It's a common oversight. You think you're all ready for Halloween. You've converted your house into a replica of the Tomb of Ligeia. You've hauled out the jack-o'-lanterns, fake cobwebs, plastic spiders and glow-in-the-dark skeletons. You've even rented a fabulous Hunchback Zombie Cyclops costume guaranteed to scare the pemmican out of any toddler brave enough to ring your doorbell.
And after permanently traumatizing the little fright-night revelers, what are you planning to drop into their goody bags?
What you are about to do is tantamount to begging your visitors to return in the dead of night and toilet paper your house. Or burn it down, blow up your car and torture the family pet, depending on their level of irritation.
No trick-or-treater in the annals of history has ever been the pleased recipient of popcorn balls. Being completely inedible, they are useful only for packing and shipping when you've run out of Styrofoam "peanuts." If all the youngsters in your area operate their own mail-order businesses, MAYBE they'd be happy to get one of your popcorn balls. Otherwise, forget it.
That's not the only hard and fast rule of Halloween treat-mongering. There are more, many more. Thank heaven I'm here to enlighten you.
Little old lady candies. Mints, toffee, horehound drops and those hard, round things that come in cans and are served only at bridge parties and wakes.
Candy corn. The most notable exception to the rule, "If it's made of nothing but sugar, chemicals and food coloring, children will love it." Nobody can stomach these cheap, orange-and-white plasticine kernels even when they're fresh and more often than not, they're left over from Halloweens past when kids ran screaming at the sight of 'em.
Hard chewy stuff. Kids like crud they can wolf down, as opposed to crud that requires effort, saps them of hyperactivity and extracts their teeth. So nix on taffy, caramels, Big Hunks, Sugar Daddys and the like.
Raisins. Are you kidding? Raisins are reasonably nutritious! Instead, hand out Raisinettes. As my 10-year-old daughter says, they're "healthy with chocolate!"
Baby Ruth and Payday bars. Too many nuts. Kids think nuts are good for them. Of course, you could pass them out while explaining that nuts are quite high in saturated fat. That might bring little nippers back for more.
Anything you've made. First of all, your creation is destined to be trashed by cautious moms and dads as a possible danger item. But no matter. Their kids will consider it garbage BEFORE it's tossed.
Tricks. Some well-meaning adults take the phrase "trick or treat" literally. In lieu of a treat, they'll pull a cigarette out of their nose or make coins disappear. Well, kids can get dumb parlor tricks from their loopy Uncle Ned. From you they want merchandise.
Plastic items. Spare yourself the embarrassment of hearing, "Ooooh, a cheap little teensy-weensy airplane! I've only got about TEN MILLION of these at home!" Now, if you're doling out credit cards, that's another matter altogether.
Anything with a picture of Pokemon, Digimon or the PowderPuff Girls on the wrapper. Anything. Even popcorn balls.
Any major, brand-name candy that's advertised on television and costs more than $18 a pound. Today's kids are savvy consumers. They know what everything costs, they have their standards, and they don't like to be insulted by cheapskate grown-ups.
Anything that's disgusting. Like those green, slimy, rubbery strings of edible goop called Boogers, which come in a container shaped like a nose. Very popular. You'll be the hit of your neighborhood ... until you start fielding death threats from irate parents.
"Action" candy. Purely chemical confections which explode upon ingestion (i.e. Pop Rocks). Many children won't eat this toxic material themselves, but they love feeding it to pets, baby siblings and aged relatives.
A five-pound bag of white sugar. A no-frills, no-nonsense snack beloved by all children.
Cash. Excellent choice. But if you're gonna give money, GIVE MONEY. Eons ago, you could drop a nickel into a kid's bag and look like Donald Trump. But times have changed. Keep your checkbook by the door $10 for kids under six and $25 for the older ones should buy you a truly safe, sane and revenge-free Halloween.