Right now, select McDonald’s are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pokémon with a promotion that turns the iconic Happy Meal box into Pikachu’s face. Bundled with this cherubic container are 50 collectible cards, including some rarer holographic cards. And some people are mass buying Happy Meals to get their hands on them.
Pokémon cards are such a hot commodity that some fans say they’re having a hard time buying booster packs at big retailers. Nearly every week, there’s a new record broken for the dollars people are spending on old-school packs — and new scams to go along with that commotion.
The McDonald’s promotion, in other words, never stood a chance. Folks are waking up early to stake out what McDonald’s are selling the new Happy Meals. Some are apparently buying the Happy Meals in mass numbers in the hopes of getting all the collectibles, and just throwing out the food. Some McDonald’s are even placing restrictions on buying the Happy Meals, though scalpers are reportedly already turning around and selling the individual cards for a markup. Some customers are going around to multiple restaurants, unable to find a single Happy Meal. On websites like eBay, entire boxes of the cards or sealed packs are going for hundreds of dollars. It’s unclear if the boxes are being bought behind the scenes, or if they’re being swiped by employees.
Reached for comment, McDonald’s told Polygon that the company is trying to address Pokémon card shortages. The company said in a statement:
With such significant demand for our promotional Pokémon TCG cards, and some fans even going to extreme lengths to get them, we’re working quickly to address shortages and also strongly encouraging restaurants to set a reasonable limit on Happy Meals sold per customer. We want to offer the full Happy Meal experience to as many families as possible, and help ensure everyone is able to get in on the fun!
The company confirmed it is working with its supply chain to distribute more cards to restaurants with low stock, while also providing back-up toys to affected stores. The company also said that some stores may, at times, accommodate customers’ reasonable requests for a la carte toy purchases, though it does not condone the reselling of the toys through unauthorized channels.
@McDonalds @Pokemon I sure hope you do some form of inventory control for your promo Pokémon cards as some of your stock is being sold in sealed boxes which means they’re not even making it to your stores Though same thing happened with Tim Hortons Hockey too. Retail $1.99 pic.twitter.com/kX8qZyRX2V— redphoenixsportscards (@redphoenixcards) February 9, 2021
@McDonalds @Pokemon @eBay this is not cool, your employees scalping these while my kids can't get them with a paid meal pic.twitter.com/P2KXYV0otR— jimmy bond (@jimmybond613) February 9, 2021
Tonight at 8PM EST we will be opening up some @McDonalds #Pokemon 25th Anniversary packs along side of Rebel Clash packs and the rest of the #MTGKaldheim booster box. Live on #Twitch: https://t.co/Y3miig2LjJ pic.twitter.com/lUFREKdzpa— LumberJackFrost (@LumberJackFrost) February 9, 2021
Yes.... this grown 28 year old man is hunting for some mcdonalds pokemon!!!!! Muahahaha!!!! Gotta have em all!!!!! Out of my way kids! Lol pic.twitter.com/hxJ2CVmQLW— ARCADEGAMER (@ARCADEGAMER_) February 9, 2021
@McDonalds stop letting people buy the Pokémon happy meal in bulk. Nobody has more than 5 kids. Let the general public have a chance.— Jay Rech (@JoeZ10ARG) February 9, 2021
I’ve been to (and friends) about a dozen @McDonalds trying to just get ONE Pokémon card pack and every single place has said that someone has already showed up and bought their whole lot. Looking on eBay, people are literally selling for profits. Can we not allow this?— Mr.ssippi (@Redeemed_Rebel) February 9, 2021
Had to get 6 Happy meals to get the #Pokemon25 cards, hmmmm would 4 more hurt #PokemonTCG #pokemon @McDonalds yall slick pic.twitter.com/RwQ4bXZq0j— Hooded (@Hood3d_) February 9, 2021
@McDonalds please fix the pokemon anniversary card promo to stop people buying the entire stock in a single transaction!— LussCollects (@LussCollects) February 9, 2021
"Cannot be purchased separately" would help a lot!
all these scalpers have LITERALLY made me want to give up on pokemon im so irritated. like it looks like ill be spending $20 bucks to get a holo chikorita card from MCDONALDS. thanks scalpers— Maggie (@Magskcrp) February 8, 2021
Granted, you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a toy, and Pokémon nostalgia is squarely the realm of adults. Plus, not everyone is being a scalper or hoarder! Some folks are trying to do some good even as they buy multiple packs.
I decided to go to McDonald's to grab some of the new Pokemon Card packs! Since you couldn't buy the packs separately I bought 10 happy meals and I'll be giving out the food to homeless in the area— ✨JT Valor ✨ (@JT_Valor) February 9, 2021
If you only want the cards then do the same!#Pokemon #McDonalds pic.twitter.com/xPb7lNKQw0
If you’re going to clean out #McDonalds of their stock on #Pokemon cards please make sure you buy the meal, not just the cards, and feed people who need them. Quit buying out cases- there won’t be any in the happy meals for the kids who want them. pic.twitter.com/YrWDWS7AXJ— anthony taddeo (@taddeo91) February 9, 2021
Some mass buyers are even experiencing a healthy dose of karma. But it’s wild to see the fervor around the cards reach such a fever pitch that actual kids probably won’t be able to get a product partially made for them, too. McDonald’s did not immediately provide Polygon with a comment.
Update (Feb. 11): This story has been updated with comment and additional details from McDonald’s.