FTC Suspects Chuck E. Cheese of Marketing to Children


there are no words.

The eagle-eyed regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have a sneaking suspicion that a company offering disgusting pizza, animatronic human-sized mice, and a ball pit may be trying to appeal to children. Or rather, their marketing (the slogan was "Chuck E. Cheese: Where a Kid Can Be a Kid!" last time I checked) may inappropriately appeal to children.

A spokesman for the commission reassuringly told AdAge:

"We are not proposing any regulation."

But Chuck E. Cheese is one of 44 marketers who received an "order to file special report" three years ago. The chain, or rather its parent company CEC Entertainment, has now been subpoenaed so that the commission can check up on how that whole voluntary industry self-regulation thing is going. The FTC is just trying to be "supportive" of those self-regulation efforts, you see. Other companies caught in the net include Yum Brands, Wendy's, Sunkist, Red Bull, and Chiquita.

From layman's perspective it's not entirely clear how much self-regulation would satisfy the FTC in the case of the animatronic mouse, since the whole model of Chuck E. Cheese seems to be built on getting kids to whine and complain until their parents take them there—along with 10 of their closest friends—for an afternoon of plastic and cheese fueled mania.

Luckily, you can still bring your gun to Chuck E. Cheese. Or have a beer there. And play skee-ball! From that list, it sounds more like the chain should be accused of marketing to vulnerable Reason readers, actually.

Via Jim Morrell.

NEXT: Reason Writers on the Bloggingheads: Matt Welch Talks with Matthew Yglesias About Koch, Soros, Obama, Iraq, and Whether Libertarianism Causes "Massive Human Suffering"

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  1. There are no words.

  2. This is why government regulation is hopeless. The FTC actually is supposed to fight for a good cause. They are supposed to go after crooks and scam artists. People who take old ladies money promising to fix their roofs or sell snake oil. That kind of thing. It actually is a legitimate function of government.

    Despite the good intentions of its original creation, it now has morphed into a mafia that bullies people with legal sanction for political purposes. Sorry, but the government can’t be trusted to do this function anymore. Shut it down.

  3. Jasper T. Jowls is a registered sex offender, you tools. Sure, it was just for banging Helen Henny in the ball pit and having his junk showing (he’s hung like a horse, if you were curious), but still: is this the environment you want your kids eating incredibly shitty pizza in? Pizza Hut can give you that without the furries, you know. Or anywhere in Chicago.

    1. Insult noted, recorded, and reported to Mayor Richie.

      I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese several times since becoming a parent, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten there. I guess there’s money to be made in selling overpriced quasi-food.

      When I was a kid, we’d go to Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz to play actual video games. The ticket-producing “games” were limited to just a couple of machines, aimed at the very young and schmucks.

      1. Your Chuck E. Cheese attendance and subsequent atrocious taste in pizza comes as zero surprise to me. How many times did you get molested by Pasqually in the ball pit? That would explain your weird Mario/Luigi fetish. “Yes, give me a deep dish with EXTRA MUSHROOMS”

        1. Normally, I’d accept your challenge and exchange increasingly unbelievable insults, but my attendance at Chuck E. Cheese events is hardly voluntary. I’d nuke the site from orbit if it were up to me.

          And, as I said, I don’t consume whatever it is they serve there.

          1. Your protestations and denials serve only to further my certainty that you formed your pizza palate on the most appalling pizza imaginable. Can you admit–nay, will you admit–to consuming Domino’s for a period of your life?

            1. When I was in college, I lived right on the edge of the Domino’s pizza delivery area. If the traffic was slightly busy or the weather even a little bit bad, the pizza would show up late — free pizza! {free pizza, like free beer, is never so bad that it can’t be consumed by a poverty-stricken college student}

              1. While I am an absolute pizza snob, I will grant a pass on Domino’s if it is both free, in college, and you were poor. It’s not eating pizza; it’s surviving, like eating at the cafeteria. Johns Hopkins attendees will know what I’m talking about when I say “the Terrace Terror Room”.

                1. I was married and had kids when I was in college. If the forecast called for light snow, I knew I’d be feeding the kids for free that night.

                  1. And you never gave a thought to all the people that the delivery guy killed on the way to your house.

                2. Even better than free pizza?

                  Chinese food where you ambushed the delivery kid outside and stole it.

