In the grand coke-babies tradition of bringing you holiday articles when all the retail stores have their holiday merchandise 75% off, I am presenting a guide on what to give trick-or-treaters. In all fairness, this time there is a very good reason for the belated topic of the coverage. I will put Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July (which I completely forgot to do this year), and other holiday articles up late for a variety of reasons (all of those reasons being laziness). This time, however, is the result of my post-Halloween discussion with co-workers.
And by "discussion with co-workers", I mean "sitting by myself overhearing two mothers discussing what their children got on Halloween, then giving my uninvited, mildly abrasive opinion, despite never having talked to them before".
The main topic was the idea of giving out non-candy items. These women were under the delusion that, at a certain point, kids don't want any more candy. Huh? Now, I am trying to be rational about this concept, so I will merely say that any child that complains they are being given too much candy on Halloween needs to be thrown down a flight of stairs.
Kids should be out getting candy on Halloween from the minute they are let out of school until the minute it is technically November 1st. That may sound late, but it is perfectly reasonable. This time of year, people are still used to being up at midnight watching the 4th inning of a World Series game. My dad used to have me out in other towns, maximizing my candy gathering potential. I would have my pumpkin, he would be carrying the pillow case filled the rest of the candy I had gotten. And when that pillow case was full, we left it in the car and got another one. The other great part about trick or treating late is that by that time of night, people figure they're not going to get anyone else at their house, so they would often times give me all the candy they had left.
So when a kid is saying they would prefer something besides candy on Halloween, I take personal offense. The only excuse one can use for this line of thinking is if they are diabetic. In that case, yeah Halloween probably isn't as fun. In which case, I would recommend trick or treating anyway, and when the person goes to give you candy, tell them that you are diabetic. They will undoubtedly feel bad for your situation, and also slightly guilty for almost giving you candy, that they will look around for anything else they can possibly give you: dollar bills, entire boxes of Ritz crackers, cans of diet soda, whatever is around. If you follow this routine, you will wind up with the most interesting Halloween haul ever.
Do not try this routine if you are not actually diabetic. You will go to hell where you will spend the rest of eternity having your crotch stomped on by the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. And yes, the Budweiser Clydesdales are going to hell. For encouraging ponies to drink.
Since apparently there are all of these stupid children running around complaining about getting candy on Halloween, I have compiled a guide to what non-candy related Halloween items are and aren't acceptable to give out. I have mentioned a couple of these already in previous Halloween articles, but they are even more relevant to this topic.
(Also including all types of chips under the Potato umbrella: Doritos, Bugles, etc.)
Bags of chips do not approach full size candy bars when it comes to the "size matters" aspect of Halloween. However, their puffed up bags as well as their uniqueness on Halloween bring bags of chips to a very high level of non-candy desirability. And of course I am referring to the little bags of chips that normally go in lunch boxes. If you are trying to cram a "Party Size" bag of Cool Ranch Doritos into someone's pumpkin, then you have reached an almost unparalleled level of awesomeness.
Estimated Success Rate: 93%
I personally have no problems with raisins. I enjoy them, although I would never actively seek them out; also, they are always the weakest link in trail mix. Actually that's not true, dried pineapple is. How they manage to turn something as amazing as pineapple chunks into weird little lumps of failure is almost a miracle in itself.
There's just something about those little boxes of raisins that brings about an aura of overwhelming depression. I think what it boils down to is that greasy residue left on the inside of the box after you're finished ruins any enjoyment you may have already gotten. Also, the box can easily be opened and closed, so they definitely have a "probably poisoned" vibe.
I've never seen them, but if Craisins come in little boxes, that is definitely acceptable. Craisins are awesome.
Estimated success rate: 16%
After discussing raisins, we now come to the other stereotypical "bad" Halloween treat: pennies. Many (old) people argue that pennies are good because they have value and if you have enough giving them out they will add up to a significant amount. This is true. However, the amount of pennies you would need to collect in order to obtain any value of interest is far too great. You will be weighing their little arms down, limiting their ability to carry heavy pumpkins long into the night.
