2013 Surprise Bag Article

You may not know this, but it is a real challenge to find a surprise bag interesting enough to warrant review. I’ve long considered the surprise bag review to be one of TE’s Things, but lately it seems all my efforts to find a half-decent one are coming up dry. Did you know that I haven’t posted a surprise bag article since 2006? Yeah, seems like I probably should have staggered them out a little better. But how was I to know I’d still be doing this seven years later?

I have picked up a few surprise bags over the last few years, even made special trips out of the city just to hunt for the things. But alas, I haven’t found one that’s even been worth a blog post, nevermind a full-fledged article. It’s killing me too, because for the last year or so I’ve really wanted to do one up proper. It just seems like all the surprise bags out there are filled with garbage so bland that I can’t make up reasons to make fun of, or they’re licensed and actually a pretty decent way to spend a dollar. I suppose that in hard times I could write up something about a good surprise bag, but what’s the fun in that? I don’t think anything will ever live up to that one that was like 20 years old. I’m beginning to worry that I’ll never see Dubu gum or Baby trading cards again.

My search endures, however, because I refuse to give up on the idea that surprise bags can be truly surprising and contain more than a couple generic suckers and maybe a Dubble Bubble. Also, nostalgia. The thought of a certain nearby city is inexorably linked with a certain notorious surprise bag in my mind, and I cannot think about one without the other crossing my mind. The memories of the fun I had opening and reviewing those other surprise bags lingers as well, even though I know that it likely won’t ever be as exciting as it was back when I was truly devoted to this craft.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is… wait… what?… What is that?

No. No it can’t be. I watched you die! I saw you fall into that volcano! I can still smell the fumes of your burning flesh in my moments of weakness!

As horrible as the thought is, we found each other. I was out on a bit of an expedition with The Wife just before Halloween times last year, and she was relentless in begging me to buy a bunch of spooky decorations for the house. I obliged her, and entered into the one place I didn’t think I’d ever set foot in again… the Big Dollar.

I’ll dial it back a bit for you here. Halloween? Yeah, it’s been that long since I picked these bad boys up. I cracked ’em open and took all the pictures as soon as I got home too. Only problem was that they weren’t very interesting. And that’s what I was talking about up above; there’s no foreign gum or knockoff Tic Tacs or trading cards from a movie that nobody’s ever heard of. There’s no panache. No wonder. No horrified shock. I had absolutely no will to write about them until I started writing the first few sentences of this article as a blog post. But I guess I should actually show you what’s in the bags before I rant about it too much. Gotta save some material for the rest of the review!

Oh, and as an extra blow to the boy parts, both bags contained the exact same stuff. I’ve always liked to imagine that the actual surprise bags are manufactured on an assembly line, then they’re sent off to a hidden factory that houses a giant pile of random garbage from around the world and then elves just grab a handful or two from the pile and shove it into the bags. Guess the mystique is gone now, eh?

Well that’s something. Jolly Rancher lollipops aren’t the most interesting thing I could have found in these bags, but at the very least they’re more interesting than plain ol’ suckers. The downside here is that while they may be more interesting, I’d rather just have the plain suckers when it comes down to eating the things. Jolly Rancher-branded candy tends to weight in just above my sourness threshold, which is admittedly fairly low to begin with. It gets even worse given that pink lemonade is the dominant flavour here. I don’t like pink lemonade in any shape or size. The watermelon isn’t really my speed either, but I appreciate the cherry! Cherry is always good.

What the heck is this? Hot chocolate mix? It may not be jaw-droppingly amazing, but it’s surely quite unexpected. One of the last things I’d expect to find in a surprise bag, at any rate. Mind you, I’ve been spoiled on crazy crap like Barney crayons and glow-in-the-dark cups, so maybe this is a less shocking discovery for those of you out there who aren’t accustomed to suprise bags.

The true fate of most of this surprise bag stuff is that I take the pictures, do the write-up, and then throw it all away. I will eat most things that seem remotely edible, but unfortunately in the months between buying the bags and doing the write-ups, I tossed them and all their contents because I was pretty sure I wasn’t ever actually going to get around to it. So I’ll never know if that amaretto hot chocolate was good or not. Sad face.

Now that you know the truth, pretend the rest of the article takes place in the present, and not the distant past of October last year, kay? It’ll flow better that way.

Oh wow. These sure are some plain-ass gumballs.

For the record, they were quite fresh and moist. The only material I could have possibly gotten from these depended on them being roughly 1000 years old, so no luck there.

And them’s some chocolates. The only thing notable about them is that one is shaped like half a barrel.

