Who stole my Cracker Jack prize?

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By Moreland Jeff

Remember as a kid, when you’d open a box of Cracker Jacks? Sure, the popcorn and peanuts in the box are delicious, but that’s probably not why you wanted them when you were 6 or 7 years old.

At least that was the case for me. Nope, it was all about the prize.

I didn’t get high-quality items, but that didn’t matter. It was a snack with a free toy inside, and I couldn’t wait to find out what I got. Sometimes it was a miniature plastic pinball-like game, others it was a card trick or even a stick-on tattoo, but we always got something fun out of the Cracker Jack box.

Well, like many things from our childhoods, those days are gone.

That’s right, you will no longer find a prize in your Cracker Jacks, at least not one like you used to find.

Now, thanks to technology, opening a box of Cracker Jacks will provide you with a snack and a QR code. If you don’t know, that’s those funny little boxes that look like a scrambled UPC code on most of the products you buy these days. QR stands for quick response, and most smart phones have apps that can scan the codes, leading to an informational or interactive site for the viewer.

It seems the people at Frito Lay, the company that owns Cracker Jacks, has decided it would be more entertaining to put a code leading to a virtual experience would be better than giving the customer an actual toy.

With the new QR codes, Cracker Jack connoisseurs will be directed to one of four baseball-themed games to play on a mobile device. They will even have to have a specific app, which I won’t mention here just out of spite, to get the games.

I’ll admit I’m about as excited about technology as anyone, and I love to use gadgets for any purpose I can. But in this case, I think we may have gone too far.

Even as an adult sitting at a baseball game, I still like to see what’s inside the Cracker Jack box; maybe it will be one of the toys I used to get when I was a kid, and it will bring back a memory. Not now. I don’t like the idea of it being a code to an online game.

I know kids of almost all ages have access to a mobile device these days, but to expect a 4-year-old, or in this case a 44-year-old, to not want that Cracker Jack toy in their sticky (not-so) little hands after they empty the box is just too much. And if they do have access, how many parents will put the device in those sticky little hands, getting it messy before handing it back to Mom or Dad?

Normally I find a pretty good mix of popcorn and peanuts in my Cracker Jacks, but after taking the toy out of the box, I’m inclined to think the folks making this decision are a little more on the nutty side.