#960 Strategic trick-or-treating

Breaking many rules

[digg=http://digg.com/arts_culture/Awesome_Thing_960_Strategic_trick_or_treating] Trick-or-treating ain’t no game.

No, it’s a life lesson in goal-setting, planning, and tactical execution. Kids who master trick-or-treating go on to become successful world leaders. Kids who don’t could possibly also do the same, but with less chocolate to show for it. The point is that chocolate is delicious, and you should fill your pillowcase with as much of it as possible. You just have to master the 4 Rules Of Strategic Trick-Or-Treating first:

4. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. In terms of where to go trick-or-treating, there’s always a lot of chatter about getting a drive over to the rich neighborhood for the big score. People would have you believe that the rich enjoy lavishing children with unopened boxes of twinkies and full cases of root beer. But that’s a lie! Rich people got rich by being cheap and their massive front yards will just slow you down. That’s right, you’ll be navigating wrought-iron fences, duck-shaped hedges, and koi ponds instead of ringing doorbells. Instead, aim for the new neighborhood with little kids and the all-important densely packed homes.

3. Dress for success. Trick-or-treating is a race against the clock, so set yourself up for success by wearing running shoes and avoiding masks that affect your visibility. No ballet slippers, high heels, or sandals. No robes, capes, or togas. And none of those cheap plastic masks from the dollar store that attach with a thin elastic and a couple of staples. Basically, keep simplifying your costume and then timing yourself running up and down the basement stairs until you’ve found a winner. If in doubt, go as Carl Lewis.

If she can run, probably a good partner. Just upgrade the shoes.

2. Partner up. It will be tempting to form a trick-or-treating posse and move from door to door as one big, shifty amoeba of fluorescent tape and facepaint. Resist that temptation. The amoeba will cause two problems: first, the group will travel at the speed of the slowest member. That means one kid with flat feet and asthma ruins everyone’s night. Secondly, a big group triggers the rationing instinct in the person handing out candy. They become overwhelmed and default to the “One for you, one for you” candy-for-everyone technique. You don’t want that. So instead, you need to pick one partner. Qualifications for that lucky someone include a low resting heart rate, winning smile, and really cute costume. The last one is key. The costume must trigger the “Aren’t you adorable!” reflex, which inspires extra candy. The gold standard here is a fit toddler in a ladybug costume with new Reeboks.

1. Timing is everything. The last rule is all about the three key stages of Halloween candy collecting. Times may vary depending where you’re from, but they go something like this:

  • The 4 – 6pm Start Up: You must be very active and running around here, before the street gets too busy. This is your time to hit the houses at the peak of their inventory levels, when they may hand out more because of excess supply or poor foresight.
  • The 6 – 7pm Rest Up: This is when the streets are their busiest. Don’t get caught in other people’s amoebas. Now’s the time to go home and dump out the pillowcase and refresh the face paint. Also, it’s a good time to hit your local fast-food joints. McDonald’s is usually pretty generous.
  • Late night scrapsThe 7 – 9pm Clean Up: Now it’s all about picking up the scraps. Some houses will be left with too much candy and they’ll start giving handfuls instead of fingerfuls. Others will feel guilty about running out and start handing out creative treats from their kitchen like cups of pudding or boxes of Jello powder. The Clean Up stage is a real test of your cardio fitness levels, as many houses will have turned out their lights by now, forcing you to zig-zag the street in search of the remaining bounty.

Now that you’ve got a game plan, just remember to keep it clean out there. Under cover of night and camouflage facepaint some folks venture into the murky trick-or-treating ethical gray zone. Stay away from these folks, because while they’re telling people it’s their birthday too, collecting a second bag for a ‘sick sibling at home’, or body-checking toddlers into bushes on their way up the walk, you can rest knowing that you came out to play by the rules.

And you won.


Go for gold, just like Carl Lewis

Pictures from: here, here, and here

112 thoughts on “#960 Strategic trick-or-treating

  1. Now that I have two trick or treaters at my house, I have begun the game anew! I recognize the above strategies from my own successful T-or-T career, oh so long ago. The luck of my son is that his birthday is 2 days before Halloween so the neighbors who know that pile it on!

    1. Aw, I hate those houses; you know, the ones that give out the crappy things like pennies, sweet tarts, and mini toothpastes. The stuff you mentioned is pretty high on my list of crappy Halloween candy.

      1. I love SweetTarts, but, here’s my shitty candy list.
        – Apples
        – Pencils
        – Toothbrushes
        – Sticky candies that get caught in your teeth (some are great, like caramel cubes, some are meh, like Laffy Taffy, some are flat-out miserable)
        – Candy corn. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em, but something is just weak about handing out factory-sealed plastic baggies of them. Leave them in the office treat bowl. If you’re giving out tiny candies, try Nerds or Reese’s Pieces. Not these sugary sweets that just end up making your sugar hangover 10 times worse.
        – A single caramel cube. CARAMEL CUBES MUST BE JUST AN ADDON TO ANOTHER CARAMEL CUBE OR CANDY. If you give me just one, I’ll take it because they’re ridiculously tasty. But you’re going to wake up and there’ll be a tiny gourd missing from your porch, and an electric tea candle from your flashy pumpkin lawn display.
        – Raisins. RAISINS?!

