When McDonald’s announced it would be releasing an adult version of the Happy Meal in partnership with streetwear company Cactus Plant Flea Market, including classic character toys with a revamped look, it sounded like the world’s number-one fast food chain was delivering the people exactly what they wanted: a mix of nostalgia and of-the-moment trendiness. Unfortunately, the intention hasn’t fully aligned with the execution, and some customers are feeling burned.
The adult Happy Meal from McDonald’s, officially named the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box, allows customers a choice of either a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets Meal with fries and a drink.
“We’re taking one of the most nostalgic McDonald’s experiences and literally repackaging it in a new way that’s hyper-relevant for our adult fans,” said Tariq Hassan, McDonald’s USA Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer, in a statement announcing the new menu item.
Along with the meal, customers receive one of four collectible figurines. These are stylized versions of the classic McDonaldland characters Grimace, the Hamburglar, and Birdie, plus the all-new character Cactus Buddy (dressed in full McDonald’s merch) to represent the restaurant’s collaboration with Cactus Plant Flea Market. The figurines feature two sets of eyes each—“double-vision smileys, CPFM’s signature look,” McDonald’s tells us—and they’re posed with “outstretched arms to symbolize friendship.” The boxes the meals come in are also artistically designed—likely in the hopes of making them just as collectible as the toy inside.
On the McDonald’s app, the Big Mac meal is priced at $11.89 and the 10-piece Chicken McNugget meal is priced at $12.79. Much pricier than the average Happy Meal, which only go as high as $8. (These prices vary by location.)
On the customer end, the excitement for these Happy Meals is evident. Although McDonald’s intention was to get people excited about the company’s nostalgic characters and its food, it’s pretty obvious that the figurines are what have people inundating the drive-thru lane. (These are the same priorities we had as kids, right?)
However, that excitement has turned to disappointment for many customers as the Cactus Plant Flea Market Boxes and their accompanying toys have become almost impossible to find.
“@McDonalds you had me with the IDEA of an adult happy meal!” wrote one Twitter user. “Brought back some childhood memories but WHY do stores not have them? Went to multiple locations in mertro Atlanta and no luck. A national ad campaign eludes to nationwide availability. #happymeal”
Even before the grown-up Happy Meals hit restaurants, the day the promotion was announced, Cactus Plant Flea Market trended No. 1 on Google, and within days, McDonald’s confirmed to The Takeout, the meals were selling out in some restaurants across the country. When McDonald’s says “while supplies last,” believe it.
Customers were so fiercely determined to get their hands on the toys that McDonald’s employees reported being totally slammed with orders, and in a report by our sister site Kotaku, workers claim that the rollout hasn’t gone smoothly.
“The most difficult aspect of this promo for the crew is the sheer volume of these meals that we are selling,” a McDonald’s employee told Kotaku via Reddit DMs. “Most stores I have seen have sold out of either the special boxes, Big Mac buns, or toys. Some places it’s more than one of these.”
However, from the perspective of sales numbers and overall “buzz,” the promotion has been hugely successful for McDonald’s.
“We <3 to c u – ALL of you! ::)” a McDonald’s representative told The Takeout via email. “The hype for the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box was so real that some of our restaurants have sold out of the limited-edition experience.” Asked whether customers could expect to see a restock at locations where the boxes were sold out, McDonald’s was slightly less forthcoming, but seemed to imply that, no, you won’t be seeing the boxes come back—once they’re gone, they’re gone.
“As a first of-its-kind collaboration, we worked closely with our suppliers, distributors, franchisees and partner, Cactus Plant Flea Market, to bring the nostalgia of so many fans’ McDonald’s memories to life, and we’re thrilled by the excitement we’re seeing,” the McDonald’s rep said.
With the highly anticipated return of McDonald’s Halloween pails just around the corner, will the chain’s employees be afforded a moment to stop and take a breath between these wildly popular promotions?
“We had a feeling the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box would be big… and leading up to the launch, we prepped crew with training and resources in anticipation of higher traffic in restaurants,” McDonald’s tells The Takeout. “Our restaurant crew members are the best in the business, and we appreciate everything they’re doing to serve customers during this limited-time promotion.”