McDonald's Brings Back the Halloween Pail

McDonald’s, which for decades has elbowed its way into the lives of tens of millions of Americans, plans to make Halloween an opportunity to dig in deeper. It will use an old tactic. Management has decided to offer the Halloween Pail this month. It is a container for children to use when they collect candy on Halloween night.

The pails come in three incarnations: McBoo, McPunk’n and McGoblin. For some reason, McDonald’s management gave up on them for a few years. Perhaps it was the risk of trick or treating during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pail has been used to draw people to McDonald’s since it was first introduced in 1986.

The Halloween Pail shows how clever McDonald’s management is. They will be available at locations from October 18 to October 31. Children will beg their parents to stop at McDonald’s to get one. McDonald’s will use this to ring up food sales.

McDonald’s has utilized free toys and items for decades to draw customers. The current one is the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box. It is an almost ridiculous set of McDonald’s “collectibles.” To get one, people must buy food from the largest fast-food company in America.

No one outside McDonald’s knows the financial calculus of the Halloween Pail. Does it cost $1 for the company to buy them, or is it closer to $2? Does McDonald’s lose money if people buy a $10 meal when they get a pail, or do they have to spend $20? Or is the pail a means to get more loyal customers so McDonald’s makes money over time? Since McDonald’s has been in the “free stuff” business for so long, it almost certainly has created a system that makes money.

After Halloween, McDonald’s will need to find promotions it can offer between now and the end of the year. Perhaps this will be a Thanksgiving turkey made of plastic and a Santa Claus figure that can contain french fries.

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