PHILADELPHIA -- The Girl Scouts have found some very persuasive salespeople to push their cookies: convicted murderers.
About 25 lifers at Graterford Prison went cell to cell with their pencils and pads last month and took a record $4,615 in cookie orders from fellow convicts.
The country may be in recession, but Girl Scout cookie sales at Graterford nearly doubled this year to 1,900 boxes -- compared with last year's 1,000.
Many people think of the Girl Scout sales force as schoolgirls in crisp uniforms. But some sales people have tattoos and haven't yet won any badges. Graterford lifers have been selling Girl Scout cookies for two years -- all $7,100 in proceeds going to the Girl Scouts -- and this year the cookies are being sold at commissaries in the Bucks and Chester County Prisons.
"We're always looking at new ways to sell," said Judy McGlew, product sales manager for the Freedom Valley Girl Scout Council, whose members in Bucks, Chester and Central Montgomery Counties are sponsoring the prison sales.
Ms. McGlew said the idea came from the Graterford lifers, who saw a public service ad on television seeking groups to sell Girl Scout cookies. The lifers approached Superintendent Donald Vaughn, who approved the sale so long as inmates -- not Girl Scouts -- would be hawking the cookies.
It wasn't an easy sell. Many inmates make 40 cents an hour and have to work seven hours to buy a $2.50 box of cookies.
Still, by all accounts, the inmates ate up the cookies.
"We have been receiving nothing but compliments and praise from the customers about the quality of the cookies sold," wrote Tyrone A. Werts, president of Graterford's Lifers Inc., in a letter to the Girl Scouts.