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).

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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.


At the counter I was asked if the meal was for a boy or girl, I responded girl, and was given a Happy Meal with a Hello Kitty watch, which my 4 year-old daughter loved. This was in Waldorf, MD.

In December I wasn't asked whether the meal was for a boy or girl and was given a meal with a boy toy. I took it back to get a girl toy, which was a my little pony toy.

Sometimes if the boy toy is really cool I will say it is for a boy. My daughter while being very much a girl doesn't mind playing with trucks or cars or robots.

Shahrukh Sultan

The one thing about McDonald's I admire is that it's uniform not across the USA but also across the world. Unfortunately, that isn't always a good thing.

I've been in Pakistan for a few months, my home country, and I often take my 6 year old niece to the only McDonald's in Islamabad. You have to understand, in this part of the world, a meal from McDonald's is something for the middle to upper-class parts of society to afford, much unlike in the USA where pretty much everyone and anyone go to.

So back to your question. Each and every time I have been to the one in Islamabad with my niece, it's been obvious that she would want a female-oriented toy in her Happy Meal. Yet, each and every time, I have just been handed the little box on the tray. I have had to stop and ask the cashier about the toy inside, and his/her facial reaction has always said "Does it matter?"

My niece is very specific with demands, even for a 5 year old. I can't convince her that Alex the Lion from Madagascar is a "girl's toy". She needs something in pink or at least with long hair. The cashier is equally adamant about NOT seeing the difference. So it's almost always come out to me taking the extra minute or so to open up the Happy Meal box, checking the toy and then having another 2-3 minute conversation with the cashier to exchange the toy.

I've also come to learn that they don't even know what toy is in the box to begin with, at times.

The reason why all of this becomes hard for me to accept is because of the social norms here that typically are okay with a gender discrimination. (Understandably so at times.) So it can't be the social norms causing it. Perhaps the foreign franchise that is McDonald's is keeping up with it's western social norms, as it is with the rest of it's uniform standards.



Dude, you never use the drive-through at McDonalds.

As that Zen philosopher-poet Joe Pesci once observed, "They SCREW YOU at the drive-through."

Exactly how is it discriminatory to ask someone what their preference is, provided they'll give you whichever toy you request?

Caliban Darklock

In the Seattle area, I am usually asked whether the meal is for a boy or a girl. If I am in the restaurant with the kids, they assume Logan is a boy and Conor is a girl. He has very pretty hair.

I always check the toy to see whether it's appropriate; the Nintendo-themed toys were magnet-based, and sometimes appeared that they would be frustrating for my children. (One toy was a magnetic Mario that you navigated up a cardboard maze-wall with a magnet held on the other side. This would have driven my kids bonkers.) I try to get two different toys, if possible. Sometimes that means one of them gets a girl toy, which they don't really mind.

Jim S.

Here in Arlington, VA, they started asking the "boy toy/girl toy" question at least a year ago. I now know to include that choice in the order, so I don't get asked. Its "Happy meal, 4 pc nuggets, fries, chocolate milk, boy toy". I usually drive through, including my last visit.


are you getting paid for this advertisement ?


Divorced father (now re-married) of two sons age 6 and 8 who go to dinner each Wednesday night so I have much experience with the toy situation.

1.With regard to toy choice, which comes closest to your experience:
1. Fast food server didn't ask any question about toy choice.
The cashier could see I was standing with two boys age 6 and 8.
2.If asked a toy-related question, how did you respond? Boy. [Always ask for boy gender toy even if my sons are not with me. That's right I eat kids' meals alone- mainly because the content of a modern kids' meal duplicates the size of an original adult meal from the 1960's.]

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? Yes.

4.What toy were you given? Boy gender toy- Monster truck (it was actually Burger King that we went to).

5.Was your order placed at the counter or drive through? Always at counter.

6.When and where (city and state) did the transaction take place? Nashville, TN region

"How do you feel about these questions?"
I frankly don't give a hoot about them. My sons can start to become un-hinged if there is a really "cool" toy series in the toy shadowbox but the store has run out of them and is giving a different series out (usually leftovers) or giving a girl series out. So asking the questions is ok.

Several times I have had to exchange one of the three toys we got because it is a girl toy or it was the more girlish toy of that toy series.

When the usual McD's at which my sons and I eat has run out of boy toys and we get girl toys, I have had my sons tell me to give them to someone else. I used to live next to a single father of three girls under age 12 (yes he was a saint) so it was fairly easy to pawn off sets of three girl Happy Meal toys then.

If the girl toy is "cute" enough for an adult, several times my sons have brought one toy to their mother and I have brought one back to their step-mother. I sometimes leave the odd number out, still bagged girl-toy by the mailboxes at my apartment complex or ditch them with Goodwill donations

I remember one time we got hammered with three Bratz (?) style girl figurines which (while I enjoyed the stripper-esque presentation) were very close to being left at the table or in the garbage. Then my elder son remembered that his 12 year old female cousin loved those and that he would be seeing her the next weekend so he took the still wrapped toys home to give to her.



I really don't understand your point. I too assume that the normal procedure "without sex discrimination" would be that the wrong toy will be brought back and has to be changed. This will bring down turn time for other customers.

And where is the discrimination point? IF the customer knows the toys of the day he can answer that he wants the firetruck for his girl. Or the doll for his boy. (but some 20 years later, the doll boy might have a good lawyer who states that THIS incident had made him run havoc...) And if not, chance is that the average boy/girl will like the boy/girl toy and not the girl/boy toy...

I wonder when you will state that the question about your shoe size in a shoe shop is a discrimination...



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


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


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" ;)


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.


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

sherri/the claw

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.


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.


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.

Doug Schoemer

In the drive-thru (I like your correct-but-never-used spelling of this option), I am usually asked the question when there are 2 toy options, and since I have 2 young boys I appreciate being asked. Bratz dolls or something McDonald's considers more "girlie" usually upset my boys. I go often enough that I often even preemptively say "two Happy Meals for boys" now when I order and see two toys on the board. I also usually am given the "right" toy. When ordering inside, I guess my boys are usually at the counter (and also obviously boys), because I am never asked this question.

This in the Alexandria, VA, area, but also was the norm in upstate NY (Saratoga) where I lived until a few months ago.

Carol Lyn

#1. "Toy for a girl or boy?"
#2. "Girl"
#3. N/A
#4. A Barbie
#5. Drive-thru
#6. Amesbury, MA

A "Happy Meal" for me is if they put the meal IN the bag without leaving out one of the components! Or getting french fries that weren't cooked in the morning and left to "cool for the day "! Or the getting a straw IN the bag---nothing is more frustrating than to be driving down the road, having a drink, fumbling through the bag and realizing the girl who was flirting with one of her co-workers, had neglected to put a straw in the bag!!! Trying to drink through the perforated whole in the top and suck up the soda is a whole other story) So the "toy" part (and I have a collection of probably 1,000 un-opened Happy Meal toys--so I've been down this road A LOT) is pretty inconsequential.


They usually ask, "Is it for a boy or a girl?" Which I find troubling because "boy's toys" are always better, more interactive and from more popular carton.
What I do is to look over the toy display before I order.
Sometimes, it is for myself...


I'd have to agree with the McDs staff in Islamabad. Does it matter? When you consider the life of the very young woman (in all likelihood) in China who made it, whether it's pink or has wheels seems to pale in comparison.

Yes I'm a parent, and no I haven't been to McDs or similar in 20 years.