    2. Yeesh! If I find somebody like that, I’ll keep the apple (foody food! just cut it up first) and secretly throw the toothbrush either into their prize garden or to their dog.

  2. LOL this was great!

    When I was a kid I had the route down to a science. I could start my route from our neighbor to the left of us and the last house would be the neighbor on the right. And the house to hit was the old guy who worked for Frito-Lay. He always gave out bags of popcorn, chips, cornchips and so on. And if anyone dared to speak of tp’ing or egging his house, they were dead meat!

  3. We used to go to the neighborhood with all the townhouses and condos. More doors, less walking. Go to 4 or 5 or 6 complexes for maximum benefit with minimal effort.

  4. Ah…the memories. I think my best buddy and I lived every one of those rules without actually thinking about them when we were kids. We used to haul in at least 2 pillow cases full of candy every Halloween.

  5. Two words define my yearly record Halloween loot, as many pillow cases of candy as I could carry: Trailer Parks

  6. You missed the most important selection of all.

    The candy bag.

    It’s vital not to hit the streets with a cheap plastic Jack-o-Lantern and think you’re going to be successful. NO! Lets break it down.

    1) You’ve got to get something with handles. Nobody likes the wrist cramping from trying to hold a sack together.

    2) VOLUME. Make sure that whatever you pick can last as long as the treads on your shoes

    3) Durability. If you’re not at the top of the food chain, make sure your loot bag can handle a toss over a fence before you jump it.

    1. Candy Bag Tips
      1) Size. This thing better be a pillowcase or bigger. Don’t use a bucket, wheelbarrow, etc. or they’ll think you’re greedy and give you less candy. But, a wheelbarrow or wagon is great for overflowing bags of candy.
      2) Durability. Pillowcases are good, but giant plastic bags look greedy and rip badly. A small 10 quart pail holds approximately 9.5 pounds. That’s far less than this guide will get you. A full-sized round paper grocery sack held 885 pieces, or a whopping 25 pounds. It’s weak, though. A pillowcase, the main event, held a giant aspiration for all trick-or-treaters, a massive stash of 1690 pieces, a candy feast! And that’s before you even start shaking the pillowcase to lower the candy level to fit more! It weighs an amazing-wait for it-47.75 pounds! Get out all of your soccer mom’s old dumbbells until you hit about 47-48 pounds. Lift the bag and practice running around. Does the bag rip or fray? Do you tire out? Get a more durable bag and maybe a cart to carry it on. Assuming a 50% success rate and 2.5 pieces of candy per house, you would have to visit about 1352 houses to fill a pillowcase or 540 houses to fill a 5 gallon bucket. That’s easily 2-3 hours. I suggest bringing snacks in your candy bag carry cart/s (if you’re going with a friend or two, you’ll need a few) that isn’t sugary, something like an apple or a juice box, to keep you alert and not starved, but leave some room for the sugar high.

  7. As well as Frank’s well thought out bag considerations I remember one more. My older brother, when he was probably getting a little old for trick-or-treating would come home after a while and change up costumes, usually to something like a sheet over his head (easy). That way he could go and hit all the same houses one more time without having to go to another neighborhood. Brilliant!

  8. The kids across the street from me got a very inventive idea, go trick or treating again the day after Halloween. Sounds like a bad idea right? Well they raked in the candy, everyone was getting rid of their leftovers (most houses turn out the light at 8pm whether or not they ran out of candy). They had the balls to really come home with a good haul.

    1. More like 9:30. If you have the balls, trick-or-treat until 9:30 or 10. People leave out leftovers as take one bowls an often will dump out more candy to kids when the fewest kids are out.

  9. Wow. This brought back memories. The pillowcase is crucial. Everything else has the potential to break and then your candy’s up for grabs. Plus, there’s an art to really finding out whether the houses with the lights off are really a sign that nobody’s home. You ring the doorbell anyway. Ten times.

  10. Long time strategic trick-or-treater proponent here…

    I’d like to add a few hints…
    #1 – Find the neighborhood that has enthusiasm ( = people with kids of their own but not so old they go to be at 7:30)

    #2 – When you have the chance, opt for row houses. I grew up in a neighborhood with blocks of large houses and blocks of small twins and row houses close together. Always hit the row houses and small twins first – it’s purely a density issue, more doors = more candy! As a kid, I always thought high-rise T-o-Ting would be a fairly land (but probably not in hind-sight)

    #3 – Those little pumpkin shaped loot buckets are classy, but if you can’t make that thing overflow, you’re failing! Bring a trash bag (or large pillowcase) with you, needing it is a sign of success.

  11. You forgot the most important rule.

    The kids must say Trick or Treat loudly and smile. That usually leads to more candy. Works for my kids all the time.

  12. This might be mean/uncouth. But I have a great tip for those who realize its every man for himself out there.

    Get a bike and cruise your neighborhood for the houses who set the candy outside. Dump the whole thing in your bag and get out quick. This takes way less time and effort.

