This morning as I was waking up via a delicious cup of heavenly bliss (aka coffee), I decided to catch up on all the wackiness that is our world. In doing so, I came across the headline “McDonald’s faces Happy Meal lawsuit”. In a somewhat still dreamy stupor, I couldn’t help but think back to younger days when getting a Happy Meal as a kid was like winning the lottery. A free toy! I was “The Man” with my Happy Meal in hand. Nothing could go wrong that day, for I had a Happy Meal, and it was good!
As the coffee started to kick in and “adult” brain cells began colliding, I wondered what kind of schmuck would sue McDonald’s over their Happy Meals and why. It turns out that schmuck is The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI is demanding that McDonald’s discontinue offering toys in their Happy Meals because “including toys with “unhealthy junk food” is illegal under consumer protection statutes in California, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.” (http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SmartSpending/blog/page.aspx?post=1773787&_blg=1,1773787)
At the time, that sounded pretty rational. The law is the law and if you break it you should be held accountable, even if you’re McDonald’s. Since I’ve never heard of CSPI, I decided to check out their website. I’m glad I did, because things became really irrational, really quick. It turns out CSPI isn’t suing McDonald’s solely on the grounds of illegal use of toys. In an article (http://www.cspinet.org/new/201006221.html) on the organization’s web site, CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner explained:
“McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”
Well, so much for legalities. Clearly someone is pushing their own agenda through their non-profit. There’s nothing wrong with that, isn’t that what a non-profit is for in the first place? However, it’s the manner in which CSPI is trying to garner support, as well as misplacing blame, which raises my ire.
“Creepy and predatory”…what is this guy talking about? What the hell is so creepy and predatory about a toy in a box of food? Mr. Gardner, blatantly playing on every parent’s deepest fear, depicts McDonald’s as some lecherous child molester that recons playgrounds looking for their next victim. This is waaaaaay overboard, completely unnecessary, and a pretty pathetic means by CSPI to generate support for their cause.
“McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority.” Do we really need to arm those that should have never reproduced in the first place with yet another excuse for their shortcomings? The reality is no parent should allow any company to undercut their authority. They are the parent, therefore the authority. Any parent that allows a company to undercut their authority shouldn’t be parenting. CSPI’s attempt to bolster their argument with the following gem of a first person testimony only reinforces my point:
“McDonald’s makes my job as a parent more difficult,” said Sheila Nesbitt, 36, a project manager from Champlin, MN, and a parent of a six-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. “They market cheap toys that appeal to kids and it works. My kids always want to go to McDonald’s because of the toys. I try my best to educate my kids about healthy eating but it’s hard when I am competing against the allure of a new Shrek toy.”
What trailer park did they find this person in? I couldn’t agree more with Ms Nesbitt that McDonald’s makes it harder to educate her kiddos about healthy eating. However, I have a simple approach that will make Ms Nesbitt’s attempts easier. JUST SAY NO!! When your kids want to go to McDonalds, JUST SAY NO! When they pitch a fit cause they can’t get their way, JUST SAY NO! Yes, they’re probably going to hate you for not giving in, but that’s okay. You’re their parent, not their friend. There’s a difference.
Ultimately, CSPI’s attempt to lay blame in this matter is misguided. This is not an issue of big business exploitation. McDonald’s is not to blame for exploiting “young children’s developmental immaturity”. Parents who are either unable, or unwilling, to responsibly parent their children are to blame. In CSPI’s defense, CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson touches upon this aspect when he stated:
“I’m sure that industry’s defenders will blame parents for not saying ‘no’ to their children. Parents do bear much of the responsibility, but multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents’ job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising.”
Mr. Jacobson is correct in many respects. However, he misses the mark in one key point. Parents don’t bear MUCH of the responsibility for saying no to their children. Parents bear ALL of the responsibility for saying no to their children. The responsibility to choose between right and wrong, to include resisting McDonald’s slick advertising, is ALWAYS the parents. To blame anyone else when this fails is inappropriate. To sue someone else when this fails is asinine.
I’m sure that CSPI served a noble purpose upon its inception. However, it appears CSPI has gone astray in its attempt to maintain its existence. This is one time I’ll root for big business (it’s a cold day in Hell when that happens) and hope that McDonald’s doesn’t give in and remove toys from their Happy Meals. Even at 35 years of age, I enjoy being “The Man” with my Happy Meal in hand from time to time. Don’t ruin it for everyone CSPI.