As a 28-year-old man, I am objectively too old to be ordering a Happy Meal at McDonald's.
But when I learned last week that the fast food giant was running a limited-time promotion to bring an adult-oriented Happy Meal to its restaurants, I was intrigued.
The Happy Meal and I go way back. I still remember the excitement of having my 5th birthday party at the now-defunct McDonald's PlayPlace on West 92nd street, leveraging my status as the birthday boy to get all the toys from the release of 1999's "Inspector Gadget" film. Needless to say, if there's a target audience for a grown-up version of the combo, I'm it.
According to McDonald's marketing materials, this new meal — dubbed the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box after its collaboration with the apparel brand — is designed to bring back "one of the most nostalgic McDonald's experiences." It comes with either a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, as well as fries, soda and a collectible toy.
But after trying it, I mostly felt like I had been ripped off.
The large Cactus Plant Flea Market box cost $12.89 before tax at my closest McDonald's location in New York City. That's $2.60 more than the $10.29 I'd pay for the large Big Mac meal, which contains the exact same amount of food.
The only differences justifying the $2.60 upcharge — nearly enough money to add an extra McDouble to my order — are the plastic toy and the cardboard box the order comes in.
Is the toy worth the upcharge? In my opinion, no. Opening the plastic bag containing my toy was easily the most nostalgic part of the entire experience, though I suspect not in the way McDonald's intended.
It's been almost 20 years since the last time I experienced disappointment from getting the wrong toy in a Happy Meal, but I felt it when opening the Cactus Plant Flea Market box. While I had been hoping to get a nostalgic figure from my childhood in the form of Grimace, the Hamburglar or even Birdie, I instead walked away with Cactus Buddy, the apparel brand's mascot.
Despite the Big Mac and McDonald's fries being as delicious as ever, the Cactus Plant Flea Market box still left a sour taste in my mouth by upcharging me for no discernable reason.
The next time you're in the mood for a Happy Meal, just get the real thing.