Not at all surprising

In this post from last December, I wrote about the move to make kids meals healthier.

My wife predicted that the political class and the restaurants would get political props for providing healthier choices. She also predicted that people would buy fewer kids meals and just order ala carte to get the food they wanted.

This story appears to support those predictions.  As a follow-up, we have ordered many fewer Happy Meals since then, opting instead for ala carte to get more fries and to avoid the accumulation of cheap toys. And, as I mentioned then, my kid eats plenty of fruits and vegetables.

This is a lesson politicos know well. They can make it look like they are achieving great things, when they really just helped the restaurants sell other food and/or caused more packages of apples to be thrown in the trash. I wish more folks would wise up to the game.

The greatest and most skilled tricks of magicians and politicos is to divert your attention from what is really happening.

Unintended Consequences Realized?

In this post, I predicted that one unintended consequence of shrinking the fry size in a Happy Meal and including fruit — for the sake of health — would be higher sales at McDonald’s as folks would choose to order extra fries to make up for the reduced size.

McDonald’s just reported a 7.4% surge in sale in November.

Of course, its press release makes no mention of the Happy Meal change as a driver of the sales.  They claimed that the increase was caused by higher breakfast demand, the Peppermint Mocha and a McNugget promotion.

Could be.

All I know is that having contributed to press releases in the past, I know that reasons given for performance changes can be arbitrary and sometimes they can be hard even for the company analysts to decipher.

Unintended Consequences

McDonalds Happy Meal

Let Politicians Decide

My local McDonald’s recently started complying with the wishes of the political class.  Over the weekend, we purchased a Happy Meal for my kid.  It came with a reduced, 100 calorie fry packet and a bag of sliced apples.

My kid, who by the way eats fresh fruit everyday not provided by fast food companies, was mortified with the smaller fry packet.

My wife instantly understood the unintended consequences.

She said, “Well, that’s just going to cause people to spend more money.  They’ll either buy an extra or larger order of fries to make up for the fries taken out of the Happy Meal.  Or, they’ll just buy the kid’s stuff ala carte to get what they want.  No wonder McDonald’s supported it, they probably realized it will increase their sales.

Let’s review this situation.

1.  Political class deems kids meals with toys unhealthy and persuades (by threatening to legislate) companies that sell kids meals with toys to make them “healthier”.  

Result:  Voters see the political class as making a positive change.

2.  The bean counters at the companies that sell kids meals with toys run the numbers and determine there’s a good chance people will order extra stuff to make up for what’s taken away.  Companies that sell kids meals support the wishes of the political class. 

Result: Political class looks like they have done something positive and company looks like it has done something positive.

3.  After customers realize that they no longer get what they want, they purchase more to make up the difference or do without. 

Result:  Customer choice is reduced or customer cost is increased.  Many of the apples that do make it into kids meals go to waste.

On net, the political class and the company are heralded by non-vested parties for doing something positive.  Customers pay the price and continue making unhealthy food choices.

So while the political class and company reap the political benefits, the company benefits from increased sales — nobody is actually healthier.

This is the same poor logic that I pointed out in this post.  Except this time it has to do with food and health rather of housing or wealth.

Poor logic:  “People are unhealthy because the food provided by companies is unhealthy.  Let’s encourage those companies to provide healthier choices.”

Better logic:  “People are unhealthy because of the food choices they make.  Let’s encourage folks to eat healthier.”