Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lunch At McDonald's

I'm going purely out of respect. Big respect! From Reason Hit & Run:

San Francisco's ban on giving away a free toy with a child's meal containing a certain number of calories, salt, and other particulars is set to kick in tomorrow. McDonald's, the clear target of the ban, had a year to figure out a way to change its business practices. Seems like they used the time wisely, reports the SF Examiner.

The San Francisco ban on providing free toys to entice children to eat unhealthy foods goes into effect Thursday, but McDonald’s plans to comply with the law by charging 10 cents a toy for their Happy Meals and donating the money to the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House.

No worries about my austerity plan. I'm getting a Southwest Salad and unsweetened iced tea, which comes in under 500 calories. But to outmaneuver the nanny asshole bureaucrats and leave them absolutely tearing their hair out? Oh, I'll spend a fiver!


Doug said...

I can see you don't approve of the San Francisco approach; and, perhaps legal restrictions are not a good solution.

But, I guess I'd like to know:

1. Do you even see a problem in the first place with McDonalds using toys as a lure to get kids hooked on salty and fatty food; either because kids are making choices directly or because the toys induce kids to pressure their parents to make such choices? (This would, I suppose, involve an acknowledgment that eating habits formed in childhood last into adulthood and that salt and fat is habit forming.)

2. If you do recognize a problem with the practice of using toys as an inducement, what, if any, solutions to the problem do you see as appropriate? Or, is it just parents' lot to have their lives made shittier by corporate marketing departments trying to get kids to nag their parents?

Mike Kole said...

I'm a parent of a 3-yr-old and a 6-yr-old, the very target audience for these toys.

The answer to both questions is actually quite simple. I'm the parent. I never let them have a Happy Meal, thus, never let them have the toys.

A retail outlet can offer me all kinds of things, but it's up to me to make the decision. I make it. I even have resisted Coca-Cola for two weeks now. But I'm much softer with myself than I am with my kids, because I am the guardian of their health, and I do believe that choices made in youth make an impression. So, I guide them. I don't need a nanny state for that. It's my responsibility, not the state's. I will not abdicate my responsibility just because kids are given to whining from time to time.

It isn't just McDonald's that makes life potentially trying. Go to Target or Kroger's and you will find the stuff at the register designed for impulse buying. I have a rule and my kids know it well: I will never, ever buy anything at the register. Ever. So, they don't even ask. They know the answer to that question without having asked it. We don't have crazy whiny demonstrations at check out. If they want gum, they know to ask for it long before we get to the check out, and the answer is either yes or no, and that's that.

Really, I think we have a lot of soft, scared, shitty parents in this country who are far too indulgent, and far too reluctant to say 'no' to their children.

Doug said...

Fair enough. And, for my part, I have taken the opportunity to tell the kids that McDonalds is using the toys to trick them into eating food that's not healthy for them because McDonalds wants to make money that way.

They still like the toys and the food, but seem to have taken my explanation to heart and understand it as an occasional thing. They don't get bent out of shape when they ask and I say no.

As an abstract matter though, it seems like there ought to be some kind of active (as opposed to passive) resistance an individual ought to be able to take against a money-making entity that acts in a way that makes the individual's life less pleasant because doing so stands to increase the entity's profit margin. (Maybe I'll send McDonalds an invoice and see how that goes. :))

Mike Kole said...

Yeah, good luck with that invoice.

But you do have ways to make your stands. You can refuse to go to McDonald's and tell them why you do. You can blog about it. Etc. I've taken McDonald's to be one of the more responsive food outlets going. They done all kinds of things to add healthier choices (that Southwest Salad is most excellent); the playplace locations lets the kids run around in an area closed off from other diners who don't want the noise; they led the way with nutritional info on the wrappers and tray papers; use vegetable oil in the fries; etc. I think they would be more inclined to respond favorably to a large outpouring of customer sentiment against the toys, than to respond slyly to an authoritarian government that tries to simply shut them down.