                  JUST KIDDING

              2. As for free, when I was in college in Parkland, WA (suburb of Tacoma) in the mid-’70’s, a popular late-night activity was the “McFree run.” The Spanaway McDonalds, at closing time, would bundle up all their unsold stock on the heat trays into large to-go bags and place them on the lid of the dumpster. If you were in the lot at the right time, you’d just cruise by and pick ’em up. Ate many a free quarter-pounder at 2330 when someone walked by with a big sack and said “hungry?”

                Then someone complained about people not having to pay for the food, so they started mixing the leftovers with dish soap and coffee grounds. No more McFree-stuff.

                Same sort of thing also happened at a doughnut shop in my hometown – save they locked their dumpsters once someone bought the rights to their food waste to feed their pigs on.

            2. Oh, I’ve plumbed the depths of bad pizza when I was young and poor. Even in law school (where, incidentally, I was the poorest I’ve ever been), I descended into the hell of bad pizza–and I mean really bad–because it was free. Still, the last time I had any Chuck E. pizza had to be at least 25 years ago or more. I guess it sucked then, too, but I don’t remember.

              Pizza can be serviceable even at the lower quality levels–even flat-crap–but I’m with you when it comes to the top of the line. Except that I’m not on the Dark Side like you.

              1. Which one of you guys is the apostate who likes that shitty deep dish pizza garbage?

                If I want a lasagna I’ll order a fooking lasagna.

                1. ProL is the deep dish shit advocate. Just so you know.

                  1. Your taste is as thin and pointless as your pizza, Episiarch.

                2. Your lack of taste in pizza will be your downfall, Fluffy.

                  Have we ever had an actual thin-vs-not-thin pizza post here before? Not a stolen thread–Lord, Episiarch and I alone probably are approaching the century mark in that statistic.

                  1. I think they’d be afraid to put one up, dude. We’d melt their server (if I’m not in a meeting).

                    1. Ten thousand comments, easy. Maybe they should do it on a Friday. After clearing it with our schedules.

                      And no bullshit coming at it from a tangent–a flat-out challenge to the commenters to prove which pizza is the superior. With supporting Instalanches and other marketing to ensure a robust fire fight.

                      By the way, deep dish is the pizza of liberty, as everyone knows that Italians are fascists.

                    2. One word: stromboli.

                    3. The Ingrid Bergman film? What’s that have to do with pizza?

                    4. Then why does deep dish pizza come from a city synonymous with big government corruption?

                      They need those deep pizza pans to hide all the lucre they have stolen from taxpaying Americans.

                    5. Don’t be foolish. Deep-dish pizza in Chicago is an act of rebellion. Shoot, they’ll probably be banning it along with foie gras any day now.

                    6. Nobody disputes your right to eat ChuckECheese’s pizza – the issue is sensitivity to all the fat, waddling, obese victims of fast food advertizing, and therefore whether a ChuckECheeze’s should be built within 2 blocks of sacred American ground.

                    7. My right? I don’t eat that shit, if you’re talking to me.

                    8. This is really boring.

                    9. What, you don’t like pizza?

  4. Kids LOVE Chuck E. Cheese. LOVE it. And I don’t think it harms them in any way, except maybe to distort their understanding of the value of money.

    1. Chuck E. Cheese is a gateway activity that leads children to a life of gambling addiction.

      1. Because the first letter of your name was so close to the Chuck E. Cheese, I initially read it as Fuck E. Cheese. I find both appropriate.

      2. Bullshit psychology and regulatory madness aside, there’s no doubt I mock the ticket machines to my kids on a regular basis. It’s worked with the older kids–they’re pretty much over it–but the three year-old is still hooked.

  5. From the list
    45.The Topps Co.
    Good thing the government is spending time and money to keep baseball cards out of the hands and spokes of adolescents.

  6. How do you snark something this massively stupid?

    I mean, the pointless, cruel and twisted thick-headedness of this whole thing is so near-infinity, that nothing, not even sensible humor can escape the stupid horizon surrounding the singularity of imbecility.

    1. Therefore, we must resort to insensible humour

      1. “Ludicrous speed!”

  7. What’s not to like? There are games and toys, and when you get hungry there’s paper towels dipped in a 50/50 mix of grease and tomato sauce. MMMM-MMM, bitch!