    1. If you’re not doing that, just cruise through with your 40 pounds of candy and split the candy evenly amongst your team later in the night. At 9 to 9:30 people leave out their leftovers like this. At that point, you’re no longer a trick-or-treat group but a full-on candy gang. Take the bowl too, and maybe a plushie or painted gourd on their flashy display.

  13. Great post. I guess me and my friends never really thought much about the strategy.
    All we knew was:
    #1 Get far away from parents who want to accompany you door-to-door. They slow you down worse than your annoying little sister.

    #2 I always went ToTing in my friend’s neighborhood, which was recently established and overflowing with kids. Many Catholic families settled there. *nudge* Anywho, because it was a subdivision, the houses were large but the lots were really small, therefore we didn’t have to walk a long ways to get to the next door AND these people gave out full size candy bars and soda. Yeah.

  14. Pfft… amateurs.

    Getting into a fast group is good, and here’s why…

    Make two sided costume. One on the front, a different one on the back (Put a solid mask over the back of your head). Walk in with the group as normal, collect your first loot, step back behind the group, turn around and put your pillowcase behind you.. and walk backwards towards the door, you’ll know when to walk away when you feel the second piece of loot thump. Double haul!

    Of course, it looks weird when you walk away.. to them you’re heading out backwards.. always good for a laugh.

  15. What’s even better than a toddler in a ladybug costume with new Reeboks? A toddler in a ladybug costume that will sit in a stroller or wagon so you can haul ass to the next house!

    Also, I second the post that said to bring the cute plastic pumpkin and dump your loot into a pillowcase when it gets full. People give you more candy if your stash isn’t already over flowing.

    1. Pillowcases are deep. Scrunch the middle with your shoulders, knees, hands, arms, etc. so they’re a bit blinder to your haul. Don’t use reflective tape. Just only cross at the end of a block and you’re fine. In the dark, the heavier your bags get, the later it gets, and the darker it gets. Try to stand in the darkest part of the porch and sift your candy downward.

  16. my older sister and i would figure out which houses had that funny smell (weed and incense), senile old ladies who forget what day of the year it is, or the senile old ladies and health nuts who give out gold fish.
    we’d then map out the neighborhood and figure out which route would bring on the greatest candy efficiency.
    our parents never figured out how we got 10+lbs of candy in an hour.

  17. Tex had the right idea… but the best thing is to double up on costumes… or if you’re REALLY adamant on a solid haul, TRIPLE UP!
    By this I mean wearing one outward costume, something with a cape or something that covers your secondary (and even tertiary) costumes. And when you find the GOOD houses (full-sized chocobars, pop, whatever was your treat of choice), you took note, hit a couple more houses and then transfer to your next costume and hit it up again. Much easier than walking backwards, and much quicker when you got a row of solid hauls ahead of you!
    With this method (and the call-in support of an adult with a vehicle for a quick bag exchange — pillow cases = candy-haulin’ gold!), you can play Candy Poker for days!
    ***I call your reese peanut butter cup, and raise you a coffee crisp, bag of chips AND a soda!***

    1. I don’t do that. I go for speed. Who cares about pop? I’ve got nachos waiting for me at home! I start at seven and double back when our bags weigh 40 pounds and our legs are sore! BOOYAH!

  18. The old people neighbourhoods were the best since it followed the less kid rules and the old people had nothing better to do. Also they are more trustworthy. I once filled up 3/4 fourths of a pillow case and I had to lug it over my shoulder. I also threw up from the amount of candy I ate.

    Good Times!

    1. I have a strong stomach, so probably won’t throw up. Only threw up once in public recently when I got heat stroke. That was a while ago. I will, however, have a sugar crash at 3 AM in a basement.

  19. i got lucky when i was little and my stepdad drove me and my siblings to nice subdivisions in his truck. when our bags got too full, we would empty them in the bed of his truck in our own respective corners and go back to work with empty bags!

  20. I am confused if this is complicated satire or if you are telling me I should rig up my toddler. You know that Carl Lewis was actually a roid user, right?

  21. Give the puppy dog face.

    Say the doctor said it might be your last Halloween.


    Say “Trick or treat” with lots of expression and enthusiasm.

  22. Am I the only one that noticed that the man in the red suit from the running picture has a lightsaber? Or at least something like it…
    Great post, I’m gonna change all my plans. Luckily, I can still go out trick or treating, I’m twelve.
    Great post.

    1. they’re running a relay and that’s called a baton, the runners in each team take turns running & have to pass it to the next runner so they can continue the race.

  23. HAHHAHA, omg this is hilarious, every point you stated is what me and my brother live by, every year, we go out at about 5 with my little sister, with our running shoes and as little as a comstume as possible, with my mom and dad, and run out the get the candy from 5 till 6:3O. Then we drop my mom and my little sis @ home, and around seven, we start out again, and go till around nine-thirty, I always used to get the most candy out of all my friends, and now I know why. ;D

Comments are closed.