Friday, June 16, 2006

Goodie Bags and the Wealth of Nations

I stood in the party favor aisle at Party City and realized that the wealth of our nation is leaking away, one goodie bag at a time. All that useless stuff. All made in China. Our balance of trade, tipping ever further into the red. What are we doing?

Before that moment, I had resented goody bags only in a personal sort of way. What busy mother doesn’t resent having to assemble the goodie bags on top of everything else she has to do to ensure that her child has the perfect birthday party? (Let’s not even get started on why mothers instead of fathers are stuck with this task.)

Last weekend, Iris and I watched a 20 year old VHS tape of The Bernstein Bears Forget Their Manners. At the end of the party, each bear was expected to take exactly one favor from the single goodie bag as they left the party. So it is not my imagination. They have upped the ante. The individual goodie bag full of multiple useless trinkets is a recent phenomenon.

When Iris and I returned from a recent birthday party, I was upset to discover that she had already broken one of her goodie bag toys on the way home. When I asked her how she could be so careless, she replied, “It’s only a goodie bag toy. They break.”

If the toys are cheap and break easily, and the kids don’t care about them, then why are we still handing them out?

I spend the bulk of my time between LA airport and LA Harbor. I had another epiphany while driving on that stretch of the I-405 freeway. All those trucks laden with shipping containers coming from the harbor freeway are full of goody bag toys. While that may be an exaggeration, one has to ask if Americans really need as many things as we have. Why else would closet organization be such a growth industry? Why are low prices so important if we already have too much stuff?

Let’s start small. It’s time for détente between mothers. Just say no to goodie bags! Our nation’s balance of trade will thank us.


  1. Anonymous10:50

    It's not just goodie bags, it's everything. It's the whole culture of consumption. I feel overwhelmed every time I walk into any store, and knowing that it's just one of millions -- does the world really need all this STUFF? Where does it all come from? Where does it all go? It's all about capitalism: Identify or create a "need," fill it, profit. Some needs are real, but very few. As for the rest, there has to be a better way.

  2. Perhaps filling the bags with only useful and/or consumable objects, rather than plastic junk, is a good compromise?

    When I was little, goodie bags typically contained candy, stickers and maybe something cute-but-useful (pencil, eraser, little notebook). Or sometimes we would make a craft at the party and that would be our goodie to take home.

    One particularly bizarre party favor involved a game where the birthday girl's dad gave out a quarter for each correct answer to a Bible quiz. I made about $3.50.

  3. I agree with you! We never had goodie bags growing up and we survived! Maybe this stems from an inability to explain to the other (non-birthday) children that it is not their birthday so they're not getting gifts???


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