Friday, November 12, 2004

Unhappy Meals

I’m not really a big fan of McDonald’s. It’s nothing personal; I just prefer a double-double for a quickie burger. My kids, on the other hand... well, you know how kids love McDonald’s. So I normally wouldn’t bother casting stones against this venerable institution, but this just gets my goat (sadly, no goat/McDonald’s jokes are forthcoming).

Went through the drive-in at McDonald’s the other day with my girls to get them Happy Meals and ordered two Happy Meals. Once we got past the niceties of “burger or nuggets” and “what kind of drink do you want” I was asked the infuriating question that sparks this column: “boys or girls?”

We’re in the car, so obviously the cashier can’t see my kids – but she’s not asking me about the kids; she’s asking me about the toys. The Hot Wheels car is called the “boy’s toy” and the Barbie doll is the “Girl’s toy.”

I pointed this out to the cashier, and asked her if it wouldn’t be better to ask if I wanted a car or a doll, instead of specifying boy or girl. Needless to say, she didn’t respond. (Important note to readers: if your daughter wants a toy car with her meal, you have to ask for the “boy’s toy” or she’s getting a doll.)

Am I the only one living in the 21st century here? It is reprehensible that McDonald’s does not refer to the toys as cars and dolls (or whatever the current toy is) and phrase your choice in that way; pigeonholing a car as a boy’s toy or a doll as a girl’s toy just continues the unnecessary predetermination of likes and dislikes that we foist on kids, preventing them from exploring the possibilities that are really open to them. Now it’s what kind of toy you get at McDonald’s, but in a few years it’s what sort of job you should want to have or what you can do with your life.

My wife understands my frustration, but points out that it’s just a toy at McDonald’s and, after all, my daughters always want the dolls anyway.


IWByte said...

Point of order here: After 5 years of girl toys in the house (in my defense, by her own choice), I now have a 1 year old boy crawling around.

Again, by his own determination, he prefers the 2 barbie cars we have to any of the other toys that might be called "girlish" by a Mcdonalds-esqe vantage point.

i.e. Nature says boys prefer cars, and although I'm sure I could cause Nurture to make him prefer dolls, McDonalds may just be picking up on the market research they've done so that kids prefer happy means and want to request (force) you to go back there.

FYI, my son does have one doll of his sisters that he cuddles and holds close to him whenever we give it to him, but he passes it by while crawling to the barbie mini-van

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this was actually the cashier's fault. In the Midwest a group of McDonald's franchisees are experimenting with outsourcing the drive-through order taking in order to save money. When one drives up to the window and places an order, it's actually being processed by someone hundreds or thousands of miles away, and then by computer the order is delivered back to the restaurant.