It's Halloween time, and that means candy! You can't walk more than 10 feet without seeing something about child obesity in America, and yet no one cares at all when it comes to Halloween. It's like a modern day Hansel and Gretel, only instead of being shoved into an oven by a witch the kids are going to suffer a slow death due to heart disease and diabetes.
Don't worry, I am not going to proselytize about how you should not give out candy this year. On the contrary, I believe that if you are going to participate in Halloween, you should do it all out. One night a year, I am OK with the free flowing unrestricted distribution of the "white powder" (aka: sugar).
However, some of you will resist the pull of sweets and try to give out alternative treats. Here then are a few guidelines to help you make your Halloween decisions easier. Proceed with caution; your choice of Halloween treats should never be taken lightly
Fruit - Let me start out by stating it plain: Fruit has no place on Halloween. 364 other days of the year, sure, get healthy. But on Halloween, you should never give out apples instead of candy. Or boxes of raisins (Ewwwwww!). No kid, no child, no one, nobody, nowhere wants a piece of fruit in their Halloween bag. They can get fruit from their parents! Plus, fruit is heavy! If you're walking around from house to house all night, the last thing you want is an apple orchard in your bag.
Do you really think you are somehow inspiring change? You are not. You might be inspiring hundreds of apples to be dumped on your lawn, or hurled at other trick or treaters (not that I would know anything about that). If you really don't want to buy into the Halloween obesity machine, then go with the lesser of two evils and give out money or gift certificates. If you are going to be truly obstinate, then you can try other non-candy options: bags of Goldfish (the crackers, not the animal, though if you did give out water filled bags with little Nemos in them, I would certainly applaud your initiative), pretzels, and even non-food items like stickers or crayons. Can't say I would be too happy myself getting crayons or stickers, but I wouldn't hate you like if you gave me an apple.
Money - Overall, giving out money is a pretty poor strategy. When I was a kid, if someone gave change, the thought process was, "come on! Where's the candy!" Kids will think you were too lazy to go out and buy a few bags of candy (and they might be right). You would have to give out a decent amount of money to make them appreciate it. The rare dollar bill would elicit an, "ok, that's cool," but then you could blow through a week's paycheck in your quest to not give out candy.
There is a very interesting business lesson here. While the real value of the money you are giving out is greater than the cost of the small piece of candy, the perceived value is actually much less. You may whine and moan about how the kids should be happy that they are getting money, and that they can then use that money to buy whatever they want, but most kids won't see it that way. Most adults wouldn't see it that way either...
Lesson: Your logic is meaningless. All that matters is what the customer perceives.
Then there are the people who give pennies and nickels. I won't deign to comment on you.
Gift Certificates - Gift certificates are a safe and simple way to give stuff out. Unfortunately, they take away the immediate gratification element of Halloween. It's like when a well meaning aunt gives you a U.S. Treasury Bond on your eighth birthday - it's all very nice and practical, but you can't very well unwrap it and go play with it that day. (can you guess that this happened to me?) And now the child will have to convince his parents to let him go to McDonalds to redeem his coupon, which can more difficult than trying to convince Britney Spears to have a modicum of self-respect. Of course, once you are there you'll be tempted to buy a value meal. Talk about the fattening of America! You've gone from small pieces of candy to full blown fast-food meals. It gets worse and worse.
Toothbrushes and Floss - Hard to believe, but it happens. I would love to be inside of the head of someone who makes the decision to give out toothbrushes on Halloween. "Hey, I know! Kids are going to be eating all sorts of candy tonight, and if I give them a toothbrush then at least they won't get cavities! I am so brilliant and clever!"
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