What Halloween Taught Me About Economics

3 min read

This is the third year that Jimmy Kimmel encouraged parents to torment their unsuspecting, innocent, sticky-fingered children by pretending the parents ate all the kids’ Halloween candy. These candy-nappers film the interaction as they break the news to their presumed beloved spawn. We, the adults, are expected to laugh at the pain these helpless tykes feel at the shocking and unexpected loss of their sugar haul.

“That’s not a very kind thing to doooooo,” one sweet boy wailed at his candy-napping parent.

No, kid, it’s not kind. It’s not funny. I feel your pain.

I grew up during the “How Halloween Candy is Killing Your Kids – Film at 11!” hysteria of the 80s. Panic-inducing reports warned concerned parents to check their kid’s Halloween candy collection for razors and other non-treat items. Nefarious derelicts were out to poison your children one tainted Snickers bar at a time, the news warned.

Dutifully, after trick-or-treating I’d turn over my hard-earned candy – hard-earned through amped up cuteness and that trick adults love: politeness; saying “please” and “thank you” – to my parents to inspect. Their turnaround time would be anywhere from 10-minutes to 72-hours. Those 72-hour Halloween seasons blew like exploding chunks of pumpkin.

“How could it possibly take so long to check candy for razors?” my young mind would wonder.

Some years, it seemed that when my parents returned my prized candy, the load was noticeably lighter. Um…didn’t I have more Now & Laters in this pail? Nah, I probably just thought I had more.

Trick or Treat (TV series)

The last year I trick-or-treated, I was a sophomore in high school and did it sort of ironically – at least that’s what I’d tell anyone my age who might have caught me out. Truthfully, my younger sisters were going and I wanted free candy. Besides, most adults thought I looked like a middle-schooler anyway. May as well capitalize on my baby-faced appearance.

As always, when we returned home that evening, I handed over my sack of sucrose to my parents. “I’m 15, do I really need you to check my candy? I know what a razor looks like. And, anyway, I don’t know how you can tell if something is poisonous if it’s in a wrapper.”

Yeah, I was a little bit of a know-it-all.

My plea for adult responsibility via candy-checking didn’t work. Off to my parents my candy went.

The next afternoon, when I was reunited with my candy, I felt certain I’d been ripped off. I KNOW there were Sour Patch Kids in there. I don’t mess around with my Sour Patch Kids! I confronted my parents. I was on to them.

Like a woman from Snapped who slowly poisons her husband by adding small doses of arsenic to his morning coffee, my parents had been siphoning off more and more candy from my collection over the years. This had gone on for long enough. I did the leg work. I asked politely for candy and dressed up like a fool for the amusement of grown people. I wanted what I worked for!

“Parents, I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m missing some candy.”

“Oh…,” parental stammer,” well, your sister didn’t get as much candy as you did, so we gave some of yours to her.”

WHAT?! Again, I have to share? Man sometimes I miss when I was an only child. I worked for the candy and because the little ones didn’t hustle enough, I have to give up some of mine? This is crap!

Candy Thief

My parents were candy bandits!. Photo cr: Jenn and Tony Bot, flickr.com

“And we also took a few pieces. You don’t need to eat all that sugar.”

But, I worked for this! It’s mine! I earned it!

There was no point arguing with them. They were in charge. They made the rules. The candy was gone and trying to retrieve the misappropriated goods from my little sisters was like asking for a grounding. Sigh.

The following spring, I earned my very first paycheck from my first non-lemonade stand, non-babysitting, non-chores around the house, job. I’d calculated that at 16-hours a week and $4.25 an hour, a two-week paycheck would have me living in petit baller-land in no time.

I was horrified when I saw my net pay.

“What the hell is FICA and why is it taking my money?!”

I’d known about federal taxes, but what were all these other deductions? Why does the federal government need all this money from me? I’m only 16. I just want to be able to buy a tasty chicken fried steak lunch at school, maybe get some clothes and sit around at Starbuck’s, pretending to be intellectual while drinking coffee that isn’t going to stunt my growth because I’ve already accepted I’ll be 5’1″ forever.

Now I understood why adults were always whining about paying taxes. I worked 32 hours and it seemed like half of the time I worked went to the government. For what?! If this is how much I have to work just to get this piddly little check, I’m going to have to work forever!

The thing is though, I wasn’t actually that shocked. Sure, momentarily, the government raining on my first paycheck parade with its deductions, gave me pause. However, my parents Halloween-candy pilfering and redistribution of candy-wealth to my sisters had prepared me for this moment.

Sour Patch Kids

If you value your limbs, you’ll  back away from the (sour patch) kids. Photo cr: dklimke, flickr.com

My parents taught me about the concept of the sharing the wealth through Halloween candy. My little sisters were quite content with their inflated candy stashes and my parents were right: I didn’t need all that candy anyway.

I feel for the kids whose parents pulled candy-thieving pranks on them. However, maybe they will learn something from this. Something other than, “sometimes mommy and daddy can be mean.” I still won’t take joy in their pain. Don’t be messing with people’s candy. The last time someone tried to steal my candy, bitch almost lost an arm.

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