Some questions about Trick-or-Treat participation

So, Tuesday is Halloween, and our quiet urban street will no doubt be echoing to the sounds of kids seeking candy. I wanted to ask other Dopers about setting policies for handing out treats to the kids.

The first few years i lived in the US, i was in an apartment, so trick-or-treaters never really made it onto my radar. Then, a couple of years ago, we moved into a small rowhouse in an area where there are quite a few young families. The first year, as Halloween approached, i was quite excited. It’s not something we celebrate in Australia, and the idea of handing out treats to young kids dressed in funny costumes seemed too good to pass up, so we decided to participate. We got a bunch of candy, and prepared ourselves.

For the most part, things went great. When someone knocked, we would go out with a basket and tell them to help themselves. Ninety percent of the kids were great, taking one or two mini chocolate bars or a handful of smaller candies. There was a small proportion, though, of greedy little bastards who would shove their fists in and come out with as much as they could.

These little fucks pissed me off, not because of the money (bags of chocolate and candy aren’t really that expensive), but because i had bought an amount that i thought was reasonable, and that would have been reasonable if everyone had been polite. As it was, we ran out of candy before the last kids came to the door, and had to turn some away.

Another thing that sort of pissed me off was the kids (again, usually older kids, not the toddlers) who made no effort at all to dress up, and who still wanted stuff. Sorry, but if you’re too old and too cool to dress up as a skeleton or a fairy, then you’re too old and too cool to be getting my candy. I never refused anyone, but that was what i was thinking.

So, do you Dopers set any ground rules for trick-or-treaters? Is is acceptable to have a “No costume, no candy” rule? Is it reasonable to set an age limit? Do you let the kids stick their hands in, or do you dole out the treats yourself?

Last year, rather than deal with this stuff, we just turned out the porch light, closed the curtains, and didn’t answer the door. I think i want to participate again this year. Am i just being a curmudgeon if i let these greedy and/or uncostumed kids irritate me? Should i just buy more bags of candy and suck it up? Or is it OK to lay down a few conditions?

The only ground-rule you need is to say “Don’t you look scary/beautiful. Take some candy (its Australian!). Two (or whatever) per person please. We don’t want to run out. Happy Halloween!”.

That is fine and rather standard. Like all rules, you have to be willing to back it up by force however. There should be few problems after that. You don’t need to abandon the whole holiday because you are scared to insert a wee bit of assertiveness and structure into a joyful ritual.

I hand out the stuff myself…drop it right in their bag, which I think is typical (it’s how everyone did it when I was growing up). If I have more than one type of candy, I might ask them which one they want, but I keep it away from their grubby mitts! :slight_smile:

I only answer the door during official “trick or treat” hours (most towns have them). Once it gets later, and the older kids with no costumes start coming, I turn off the lights and stop opening the door.

Have you thought of actually distributing the candy yourself? Around here at least, kids just hold their bag out and say “Trick or treat!” and expect you to put something in. That would take care of the greedy bastard problem.

As for the lazy bastard problem, I suppose you could just put a sign on your doorbell/door knocker saying “If you’re not wearing a costume, don’t bother.” or maybe something more polite. Or, if you’re good at palming things, you could just pretend like you put candy in their bag.

I agree…don’t let the kids grab, you parcel out one or two pieces. If it’s an especially cute tot or a kid with an imaginative costume, drop in more.

The code around our area seems to be if the porch light is on, they are accepting trick or treaters. If the porch light is off, go to the next house. So when you’re done handing out the candy, turn off your porch light.

Sadly, my kidlets have decided they’re too old for trick or treating, although my son does want to dress up and scare the kids that come to the door.

You can just hand the kids 1-2 bars and you are perfect liberty (if you have multiple varieties) of asking them if they want any particular type and giving them their choice. 85% of the houses I visited used to dole them out and it was pretty rare that anyone was allowed a free grab.

As someone who loves loves loves Halloween and who dressed up elaborately ever year and gave it up at the fairly reasonable age of 14, nix the concept of age and costume limits-seriously, it’s cheap Red Dye 40 and corn syrup and a fun night. People who set rules on costuming and age are extremely lame and the whole thing serves no purpose since 1/2 my dormmates used to go out in elaborate getups with their faces covered and score free candy before heading off to booze at whatever party. It’s perfectly fine to head off the candy grab so you can make sure you don’t run out-the whole snarky “justify yourself!” attitude just makes you come off crotchety and opens you up to being pranked.

