Do you want food with that toy?


Which came first? The chicken or the chicken nuggets featuring a free toy with purchase? I can remember when all you got with a fast food meal was a packet of ketchup.

Today, you could probably get a sack of cash from behind the counter more easily than you can get a fistful of ketchup packets. The condiments are hoarded like platinum. The toys are hustled with wild abandon.

Crazed. You might think you are immune from the craze to collect fast food premiums. Perhaps you scoff at the adults who purchase 100 Happy Meals, saying “hold the pickle, the mustard, the hamburger, and the fries, and I’ll take the McBeanie Babies to go please.”

You swore you were above driving to 16 fast food joints in one morning to get the debut “collector’s glass” in the six-piece set. Then you might find yourself the adoring slave of a child who really, really wants this stuff. Then you are doomed.

My shame. My shame knows no bounds. Last year, I almost went across the counter at a hapless clerk who tried to pull a fast one on me.

Despite the fact that the “restaurant” (and I use the term loosely), displayed no less than three giant promotional posters of Disney’s Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger – posters so large they were easily visible from Mars and certainly visible to a small child quivering with anticipatory excitement – they did not actually have the toys in question.

Instead they attempted to slip us some left over 102 Dalmatian toys. As if every savvy patron didn’t know that movie was a real dog, in more ways than one.

I am a balanced, educated, seemingly rational person. However, if you promise my kid Buzz Lightyear then buddy, you better have Buzz Lightyear, that’s all I’m saying.

To this day I regularly gripe about this establishment because they immediately run out of the currently advertised item. This is very bad mojo on the mothering circuit.

Using marketing skills not seen since the “New Coke” debacle, the management appears incapable of ordering more than a half dozen of any new premium.

I speak of this offense in the same aggrieved tone one would use had I discovered they were pre-chewing the food.

Tricky. Now, just when we thought battery operated Lord of the Rings glasses were the ultimate reward, the pushers of fast food promotions discovered a new angle.

Now the individual little toys fit together to create one big giant toy! Clearly, Satan oversees their merchandising.

As a result of this ploy you don’t just need to get your hands on one little plastic Peter Pan. Now each little figure comes with part of a ship. The next piece is Captain Hook with his respective piece of the ship, and so on.

Only when you have all 6,000 or so of the pieces do you have a complete ship. Miss a week and you miss the boat. Literally.

You risk ending up with a kid possessing a fistful of useless loose parts and the sad knowledge that daddy didn’t love him enough to risk a triple bypass ingesting Happy Meals for eight weeks straight to get all the pieces.

Not free. As consumers we know that these “free” toys aren’t really free at all. They come with a terrible price.

The price of our dignity as we grovel in front of the teenage counter clerks in hopes that they will please, pretty please, let us exchange the ballerina Barbie for a Match Box car.

On a more literal level, the increasingly elaborate toys surely aren’t really “free” and the cost is undoubtedly passed on to us.

You just know that in the future a kiddie meal is going to cost $46,000. The good news? You’ll get a “free” full-sized Cadillac with every purchase. The bad news? You’ll have to put it together one piece at a time.

Steer clear. I would recommend you steer clear of the drive-thru in my neighborhood. In place of the steering wheel you need to complete your car, I just know they’ll try to stick you with a Dalmatian.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt hopes that the next give-away features cash. She welcomes comments and feedback c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.