

And five, accept the fact that some people will still say no

Brinton's famous quote is still used in speeches across the nation:

You’ve got to look them in the eye and make them feel guilty.

See also

External links


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