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Friday, October 30, 2015

Value Erosion in Halloween Candy

Several weeks ago, I bought a bag of discount Halloween candy at Costco, and a week ago, it somehow became open.  (I blame Nancy for this.)  Understand this is not premium candy; it might be more accurately termed candy-by-products: what's made of scraps and floor-sweepings after the better candy has been shipped off to distributors, and I selected it for the expressed reason that it wouldn't present an undue temptation; nevertheless, Nancy and I are consuming it at a remarkable rate, and by "remarkable" I mean truly terrifying.

When first opened, the bag sat on a sideboard, because it was too big to empty into a basket.  Now it has been emptied into a basket, and the level is noticeably dropping.  If icecaps are deplete as fast as our candy, polar bears will need to be much better swimmers. 

The danger is not that we will run out of candy before Halloween, rather what I term "Halloween-Candy Value-Erosion."  First, I have assigned each type of candy in our assortment a value:

Skittles              6
Laffy-Taffy       5
Lemon-Heads   4
Gob-Stoppers    3
Red Twizzlers   1
Sweet-Tarts       0.5
Sour-Punch       0.2

As for Skittles, their ranking needs no explanation; but some may find the high score given Laffy-Taffy questionable.  Laffy-Taffy, however, has long been an underrated candy.  I believe the fact it is only available on Halloween makes it suspect in people's minds, and then there its habit of clinging to the wrapper like skin, making it all but impossible to eat without swallowing a little piece of paper as well.  Were it not for the wrapper issue, I believe Laffy-Taffy would outrank Skittles itself.  The rest of my rankings should be uncontroversial, but notice that after Gob-Stoppers, the value drops off sharply.  Sweet-Tarts, for instance, qualify as candy only in a marginal sense, alongside Tums antacids, candy valentine hearts, and sidewalk chalk.  Sour-Punch, a candy I was hitherto unfamiliar with, is, according to my son-in-law Drew, "not that bad."  I have tried it.  It is that bad.  Were it possible to do so in this scoring system, I would assign it a negative number, ranking it alongside German licorice.  I believe if we looked into the matter closely, we would discover the existence German licorice was solely responsible for that nation's unfortunate behavior in the last century.


Now take a moment to examine the original distribution of candy-values on a normal curve as shown in Figure One.

You will confirm immediately my original statement that this is not a premium selection of candy.  The median score is 2.5, somewhere between Gob-Stoppers and Twizzlers, the latter of which is pretty much just flavored wax.  But a look at Figure Two shows heart-sickening decline of values that has occurred in less than a week.  The bell curve now looks like an anaconda attempting to pass a Volkswagen.  This is accounted for by Nancy's and my grazing habits in the candy basket.  We have already eaten all of the Skittles, and what Laffy-Taffy remains is red, partly because it is less desirable than yellow, and partly because it tends to camouflage itself as Twizzlers or Sour-Punch.  The remaining assortment of candy veers dangerously close to the Sweet-Tart and Sour-Punch end of the spectrum.  Bear in mind also, this precipitous transformation has occurred in just one week, and there is one more day remaining until Halloween.

One might think, that having eaten all the best candy out of the assortment, Nancy's and my candy-eating pace would slacken, but indeed it seems just the opposite.  I can only account for this as some sort of "feeding frenzy" such as you see among sharks who suddenly bite at everything that moves, even fellow-sharks, perhaps out of an instinctive fear that if they don't act quickly, all the good chum will be gone before they can get any.

The menace lies in the reaction of the neighborhood children when they receive fistfuls of inedible candy as a reward for dressing up in their adorable little Yoda and Batman costumes.  The neighbor children are sweet-tempered, cherubic even, but it does not do to push them too far.  To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to foist off sweet-tarts and sour-punch and attempt to call it candy.  Who knows what form their unholy retribution will take?

Time alone will tell.

(Originally posted 2013)

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