The Toy Ploy

If your child were given a first choice between a toy and a hamburger, which one would he/she likely pick? I’d say, the toy.  If you don’t believe me, just take your child/grandchild to McDonald’s.  Let me rehash the typical scenario.

A parent drives up to the drive-thru and orders a happy meal for the child in the back seat. The voice through the muffled speaker promptly goes through the scripted questions. One of the questions- if you’re lucky - is: “Boy or girl?” If not, you’ll get something like “Poeh or keoh?” which often incites an immediate repeat request.  If the parent was unaware of the whole nature of a happy meal transaction, he/she would think that McDonald’s was being discriminatory in its services. Well, not at all. The question is based on the complimentary toy that is included in the happy meal. There’s a boy version and girl version of the toy, which is usually a promo item for a current movie or other media frenzy.

Presently, some people are suing McDonald’s for what I call “the toy ploy”. The plaintiffs claim that kids have become obese and overweight because of the seemingly subtle manipulative sales tactic of using the toy to woo the children back for more fries, more hamburgers and more high fat, high-calorie foods. The claims are aimed at the toy's role of creating addictive patterns of behavior in children.  In this case junk food addiction.

Incidentally, what about the toys in cereal boxes? How about the toys/prizes in the Cracker Jack boxes? Maybe the difference is that the former is good healthful food and the latter is ...hmmm...well, who eats cracker jacks anymore, let alone something with the word “crack” in its brand name?

By the way, the next time you watch a television commercial for a Cereal brand, be assured of finding kids in the clip. Why? Well it’s mostly kids who eat cereal. True, but there is another stealthy reason also: Kids actually have significant influence on their parents’ shopping choices, and certainly in America and other places - not Samoa, at least not during my childhood years.

Remember some typical responses when, as kids, we asked our parents for something at the store? Let me indulge you.

Ia lou guku i pa ai le po, e? (Need a slap?) E a, ua fia sasa oe? (Need a whack?) Soia, koe o kupe o o’u kuli lea e kokoe! (Stop it, I only have my patellas/kneecaps left) E ke koe fai mai loa e palasi! (One more word and you’ll get knocked over).

And all those still happened even after the perennial lectures and warnings before leaving the house not to ask for anything while at the store.  Kalofa e, ia ka ika! ...no toy ploys ...and no happy meal, just crappy meal.

Hey, but look how I turned out? (chuckle chuckle)...not so crappy, aye? ...faiga a le kama o kalo, the so-called “Samoan steroid”.  And so back then, as a Samoan kid, I surely would have picked hamburger over toy. 

By the way the plaintiffs in the case and most parents believe that the real crappy meal is McDonald's Happy Meal.  And that's the essence of the "Toy Ploy" ...or as I would prefer: "Toy Story 4".

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