  8. Unlike most fast food places, Chuck E Cheese provides proportionate cardiovascular exercise for the kids.

    Also, broken beer bottle fights for the parents!…..?KEYWORDS=“chuck+e+cheese”

    Chuck E. Cheese’s bills itself as a place “where a kid can be a kid.” But to law-enforcement officials across the country, it has a more particular distinction: the scene of a surprising amount of disorderly conduct and battery among grown-ups.

    “The biggest problem is you have a bunch of adults acting like juveniles,” says Town of Brookfield Police Capt. Timothy Imler. “There’s a biker bar down the street, and we rarely get calls there.”

    1. That is fucked up. Are parents really the most dysfunction group of Americans?

      1. I’ve written on these hallowed pages before of my life as a retard wrangler for the Philly school system, and how we’d take the herd down to CEC’s once a month or so.

        Generally, the tards were no trouble. They’d play the video games for hours. . . without putting tokens in.

        The adult wranglers, however, would argue and bicker over skee-ball tickets with all the sophisication of a Vietnamese cockfight.

        1. They’d play the video games for hours. . . without putting tokens in.


        2. “The adult wranglers, however, would argue and bicker over skee-ball tickets with all the sophisication of a Vietnamese cockfight”

          LOL. That is your best post ever.

          1. I still tell people his, “Fire! Fire!” story from that period.

            Comedy gold.

        3. Your suppose to put tokens in???

      2. Never been to a high stakes little league game, have ya? It’s sorta like hockey, but all the fighting is in the stands instead of in the game.

        1. The Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Hailey is a total jackass with no self control on the sidelines. He is just constantly running up and down and screaming for no apparent reason. The fans on the boards in Kansas City call him “little league guy”.

          Yeah, little league and the adults associated with it have pretty much destroyed youth sports in this country.

        2. In Texas, cheerleading is occasionally fata.

          1. *Fatal. Shit.

    2. For the record, when I’ve gone and from what I hear from my wife (who goes more often with my little girl), Chuck E. Cheese, due to the fact that you can go in and just let your kids run amok, appeals mightily to our hoi polloi elements. In other words, it’s like going to Wal-Mart or the DMV. I always ask why she goes, because she frequently complains about the parents and the kids.

      We have an annual pass to the local science museum, which has a kids’ area and IMAX theater. During the school year, it’s not too nuts during the week (summer is horrific).

      1. Many of the best planetarium shows of my youth were ruined by summer campers with flash cameras.

        If you can’t enjoy the mystery of the comsos, go back to giving wedgies and heat waves to the fat kid in a purple shirt!

        Oh wait, that was also me.

  9. The FTC can suck my dick.

    Also, Chuck E. Cheese is pretty hilariously awful. Is anyone else thinking of Mooby?

  10. Look, why don’t we just ban the dirty little rug rats and, in 18 years, we won’t have to worry about sexting, kiddie porn, underage drinking, public school teacher unions, preteen slutty clothes, childhood obestity, furry rats or clowns or kings enticing kids with poor food choices, statutory rape, etc. etc. Life would be so much easier.

    1. I find your idea intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      1. WTF!!!STUPID!!!

        1. It’s stupidity, you meme mangler.

  11. This will be bad news for Epi, but Italians are capable of making incredibly bad pizza. I guess he already knew that given he hates the Chicago pastry dish with the sweet tomato sauce icing. My best friend’s dad owned the Chuck E. Cheese in Augusta when we were kids. However, he also owned and ran a legitimate and excellent Italian restaurant, as well as that crap in a can establishment.

    1. Kids like crap in a can. It is part of being a kid. Who knows why. But they just do. And there is nothing wrong with it. The kids would rather have the crap in a can than some high end pizza. So Chucky Cheese is just serving their market.

      I hate how foodie sensibility has invaded everything. Fuck it, not everything has to be great. And not everyone has good taste. They are six for God’s sake.

      1. John is correct. Kids like Chef Boyardee, for fuck’s sake, which is horrific beyond even Lovecraft’s comprehension.

        And yes, there are plenty of wops who can’t make pizza for shit.

        1. Mmmmm, ravioli in orange tomato sauce. How do they get that special orange color?

          1. for Real conniseur, and not some johnny come lately jumping on the orange food bandwagon, you cannot beat Franco American’s spaghettio’s…Oh, Oh, sphagettio’s!!!

