Trick Or Treat (Payments And Commerce Style)

Trick or Treat (Payments and Commerce Style)

Halloween is the scariest day of the year for children and parents alike – though for very different reasons. For kids, the proliferation of ghosts, goblins, witches, haunted houses and scary movies tend to have a powerful effect on their sugar-charged minds. For adults, Halloween is the last possible day of the year when it is possible to remain in denial about the fact that Christmas is coming and that Thanksgiving is, for all intents and purposes, tomorrow.

Which is not to say Halloween isn’t delightful – we have absolutely no argument with any holiday that involves costumes or candy, and think many others would be improved greatly by their addition (looking at you, Arbor Day).

Plus, Halloween has evolved into a major commerce mover and shaker.

According to the NRF, Halloween is expected to rake in $9 billion in 2018 – just slightly shy of the all-time record set in 2017.

“The economy is good and consumer confidence is high, so families are ready to spend on Halloween this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in the press release. “Retailers are stocking up to supply children, pets and adults with their favorite decorations, candy and costumes for the season.”

When it comes to categories, consumers are intending to spend $3.2 billion on costumes, $2.7 billion on decorations, $2.6 billion on candy and $400 million on greeting cards. About a quarter of all shoppers will buy their Halloween gear online, though 39 percent will start browsing for it digitally.

We believe that any commerce event able to generate $9 billion worth of spending action deserves a tip of our hat – and a celebration. And while we would like to give each of our readers a piece of candy this season, drone technology has not yet advanced far enough to make that possible.

So instead, we thought we’d bring you tricks and tricks – the payments and commerce edition – most of which are not scary. And, we may have included more tricks that treats, in the spirit of the holiday and all.


Dog Costumes

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the year of the dog – and given American habits around this year, there might just be something to that. More than 31 million Americans plan to dress up their pets this year for Halloween, with millennials leading the pack, so to speak. According to the NRF’s data, nearly 20 percent of the 175 million Americans celebrating the holiday will dress up their pets, an increase from last year’s 16 percent, according to a Prosper news release.

That’s the most in the history of NRF’s Halloween surveys, said Phil Rist, Prosper Insights’ executive vice president of strategy, in the announcement.

The most popular costumes for pets this year is a pumpkin, as it has been for the last several years. Hot dogs, cats, tacos and Star Wars characters are also popular sellers for animal costumes. For those who are “so over the pumpkin,” Amazon also has Statue of Liberty, sushi, spider and beer keg costumes available, all with two-day shipping and for less than $20.

And pet owners are prompt costume buyers, according to pet store owner Tracy Powell.

“As soon as you put them on the shelf, they’re, like, gone,” Gardner said. “We put them out the first of October, and they were gone within two weeks.”


Instagram Kills the Haunted House

A good Halloween haunted house is dark, crowded, unpredictable and, well, scary. The problem is that those conditions are ideal for evoking scares, but not great for snapping Instagram shots.

Which is why, according to Vox reports, in urban enclaves all over the U.S., the typical Halloween haunted house is being quickly supplanted by pop-up museums, which snap really well.

They just aren’t particularly scary.

One such option is Brooklyn’s Nightmare Machine, an Instagram-optimized popup for the spookiest month of the year. The installation gives visitors a chance to roll around in a pit full of red balls called “hell.” There is also the option for people to pose as though they are being sliced up by a cleaver-wielding psychopath, or to grab a shot next to “a terrifyingly realistic mound of thousands of plastic cockroaches.”

A ticket to this haunted house costs $38 – and we would like to note there are many places in Brooklyn where one can snap a selfie with a terrifying mound of real, living cockroaches for free.

But according to Nightmare Machines’ 27-year-old founder, the kind of person who wants to see real cockroaches isn’t coming to this installation.

“If you want to run and just like have the living s***— excuse my French — scared out of you, go to a haunted house. But if you want to just have a spooky night with friends before going out or something, and you just wanna laugh a little and get scared a little bit — the biggest separating point [between Nightmare Machine and a haunted house] is it’s really made for some great pictures to remember,” the founder noted.

R.I.P. haunted house, another casualty of hipsters in Brooklyn.


The Mega Millions Lottery

Obviously, for the person in South Carolina who bought the winning ticket, the approximately $1.6 billion prize will probably qualify as the greatest October treat in the history of mankind.

But the great American ticket rush of last weekend was also certainly something of a treat.

From a commerce perspective, a lot of people bought lotto tickets last week. Of 302 possible numerical combinations, analysts estimate about three-quarters were played (227 million). Virginia lottery experts estimate that at peak sales right before the drawing, lottery vendors were selling 12,700 tickets per minute. Massachusetts saw a bigger peak run, with 12,900 tickets sold per minute. That means the early part of this week was especially great for convenience store owners nationwide.

Incidentally, the winning lottery ticket could not have been bought with a lotto with a debit card, as it was purchased in South Carolina, one of the states that doesn’t allow debit lotto purchases.

The treat for all of us, however, was getting to hear and read what people would do if they woke up and discovered they were billionaires. While “private island” and “sports car” came up a lot, so did the vast number of people, like Nebraska’s Michelle Connaghan, who wanted to get their hands on the funds so they could use the money to do right by others.

And maybe a little bit by themselves as well.

“Other than paying off bills and taking care of family, I think I’d have the most fun going around and doing surprise good deeds for people,” she noted. “And I’m sure we’d take some pretty awesome vacations while we were going around doing our surprise good deeds.”

And speaking of good deeds…

The Trick/Treat Two-fer, the Ghost and the Pickle Marshmallows

Among the many wonderful confections available for Halloween is the Ghost Marshmallow, offered by the artisan marshmallow folks at XO Marshmallow.

It’s the product for the person who ever looked at a package of Peeps and said, ” I like this, but I want it handmade, and want to pay $2.35 per Peep plus shipping.” But those ghosts are only one small themed offering – XO is offering a host of delicious fall treats, including Apple Turnover Marshmallows, Caramel Corn Marshmallows and Brown Butter Blackberry Marshmallows for the slightly more reasonable price of $2 per handmade confection.

So, with all of these things that are obviously treats, where’s the trick?

Meet the Wicked Pickle Marshmallow, a product we can only imagine is to be consumed by a fictional pregnant woman or by someone pledging a fraternity. It’s the kind of thing one puts in a kid’s Halloween bucket if they are wondering what their trees would look like with more toilet paper.

In short, it’s a product that should not be – and a piece of technicolor proof that not every innovation is a good innovation.

But in a world with pet costumes, instant billionaires and adorably haunted treats, it’s probably a fair trade that the occasional pickle marshmallow or hipster haunted house will occasionally stumble by.

Happy Halloween.


New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.