During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Toys “R” Us ran several promotions where kids received free treat boxes with every purchase. These were essentially paper lunch boxes, filled with product samples, coupons, and if we were lucky, a little toy.
They sound like simple freebies, and I guess they were, but words can’t express how much those boxes meant to me. The few times that I received them, I sure as hell liked them more than whatever I’d conned Mom into buying me.
For regular readers, this is old news, as I’ve written about these treat boxes twice before. In 1992, TRU issued one with a Batman Returns theme, filled with everything from Fruit Stripe gum to Sesame Street Band-Aids. Later that year, they unveiled a Jurassic Park treat box, appropriately covered with dinosaur games and puzzles.
Other times, TRU unveiled treat boxes even when they weren’t in partnership with any big movie studios:
This “R” Treat Box, from 1989, may have actually been the first in the series. Brother, it was PHENOMENAL. Covered with pictures of Geoffrey’s family, the many beach references suggest that it was a summer release.
Now, a free cardboard Geoffrey box was reason enough to demand a trip to the toy store, but it’s what was inside that made these so legendary.
Product samples! Coupons! And something that was arguably a toy! I’ll go through the contents in a minute, but you should already understand why getting these boxes made for such glorious afternoons.
Remember, to get one, you had to buy something first. And if you’re in Toys “R” Us, you’re probably buying a toy. So just imagine that. You’d go home not just with a new Ninja Turtle, but with a little box filled with snacks and catalogs. It was an incredible feeling, and it paved way for an amazing lazy day.
Included in the summer ‘89 treat box were three different sample-sized cereal boxes, and yes, these are all still full. Holy hell, I LOVE THESE BOXES.
First is Cinnamon Toast Crunch, back when it was still fronted by three cartoon bakers. Sup, Wendell?
Next is a box of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, which was brand new at the time. (And what a push that cereal received! That summer, it was THE thing to eat. Hell, I even remember leaving an open box on the deck by our old pool, because I was exactly the kind of asshole who took short breaks from swimming to eat handfuls of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.)
Last but not least, check out those Lucky Charms! These boxes were made in celebration of the then-new addition of red balloon marshmallows, which are still a part of the Lucky Charms formula today. What a piece of history this is!
Next is a sample-sized tube of Colgate toothpaste, but not just any Colgate toothpaste. This was Colgate’s legendary SPARKLING STAR SHAPE toothpaste, which I’ve actually written a whole post about!
The toothpaste was a sparkly electric green goo, but as an added bonus, the tubes were molded so that the paste would eject in a vague star shape. It was total Play-Doh technology, but with toothpaste! (And yes, this was a big thing. If it doesn’t seem like it should’ve been, I’ll remind you that the commercials starred an anthropomorphic toothpaste tube, singing pop songs.)
And then we have this, which was arguably a toy. What at first only seems to be a card from Geoffrey’s family folds out into some crazy Garfield thing. I’m not going to ruin it by punching along the lines, but I think you can make weird paper glasses out of it. “Funglasses,” if the instructions can be trusted.
From what I can tell, they’re triple-sized glasses with Garfield and Odie as the “lenses,” along with super tiny peepholes to keep you from walking around completely blind. High fashion at no cost!
But really, the best part of these treat boxes were the coupons. So much nostalgia! There was an especially big pile in this one, covering everything from Chef Boyardee to Teddy Grahams to Ziploc bags. There’s even a huge order form for the Nestle Quik “Hop Shop,” which was Nestle’s version of the Kool-Aid Warehouse. Want a stuffed Quik Bunny? Save those proofs-of-purchase!
I was already floating from all of that, but then I found this at the bottom:
A nearly poster-sized Mattel advertisement, promoting a thing where kids could score free gifts by buying various toys. Some of the prizes were weak (I don’t think anyone was pining for a t-shirt with Mattel’s logo on it), but if you were truly dedicated, you could get a free bicycle!
Most of the featured Mattel toys aren’t very interesting, but look close and you’ll spot a cameo from our beloved Food Fighters! Quietly one of the best action figure lines of the ‘80s, because who wouldn’t want an army man that was actually a slice of pizza?
(By my math, you would’ve had to buy 40 Food Fighters figures to get the free bike. Yikes.)
You must admit, this was a pretty sweet haul for the price. Or lack of price. As I mentioned in prior reviews, I used to put TRU’s “R” Treat Boxes on such a pedestal. I’d try to keep everything in mint condition for as long as I could stand it. Of course, that was always a losing battle, because there was only so long a kid could stare at three boxes of cereal without killing them.
If TRU ever dusts off this promotion, I’ll be the first, second and third in line. One to keep, one to eat, and one to write about in 2035.