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. Ken says:

    1. I was not asked any toy-related questions.
    2. N/A
    3. No, there was a gender neutral toy offering.
    4. It was a little plush dog from the Hotel for Dogs movie.
    5. Counter
    6. Austin, TX

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  2. HillbillySid says:

    1. They ask if the Happy Meal is for a girl or a boy.

    2. I tell them for a girl (if my girls want the girls’ toy) or I tell them for a boy (if my girls want the boys’ toy).

    3. We always do drive-thru so if they don’t ask, it’s because they forgot or it wasn’t a gender-specific toy.

    4. 90% of the time I get what I asked for.

    5. Drive-Thru

    6. Noblesville, IN – in the evening

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  3. James says:

    The discrimination comes from asking whether the toy is for a boy or a girl and having the server make up their mind as to which toy the child would have, rather than giving the option of the boy toy or girl toy (or naming the toys themselves), which the customer then chooses based on personal preference. You may have a 7 year old girl who only wants to play with trucks, but if they ask “is it for a boy or a girl” they will get the pink, frilly toy as opposed to the truck she would have preferred.
    We may also see an uptick in cougar activity at local McDonalds if they continue to hand out “boy toys” 😉

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  4. PetroDude says:

    We are in Houston, TX. At the particular McDonald’s we frequent, the question is not “Is the toy for a boy or a girl?”, but simply “Boy or Girl?”. On a few occassions, I have asked the question to be repeated and got “What toy do you want?”. The questions are both specific and non-specific at the same time. This is the drive through. My response to the question depends. I have all boys, but my wife will sometimes order a Happy Meal if she is not as hungry. As a gentleman, I order the girl’s toy for her. For my boys, I usually order the boy’s toy but will sometimes get the girl’s toy just to aggravate them. It’s good to be the king.

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  5. jblog says:

    Oh, and another thing — heaven help you if you get your kid the wrong toy.

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  6. sherri/the claw says:

    Yesterday I was asked this question and sort of got offended. I was asked if the meals were for boys or for girls. I have two boys but was a tad offended that if I had a daughter, the skateboarding or driving toy we received wouldn’t be something she was given. but then again, you can’t expect much from fast food in the way of gender equality. My sons probably would have loved the Hello Kitty toy as well.

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  7. Luke says:

    Are you actually feeding your children Mcdonalds? Haven’t you read anything about nutrition? I personally haven’t seen ‘supersize me’ but I thought it’s existence would have made parents a little worried about what they feed their offspring, especially with child obesity being such a problem…..
    In England it is mainly ‘chavs’ that eat mcdonalds, as our non-tabloid media warns us about health and stuff..

    If you must eat Mcdonalds, Please doN’t give your children it.

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  8. whoanellie says:

    As a former McD’s employee, I tried to use the specific name of the toy, rather asking boy or girl; you never know which one they want. If I didn’t ask, then it was either the one-toy-fits-all, or in some cases, one of the two choices is out of stock. I remember some parents insisted on the same toy, to prevent fighting over who-got-which toy, or some that wouldn’t want it at all. It wasn’t uncommon to have an adult order a happy meal for themselves, especially since the value meals include only the larger sandwiches and fries.

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