General Etiquette > Holidays

Overwhelmed Neighborhood - Trick or Treating

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A local neighborhood may have created an etiquette "monster" for Halloween and the people living there aren't sure how to destroy it.  A few houses in the neighborhood, we'll call it Pumpkin Lane, started doing elaborate Halloween decorations 10 years ago and over the years, it became known as THE place to take your kids trick or treating, due to the decorations and the fact the neighborhood is a straight, uninterrupted string of houses, a dozen or more blocks long.  It's a very convenient way for kids to hit a lot of houses at once.  People from several towns over bring their kids there to trick or treat.  (I don't take my kids, we do the church fall festival circuit instead.)

The problem?  The people living on Pumpkin Lane have become overwhelmed.  The doorbell starts ringing the day before Halloween (parents who have to work on Halloween or just want to get the kids' trick or treating out of the way so they can follow through on other plans) and continues until midnight Oct. 31. My hairdresser, Missy, a Pumpkin Lane resident, said she is going to turn her lights off and pretend not to be home this year, because she can't afford to buy enough candy.  Last year, she spent $500 buying treats at the bulk warehouse and STILL ran out in the middle of the trick or treat rush. 

And the people participating in the trick or treating aren't exactly gracious. Missy says she got screamed at last year when she ran out of candy.  She gets fussed at for not having "premium" treatsm and was accused of giving the children, "cheap cr@p."  To back up her theory, I was at my kids' school today and heard a mother complain that she was thinking of not even "bothering" to drive her kids to Pumpkin Lane this year, as her kids had to stand in line after twenty other kids last year and "all they got was a tiny, itty bitty piece of candy.  So cheap. So not worth it."

Missy says she and her neighbors have agreed that the situation has gotten out of hand and are trying to reign it in.  Over the last few years, the families who do the elaborate decorations have scaled back, making it less of an event.  They tried to establish hours in which they would answer the doors. (5-9, Oct. 31). But people are resistant, showing up whenever they want and becoming more demanding. 

Missy says the neighborhood doesn't want to quit the tradition all together, they just want it to be more reasonable. Any suggestions I could pass along?

Yikes. I'm sorry, I don't have any helpful suggestions. I'm afraid I would be one of the ones turning off my lights and igoring until the problem died down a little.

If they don't want to just quit celebrating altogether (which is what I would do for a year or two) the neighbors could have a private neighborhood party at a particular house or park (maybe on a different day) and then ignore the door-to-door people altogether. To spread the word, they could put a notice in the local paper or signs posted around the neighborhood that the "tradition" has officially been cancelled.

Post hours next to the pumpkin lane sign at the start. That will at least keep some away.  Put a sign covering your doorbell that says "CLOSED until 5pm Oct 31" or something like that.

To address the sheer numbers: How about asking a company to sponsor the Pumpkin Lane and buy the candy?  They could put a big sign up advertising and get great publicity. 

Just Lori:
I'd be stocking up on the mini Tootsie Rolls and the Smarties (the US version that's basically a roll of sugar), and hand those out.  If people are turned off by that, oh well.

I might even put a sign out that says, "Welcome to our home.  This year we'll be handing out Smarties and Mini Tootsie Rolls.  Happy Halloween!"  That way, there are no expectations of full size Hershey bars.


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