            1. Plain or with meatballs?

              1. Let it be known, that ever as a kid I was repulsed by Spaghetti-O’s or any Chef Boyardee product. I can’t smell it to this day without throwing up in my mouth a little.

          2. Buy yourself a bottle of Ragu brand ‘vodka sauce’, it’s pretty much the same stuff.

          3. Irradiation, I suspect.

            1. Genetically modified raviolis?

              1. Either that or they overdose on Vitamin C and piss in it.

      2. Crap — forgot to change back the handle. Didn’t mean to use this homage for anything approaching semi-literacy. Well, too late now.

      3. And, if you can’t pick on six year old kids for their bad taste who can you pick on? Look at them, with their little hands and teeth. Barely able to fight back at all.

      4. Kids are also born loving all McDonald’s products.

        Seriously – the contests, the marketing, the cartoon characters, the playgrounds inside restaurants – all of it is wasted money on McDonald’s part, because it’s all unnecessary. Kids like McD’s in the womb. They don’t need any enticement or inducement.

        1. Yup. Kids like crappy greasy food and overly sweet food. It is just something about their taste pallet. Only a liberal would be dumb enough to think that they would start liking good food if we just changed the way food was marketed to them.

  12. Okay, here’s one on the list:

    31.National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board

    So I google it, and sure enough, it promotes and markets milk. I’m sure some of this marketing targets (gasp!) children. I thought children were supposed to drink their milk.

    But wait… this board is administered by the USDA! So we have the FTC targeting the USDA for marketing to children. Jesus.

    1. Can’t we just settle that one Thunderdome style?

      Two departments enter. One department leaves.

      1. I’m in.

      2. Lordy…don’t you know the rule of acronyms??? 4 letters beat 3, and don’t even get me started about FTC’s lack of a vowel.

        1. Fluffy’s being serious. As am I:

          88. At the beginning of my first term, I will order the construction (after a fundraiser) of a small stadium on the Mall, which I will call. . .Thunderdome. Into Thunderdome, I will send the secretaries of every cabinet-level agency–excluding State, Defense, DOJ, and the Treasury–in pairs. Two go in, one comes out. Two go in, one comes out.

          1. Who run Regulatingtown?

    2. Chiquita was also on the list.

      From their site: Most people associate Chiquita with bananas. We also offer a variety of other fruit and vegetables. delicious, superior quality fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh cut fruit, juices and beverages, packaged foods, salads, and fruit ingredients.

      I guess I won’t waste too much time wondering why the FTC would want to scrutinize the advertising of Chiquita’s healthy stuff to kids, because I don’t want to aggravate my aneurysm.

  13. I went to a Blue Angels show recently. Great show, cheered extra-loud for the token Marine pilot they always have on the annual team.

    But I have to admit, the Navy had some marketing materials out there to suck the kids into…joining the Navy. To do things like, you know, sit in a steel case at the bottom of the sea waiting to kill millions and millions of people with the most horrible weaponry ever invented.

    But this Chuck E. Cheese stuff is beyond the pale.

  14. Screw Chuck E. Cheese.

    But everyone should see this documentary about one man’s obsession with Chuck E. Cheese’s predecessor, Showbiz Pizza:

  15. Other companies caught in the net include Yum Brands, Wendy’s, Sunkist, Red Bull, and Chiquita.

    Chiquita. Goddamn banana pushers, keep your dirty dru…I mean, bananas away from our kids!

  16. One of the best places to eat in Orange County (Costa Mesa on Harbor south of Fair), Nick’s Pizza, is right next to a Chuck E Cheese.

  17. Gooberment needs to take a flying leap. A restaurant with games and a giant mouse and pizza and they are just NOW catching on that it MIGHT be catering to kids? YA THINK, ya frikken MORONS. Next up, Willy Wonka, Six Flags, Disney and Las Vegas. Good by days of self thought, hello government think tanks. Think for me all mighty GS-4’s, you who have braved community college…

  18. First they came for Chuck E. Cheese, and I did not speak up, for I did not dress up like as a human-sized mouse…

  19. Chuck E Cheeze recently hired a new General Manager to oversee their restaurant in Portage, MI. My concern is for the kids’s overall safety when he is spending his time on at least one Internet Dating Site during scheduled business hours when he is in charge.

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