Our Daily Bleg: Happy Meal Toys


Here’s a bleg asking what happened the last time you ordered a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. I’m particularly interested in whether you were asked a toy question and how it was framed.

Here in Connecticut, when I drive through, I’m sometimes asked whether the toy is for a boy or a girl. Sometimes they ask “Do you want a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy?” Sometimes they don’t ask any toy question (because they have a one-size-fits-all toy).

Already Been Blegged

75 ThumbnailHere’s what Freakonomics readers have been blegging for lately.

How do you feel about these questions? McDonald’s has to balance giving detailed information about toy promotions that change every few weeks against the difficulties of training and wanting to keep the line moving. But the lawyer in me also notes that several states prohibit sex discrimination at public accommodations.

So what happened the last time you ordered a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s?

I’d love to hear your narrative, but, if you can, please also answer these six questions.

  1. With regard to toy choice, which comes closest to your experience:
    1. McDonald’s didn’t ask any question about toy choice.
    2. The toy-choice question didn’t mention the child’s gender (for example, “Do you want the Digisports or the Hello Kitty toy?”).
    3. McDonald’s asked whether the Happy Meal was for a boy or a girl.
    4. McDonald’s offered the choice of a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy.
    5. Other?
  2. If asked a toy-related question, how did you respond?
  3. If not asked a toy question, was it because the employee saw or heard your child and just gave what he thought was the gender-appropriate toy?
  4. What toy were you given?
  5. Was your order placed at the counter or drive through?
  6. When and where (city and state) did the transaction take place?

I’ll report back the results.


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  1. Laura says:

    People who get offended by questions such as “boy or girl?” really ought to find a more deserving target of their self righteous wrath. Political correctness aside, most boys and girls do have preferences when it comes to toys. (Thirty-plus years of crusading against Barbie and GI Joe has done little to change this). The “boy or girl?” question isn’t meant to put down boys or girls who don’t like typical toys for boys or girls. It is merely a shorthand way of saying, “do you want a toy that is preferred by most girls or ones that are preferred by most boys?”

    Going way back in this thread, I also disagree that boy toys are better because they are more “interactive” –i.e. they are noisier, have more flashing lights or moving parts. The dolls and stuffed animals that many girls prefer are actually more conductive to play that requires children to use their imaginations.

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  2. MyParenTime.com says:

    This is very interesting. We posted the following online back in 2001 — http://www.myparentime.com/mcd.shtml because we were experiencing an ongoing issue with McDonald’s toys & gender issues. We no longer update this section, but apparently this problem still exists. Back then we were told by McDonald’s that the employees are not trained to ask consumers whether they want a boy or girl toy. I guess there’s been a lot of miscommunication down the line. 😉

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  3. John Grabowski says:

    What a coincidence – I just wrote about this very topic recently:


    I’ve always without exception had them ask whether the toy is for a boy or a girl.

    I have never been asked to choose between any particular brands of toys.

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  4. spackledorfed says:

    I used to go into McD’s and get Happy Meals. They would notice the boobs behind the Punisher tshirt and trucker hats and heavy piercings… and they would give me the Hello Kitty or My Little Pony toys if I didn’t specifically request the boys toy. Seriously? My style of dress didn’t tip you off that I want the matchbox cars or dragons?

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  5. Hilda Green says:

    I took my grandaughters and 21 month old great grandson to Macdonalds. We ordered McChicken Meals for us adults and Happy Meal for the baby. She wouldn’t accept the coupons I had because I had not told her about them soon enough.Then she charged me for the *toy* which I didn’t realize til we were getting up to leave She said we have to pay for the toy even though we ordered a *Happy Meal* . It is not the 91 cents but the principal of the thing . I thought the idea of the toys was to make the children happy. I mentioned this to my co-worker and she said *Listen to this , my daughter and I each ordered a *Big Mac* and they only had one meat patty on them, when she asked about it they told her she should have ordered a *Special* . I am wondering what is happening to what used to be the best!!!

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