My fave is the kids who straggle around at the very end…they get bags and bags of candy since my family doesn’t like to keep it in the house…score for them :).

I use to live in a six-family apartment house with a huge front yard. I took up a collection around October 15th, decorated the front yard, and stood at the front gate to give out the treats. Everybody living in the building loved it, cause they weren’t bothered by the goings-on.

My new place is in a more upscale neighborhood. Last year nobody came.

Oh, forgot to add…I really don’t care about the costumes. Some kids may be too poor to afford costumes, and I don’t want the candy around the house anyway.

And now I offer you a link to my favorite Halloween thread.

My mom would put together treat bags with a few mini pieces of candy inside and give those to the kids. Few kids would try to take more than one treat bag. I’ve never passed out candy, no kids on my street or in my old town, but I would do the same or put the candy right into the bags.

Older uncostumed “kids” piss me off but you can’t refuse them unless you want to spend the next day clearing dried corn off your lawn.

That thread is pretty damn funny.

I had considered the issue of money, and the fact that some kids mightn’t be able to afford costumes. I guess what annoyed me as much as anything was the fact that the kids without costumes tended to be older and also rather surly. They would clump up the stairs, mumble “Trick or treat” reluctantly, grab a whole bunch of stuff, and leave without even a thankyou. It was more like a Candy Collection Agency than a fun ritual.

Anyway, thanks for the comments everyone.

I think i’ll take the advice about handing the stuff out myself, and will not bother setting conditions regarding age or costumes.

Ivylass, that was priceless! Thanks for posting the link!

On the subject of uncostumed (and usually sullen) teenagers, I usually give them the skimpiest piece of candy I have, like those nasty peanut butter things, with a withering look and a condemnatory, “Don’t you think you’re a little old for this?” Puts the fear of God in them of them, no doubt… :rolleyes:

I don’t have anything particularly new to add (yet I feel compelled to post anyway. I think I have a third degree case of Straight Dopeitis). Do hand out the candy yourself (at least until you get to the end of the night. It’s actually easier for most kids, who have accessories they may be clutching, or a pillow case treat bag to hold open.

The older kids without costumes piss me off, too. Unfortunately, they’re like little guerilla terrorists. You never know which one, when pissed off, will quietly walk away and which one will decide to TP your tree or, worse, knock over some little kid and steal her candy. Best just to feed the trolls and get them out of your yard.

My son is 13, but he’s putting in more time and energy than ever into his costume, and I feel totally approving of his choice to go ToTing this year (and, of course, he’s taking his toddler sister with him, which gives him more cred.) I would never let him go out costumeless or as a “mass murderer - they look like everyone else!” :rolleyes:

If for some reason you do want to let the rugrats pick their own candy, you can easily control portions - just use a smaller bowl to scoop a few pieces from the main “stash” before you answer the door, and present that.

When people see a lot of candy they’re more likely to be greedy - or at least, that’s the hypothesis I saw the other day. There was a piece in O about researchers who’re convinced that the bulk (nyuck nyuck) of this country’s weight problem is due to portion size. Among their studies - a “taste test” in which the participants were given a 16 oz. bowl to fill, and did so using two ladles’ worth of soup. One of the team members would then bump into them, knocking the bowl to the floor and breaking it. They’d apologize, and replace the 16 oz bowl with a 32 oz bowl - and the person would now fill IT, using four ladles. It wasn’t a taste, but a portion test, and people ate as much as was available.

Not that some of those ToTers weren’t little shits, but there may well be some other factors involved.

I use a one hand rule for regular kids. All the candy you can grasp with one hand. I hand candy to the kids far to old to be there. One or two peices. I just pretend like I’m a cheap bastered to them. If they knew I was shorting them or refused them I’d be afraid of vandilism from them.

If you want to be scary I think nothing makes people run away in terror more then jumping out of the darkness reving a chainsaw.(chain off, give them plenty of space without trip hazards to flee.

For the uncostumed: I give them a single piece of candy corn. One kid called me on it one year: “That’s it?!? This sucks!” Me: “So does your costume.” I adapted this idea from a student of mine who told me that his sister saves up fast food condiments and gives those to the uncostumed. I didn’t really want a house coated in mustard and ketchup though.

Otherwise all ages are welcome; I even give candy to the adults. You’re never too old for trick or treating!

