Toy invasion
When did we start to have toys with every meal? Remember when toys were rare, almost always just appearing at birthdays and Christmas?
Then along came Cracker Jack. I’ll bet there was someone in the “hook ‘em with the toy” business before Cracker Jack, but they were the first ones I knew about (it started in 1912, you can read about it here).
Remember when Cracker Jack used to put in actual toys? Not rub on tattoos, and weird optical illusions, but cool decoder rings and little figurines? Then all the cereal companies figured out that it’s the kids who close the deal between the flakes and o’s and started stuffing in the toys. Sure, it was a toy that had to last you an entire month worth of cereal, but it was so worth it.
Then they created the “happy” meal. That’s when the wheels came off the wagon in my mind. Now there’s no end in sight. In fact, I suspect that entire fast food chains would collapse into their own grease traps if the happy meal toys were removed by some well meaning, but clueless government regulator who was trying to reduce the size of landfills.
Those toys have magically transformed the least appetizing food into something worth an hour of whining in our house. The begging gets intense as we come within the gravitational pull of the fast food restaurant and before you know it, the car is filled with French fries, something that is inexplicably referred to as “chicken,” and molded bits of plastic. All of which end up in the trash in 20 minutes, only partially eaten and nominally played with.
It’s like a fish taking the bait, then spitting out the worm once it’s in the boat.
After I recently cleared out 6,452 stuffed animals in my daughters’ room, I uncovered a half dozen unopened happy meal toys. As I tossed them in the trash, I briefly wondered if there was a market for these things.
Of course there is! On the online auction site. Once again I’ve be throwing away my children’s college fund education because of a misguided need to “straighten up.”
Thankfully, there are a few second tier fast food places trying to rise above the rubble. In our last trip we scored a Russian language CD. We still can’t say hello in Russian, although we did discover that godzilla (or something that sounds remarkably like godzilla) means “good afternoon.”
I think. Or was it “fries, please”?