Until recently, I was vaguely aware of a thing called ‘Box Tops’ but I had no idea what all the fuss was about. Now that my son is in kindergarten, and we’ve been ordered to collect these miniature marketing rectangles masquerading as charity, I can wholeheartedly say that Box Tops are bullshit. Here are my reasons, in no particular order:
1. The ROI is Bad…Like Really, Really Bad
My son’s class wants us to collect 10 Box Tops “for Education”, with each one earning the school 10 cents. You read that correctly. A dime. A fucking dime! So we have to go out and buy products that have this stupid logo on them, and for each one of those that we buy, we’ll get 10 cents.
Even if we could somehow find items that cost 50 cents (which is far from the case) that still means we’d spend $5.00 to get $1.00 for the school. But the items won’t cost 50 cents. They’ll cost several dollars each, so in all likelihood we’d end up spending over $20…to get $1.
What kind of fucked up system is this? Seriously? There are tens of thousands of schools that participate in this charade? It’s stupefying to me.
Instead, I could NOT go to the store and buy stuff, and just donate HALF of what I was going to spend. And the school would get a 1000% increase in money.
2. The Qualifying Products Are Mostly Crappy, Over-Processed Foods
In case you didn’t know, Box Tops “for Education” is a program created by General Mills. Yeah, THAT General Mills, that makes Trix, Lucky Charms, Fruit by the Foot, Betty Crocker, Hamburger Helper and other such things.
Yes, you can find Box Tops on products like Pampers, Always, Neosporin, etc. We could buy Ziploc bags or Kleenex tissues, but that’s no fun for the kid, now is it? Let’s be honest. Kids come home saying they need box tops, it’s the cereal aisle that first comes to mind.
Do I love me some Cinnamon Toast Crunch? You bet your ass I do! Is my 5-year-old going to eat them? Fuck that! I’m keeping that garbage out of his system for as long as possible.
After all, according to the Box Tops website:
As part of the initial test program, Box Tops were only available on select Big G cereals, such as Cheerios™, Total™ and Lucky Charms™.
3. It’s Purely a (Super Successful) Marketing Ploy by General Mills
General Mills boasts:
Today, America’s schools have earned over $719 million…
Geez, man! Why are you such a hater?! Look at all that money that schools otherwise wouldn’t have gotten!
Well, they also say:
By 2004, over 82,000 schools across the nation participated in Box Tops…
If we assume that this number of schools didn’t go up, which it almost certainly did, here is the math:
$719,000,000 divided by 20 years that the program has existed. That’s $35,950,000 per year. Divide that by 82,000 schools and you get $438.41.
I know, it’s crude math and some schools will earn more than others. However, consider how much advertising money General Mills spent in 2011 alone.
Honey Nut Cheerios: $73.7 million
Cinnamon Toast Crunch: $29 million
Lucky Charms: $12.6 million
That’s $115.3 million dollars spent advertising (that doesn’t even mean that everyone bought cereal after seeing those ads) just 3 of their products. Now, does that $35.9 million seem like a hell of a bargain for them, considering that each Box Top earns the school 10 cents.
How many Box Tops is that, then? If my math is correct, it’s 359,500,000 of them. Multiply that by a couple of bucks per product containing a Box Top and HOLY SHIT!
Even if the items cost $2 each, that would mean $719 million in sales for just a single year. Oh wait…that number sounds familiar. Where have we seen that before?
“Today, America’s schools have earned over $719 million…”
So a SUPER conservative estimate of the sales in a single year is equal to the total amount of money that was given to schools...ever! Now THAT’S an impressive, ROI, don’t you think?
Oh, and net sales in 2015 were $17.6 BILLION. Gee, thanks for giving schools 0.2% of your total sales. How generous of you, General Mills.
4. It Penalizes Families Who Can’t Afford the Brand Name Products
How unbelievably shitty do you think a family must feel when they can’t afford to buy enough General Mills products to qualify for 10 Box Tops?
Given the absurd level of childhood poverty in America, how utterly horrible is it that a kid has to go to school NOT ONLY HUNGRY but also without their 10 (or however many) Box Tops? Meanwhile, Kayden (or Atticus, or Beckett, or Juniper, or Pandora…haha…Pandora’s Box Tops…I kill me) has dozens of them?
And of all the things that a struggling family SHOULDN’T buy, it’s any of these General Mills products. Virtually none of these Box Top products will be a smart investment when trying to feed a family.
And forget about Ziploc bags…that shit can (and will) be bought at the dollar store. Knockoff brands have perfected the technology…it’s been around since 1968! Some families would consider themselves fortunate to have food to put INTO a Ziploc bag, let alone worry about buying the brand name zippy locky baggies.
5. Another Way to Target Kids, Making Them Into Little Consumers
So now kids, who otherwise may have no idea about these particular brands (or have already seen them in commercials), are being brainwashed into thinking they “should” be buying these products because it will help their school.
Trix = help my school.
Lucky Charms = help my school.
Us not getting enough Box Tops = all the other kids, the teachers and maybe even the principal will look down on me and my family.
Because kids don’t see enough marketing materials during the course of a day. Is that it? Thanks General Mills!
6. What About People Who Shop Elsewhere, Like Trader Joe’s?
Needless to say, a place like Trader Joe’s (for those of you who are unfamiliar: http://www.traderjoes.com) does not sell General Mills products. And I imagine there are many other such stores in the U.S. that don’t carry them either.
So we have to now go out of our way to buy products we may not want, from a place we don’t usually shop at, to help the school get a dime per product we bought? Fucking hell, man.
It’s only November of my son’s first year in school (a charter school that teaches project-based learning, no less) and already I’m being cajoled into doing this Box Tops bullshit. FML.