Almost forgot: saying “Trick or treat” is mandatory. Usually for my haunted houses I go for a creepy rather than scary vibe, so frequently I don’t speak at all, just pantomime. If someone just holds out their bag without saying anything, I’ll cup my hand to my ear in a “I can’t hear you” gesture.

My mom used to buy treat baggies and random bags of candy and fill them up and give one bag per kid. When my brother and I were younger, she would buy ‘good’ candy - big bars and stuff to give out to our little friends she knew. Luckily most of them were grouped all together or she’d do it on the sly so other kids didn’t feel left out. They also used to spider-web the windows and we made a scarecrow guy out of my dad’s old flannel clothes and jeans and get a plastic butcher knife and fake blood for his pumpkin head.

When I was growing up my neighborhood was full of kids and most of the houses gave out candy. Some adults would make us tell a joke or something and they’d tell us some. Some would sit on the lawn and hang out and give out candy. I remember most adults portioning out candy and dropping it in our bags. I rarely encountered a situation where you freely grab what you want except for near the end of the night where a house would leave its remaninders outside for a free-for-all.

When we got a bit older (6th grade) we went to other neighborhoods with our friends from school. One of my friends had a really awesome, nice mom and she would bake us the coolest Halloween treats and let us hang out there before we went out. Her neighborhood was the best because one family was really funny and cool and gave out all full-size candy bars (you get to pick) and packaged candied apples, etc. They really got into it, they had like 5 kids and we went to school with all of them at one point or another. Seventh grade was the last time I went. I went to the ‘rich’ neighborhoods with a bunch of friends from junior high. That was the best candy haul ever. And the decorations over there were great.

Now Halloween means getting drunk, haha. But my mom sent me a package (it came today but I missed it and UPS left a slip) and I have a feeling it’s full of candy.


This thread has been an eye-opener. As mhendo said, we don’t do Halloween in Australia, but I’ve always thought of it as a rather nice, cutesy custom, and no harm in it at all. But getting your house junked by older teenagers? Sotty if I sound like a sourpuss, but is that considered normal? Folks put up with it? I like to think of myself as a good sport, but my house is my house, and I’d be having the little toerags arrested, or at least clipping them over the ear. You just don’t do that sort of shit.

This is from Snopes on the subject of poisoned Halloween candy. Great potential in the idea, at least:

Antedating both these stories is the odd case of Helen Pfeil, a Greenlawn, N.Y. housewife who was arrested in 1964 for handing out arsenic-laced ant poison buttons as part of a self-evident Halloween joke. Annoyed that many of the trick-or-treaters were too old to be asking for free candy, she made up packages of inedible “treats” to give to the teenagers. The packages contained dog biscuits, steel wool pads and the ant buttons (which were clearly marked “Poison” and labeled with a skull and crossbones). She also took the precaution of telling the teenagers that the packages were a joke when she handed them out, and there is no record of anyone’s being harmed by her actions. Even so, the potential for harm was there so she was charged. She pled guilty to endangering children and eventually received a suspended sentence.

I have always handed out the candy myself and it doesn’t bother me a bit when older kids/teens come by without costumes. They are still kids to me, and if they want candy, I say let 'em have candy. They are still holding on to their childhoods a bit longer.

I also realize many of the older kids/teens at least in my neighborhood are going out with younger siblings so they deserve a little treat for being good big brothers and sisters.

This is the first year my 17 year old isn’t going to be going out because she’s gone off to college. She told me last night she’d much prefer to be trick-or-treating with her little sister than going to the parties out there. I wish with my whole heart I could fly her home just to spend our favorite holiday together. :frowning:

It depends on where you live… it’s either nice & cutsey, or well… not so nice.
I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. I grew up in a pretty bad neighborhood and my parents stopped letting me go trick or treating when I was in 3rd grade because they were afraid someone would put a razor blade in my candy bar.
When I got older I became one of those little bastards that vandalized the neighborhood. It wasn’t anything personal, it was just something to do, and we didn’t really cause any serious damage… mostly just smashing pumkins and toilet papering. We didn’t smash mailboxes or throw many eggs.

Now I hide in my house with the lights off to discourage kids from trick or treating, but once 10 or 11 o’clock comes around all the lights come on and I’m sitting on the porch for several hours waiting for the vandals to come around and mess with my car so i can chase them away and not have to deal with shaving cream and silly string all over my car windows in the morning, it’s a real bummer. Funny how things change in the span of 10 or 12 years…