On the other hand, any other coin is acceptable. While a kid isn't likely to be too enthralled with a nickel, at least its value to weight ratio is much higher than a penny. Silver coins will also add up much faster than pennies (shocking mathematics!), so while getting silver change isn't as fun as candy, it can result in a dedicated trick-or-treater coming away with some decent money. Which they will use to buy more candy.
Worst of all are people who pass foreign coins off on innocent children. If karma exists, people who do that deserve to wake up November 1st with a pumpkin through their car's windshield.
Estimated success rate (Pennies): 6%
Estimated success rate (Silver Coins): 88%
Acceptable?: Varies, usually no
I'm not even going to touch the subject of religion here, except in the capacity of how it can hinder people's ability to give out good candy. I have absolutely nothing against the principle of giving out something like this. This is a passive way of preaching and sharing religious beliefs, which is a lot better than people going door to door, or coming up to you at other places and making you uncomfortable. And yes, parents might not want their children reading this for whatever reason. If you don't like your kid getting something like this then just throw it out, no harm no foul.
I am assuming the amount of people who have converted to a religion based on a pamphlet in their pumpkin is in the zero range. Even still, lots of people still give out religious materials every year, and that's cool. If I am trick-or-treating and you give me a Butterfinger and a "Don't get Tricked by Satan, the Real Treat is Jesus" booklet, no matter what happens with the booklet I still got a Butterfinger out of the deal, so I'm happy. The problem is the people who give out only the reading material. That is definitely the wrong way to make your religion look appealing. You are going to make that kid go home and sit in a pentagram made of candles while wearing a goat skull just to spite your candy stinginess.
Worse yet are the houses that post signs reading "NO CANDY HERE - We do not celebrate Satan's holiday", or something to that effect. When I was in grammar school, my family was very religious, in the weird way. Even still, we trick-or-treated and gave out candy. People who put up signs like that are the type of people who won't let their kids have Easter baskets because the Easter Bunny displays no signs of stigmata.
Estimated success rate (Religious materials with no candy): 0%
Estimated success rate (Religious materials with no candy, but the religious materials are those little black and white Jack Chick tracts that are actually pretty cool because they are really scary for a kid to read since they're all about people left on Earth after the rapture, and all they do is cry and murder each other): 30%
Estimated success rate (Religious material plus candy): 40% (can be more successful based on type of candy)
Estimated success rate (Scary religious comics plus candy): 80%
Getting the little coupons for a free small fries or free cone does have an aura of coolness about it. However, the amount of effort plus the likelihood of losing it far outweighs the small benefit of a miracle occurring and it actually gets redeemed. I would get about two or three of these every Halloween, and saying that I redeemed them once would a high estimation. That doesn't say a lot about my follow up, admittedly, but almost everyone else is in the same boat as this.
Who even wants an ice cream cone from McDonald's? They're terrible. And while the fries may be enjoyable, the small size comes in those gross wax paper bags soaked in grease and sadness. You need at least a medium to promote yourself to the sturdier, more triumphant cardboard fry container. I don't know what else was offered on their gift certificates, possibly those stupid cookies. There isn't anything inherently wrong with the cookies themselves, I guess; they just have no purpose. If you're going to eat unhealthy foods at McDonald's, why bother with hard, bland cookies? Bump up those fat and salt quantities, upgrade your order to become a true detriment to your health.
Plus, the cookie bags are covered with McDonaldland characters, and that is a real hit or miss situation. While McDonald's does have many enjoyable mascots (Grimace, Hamburglar, and Mayor McCheese), their horrifying cohorts ruin any enjoyment you could hope to obtain from them. There is the truly frightening Ronald, the creepy Fry Guys, and Birdy, who is just a terrible, terrible character.
In defense of Halloween-time McDonald's, they have done a lot of great things during the holiday. They had their usually cool Happy Meal toys; and while these tended to be a character in a costume, it was worth it for the possibility of getting Grimace. Sometimes there would be McNuggets in costumes, which led to a pretty gross McDonald's commercial where Ronald was hanging out with the McNuggets, and then dipped them in sauce and ate them.
Best of all was when the Happy Meals came in pumpkins. They started out with a plain pumpkin design, although they came in a variety of emotions, including happy, scared, and villainous. Later on, they introduced two new designs along with the pumpkin, a ghost and a witch. Even later on, they made the ghost glow in the dark. These pumpkins were very small, so their usefulness definitely came into question, but they were cool enough to get away with being essentially useless for transporting candy.
While I always went with the standard non-McDonald's round orange pumpkin, I always appreciated other people's use of the variations. My old neighbors had a truly awesome green pumpkin shaped like Frankenstein's head. And when you saw people walking around with the McDonald's pumpkin, you knew it. And you knew it was awesome.
Unfortunately, the greatness of McDonald's Halloween past does not excuse the lameness of giving away gift certificates.
Estimated success rate: 15%
While I am not a fan of giving away trinkets on Halloween, there are exceptions. Spider rings and vampire teeth get a pass, because they are awesome and are Halloween classics.
This year, I saw bags of little plastic Darth Vader helmets filled with candy at Target. This is truly great because it is a good toy, it has candy, and most importantly, it's Darth Vader's helmet. The kid wins either way, because even if they don't want any candy, they still get the amazing helmet. Giving these out will elevate you to one of the best houses on a child's route. You will be elevated to the echelon of houses that give away amazing things. You will be brushing shoulders with the legendary houses who give away full size candy bars, or those who decorate their yards to a borderline psychotic level. You will join the Halloween elite.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who give a way a lot of bad things. Do not be one of those people who distributes Halloween stickers, a bookmark that says "Happy Halloween!", anything involving Halloween safety, or, God forbid, one of those little plastic pinball games where you pull the lever back and it falls off because it is a piece of crap and is terrible. What am I going to do with these Halloween toys? It's Halloween tonight, the shelf life is done, over. I can't use these things tomorrow because it is no longer Halloween. Spider rings and vampire teeth can still be used because they are good year round. Darth Vader helmets? Always useful. When I'm reading a book in November, I don't want it to say "Happy Halloween!", because all it will do is depress me when it reminds me of all the stupid people who gave me junk like this.
Estimated success rate (spider rings or vampire teeth): 75%
Estimated success rate (other Halloween trinkets): 20%
Estimated success rate (Darth Vader helmets): 98%
My brother Eric got this in his pumpkin a few years back. As shockingly terrible as this is, making matters worse is that it was accompanied by nothing else. All he was giving out to children were advertisements for the business he ran out of his house. I mean, it was a legitimate practice, not some basement torture chamber. Putting a folded up piece of paper and nothing else in kids' pumpkins probably raised some suspicions amongst them. They most likely assumed it was some strange gift certificate to a local business, since it was far too large to be a McDonald's one.
Not only is this cruel taunting on innocent children bad enough, another one of its flagrant offenses is making a bad pun, then immediately explaining it. I'm also not a fan of the passive-aggressive threats that the children must get their spines checked. Granted, the guy is a chiropractor, and saying "their back" doesn't sound too clinical. However, for some reason something just sounds frightening about saying "their spines". It makes the guy sound like Sub Zero.
For all I know, a scoliosis screening could cost $500, and he is offering to do it for free, which is a tremendous gift. I don't care. It's Halloween, if you can't make with the candy, you better offer something better than that.
Estimated success rate: 0%
Estimated success rate of this inspiring kids to egg your house and/or prank phone call you during business hours: 70%
Hopefully, this handy guide will help you make wiser decisions if you decide to go down the (wrong) path of giving away alternatives to candy. As a final word of advice: every kid always winds up with five thousand Snickers bars every year. Stop giving them away.
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