I don’t even know what this is. When I pulled them out of the bags, I was utterly baffled as to what they could possibly be. The colours and blockiness imply that it could be some sort of cheap fudge, but then I noticed the colourful chunks embedded within. The only thing that comes to mind here is the little bits of unidentifiable fruit mashed into fruitcakes, so I’m going to assume that these are one and the same, only a little bigger and mashed into fudge blocks instead. Hence, I will christen these mysterious wedges “fruitfudge.”

I’m not going to lie, I really do not want to put this junk into my mouth. I have two rules when it comes to eating things: number one is that it has to look appetizing, and number two is that I have to be at least somewhat aware of the identity of the substance. The fruitfudge defies both of those rules, but I guess there’s really no getting around it. For science!!

You know what? No. I really don’t want to. Maybe I’ve just built their awfulness up in my head, but I’m literally afraid of putting the fruitfudge in my mouth. So it’s not happening. You’ll have to go somewhere else for all that science.

And that’s that. I told you that they were boring. Not even a single crappy little toy for me to make fun of. Where are the knockoff Pokémon POGs and Magi-Ojitos, nameless surprise bag. Where are the Magi-Ojitos?? But hey, guess what. This isn’t the end of the story. Oh no it’s not. You may have already scrolled down and ruined it, but this article is like a Transformer: there’s more to it than meets the eye.

The nameless surprise bag and I, we will be at odds for all of time. Our destinies have been intertwined since that fateful first meeting, and no matter where I go it will follow. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came upon this surprise bag yet again. Only this time, it was in my own city. There’s a good chance that this bag knows where I live and where I work, for I found it and it’s ilk only a short walk from my place of business.

At a shabbly little underground dollar store, I saw them sitting innocently on the front counter, hoping to catch some poor fool unawares. After the Big Dollar Disappointment, I was a little hesitant to bother trying again. My spirits were about crushed, and I did pass up the opportunity the first time. But the surprise bags haunted my dreams and even many of my waking moments. It wasn’t long before I was compelled to return to that dollar store and seek out my destiny. I hate to spoil it, but it was $1.75 well spent.

Look at it there, sitting smugly on my desk. After opening it, I feel a little bad about having skimped and only bought one. But can you really blame me? I got totally burned by the last two, and if I’d bought more and they were all the same I’m pretty sure the magnitude of disappointment would have driven me to suicide. Also I could have either bought two suprise bags, or a surprise bag and a coffee. And a coffee in hand is worth two in the bush. Or something.

You may have guessed that I was a little anxious about opening this one. One on hand, it could hold magical treasures and hilarious crap unseen by human eyes for decades. On the other hand, it could be the exact same things as the other two boring bags. At that point it was too late to go back; even if I’d had a change of heart and tried to return the thing I’m pretty sure the little East Asian lady who runs the place doesn’t have an advanced enough English vocabulary to understand the words “return” and/or “refund.”

The only sentiment that comes to mind here is something along the lines of awwwwww come on!

I can hardly believe that I got stiffed like this. If it weren’t for the fact that both of the previous bags had fruitfudge in them, I’d have been a little bit scared of the coincidence. I can’t imagine that fruitfudge is a terribly common thing to begin with; I’ve never seen the stuff before these surprise bags. The worst thing about it is that it sets a bad precendent for what could follow.

Still not eatin’ it. Even though I’ve been given a second chance to prove my dedication to my craft, I’m still not eatin’ it.

And just like that it turns right around! Now we’re talking, baby! Pink popcorn! I suppose on its own you might be at a loss as to why I’m so damn excited about pink popcorn. It’s not exactly the best kind of flavoured popcorn out there, and the Nutty Club packaged kind certainly isn’t as good as if you get it fresh. I mean, I don’t typically enjoy popcorn the day after, so I’m obviously not going to be too nuts about stuff that’s been packaged and sitting for who even knows how long.

The thing about the pink popcorn that excited me is that it is pure nostalgia. You don’t eat pink popcorn as an adult, because it’s not very good and probably stale. You don’t even give it a second glance. But as a kid, it’s friggin’ amazing. It’s popcorn, which is a decent treat to begin with, but it’s dyed bright pink and covered in sugar. That’s something you take note of when you’re only waist-high to everyone else. Not to mention that for me at least, pink popcorn was a very special occasion kind of thing. I don’t remember any specific occasions wherein I was eating pink popcorn, but it immediately brings up thoughts of the circus, birthday parties, and the Red River Ex. It’s not really what I was hoping to find, but I cannot argue with something that prompts a stroll down memory lane.

I did try to eat the pink corn, but like I said before it’s not really good and I remembered halfway through the bag that I kinda hate popcorn because of how it gets lodged in between my teeth. Seriously now I’m going to spend the whole rest of the day trying to suck the popcorn bits out of my teeth because I’m too lazy to get up and grab some dental floss. I’ll chalk this one up as a double-edged sword.

Okay so this is a pretty amazing find. Is it better than the pink popcorn? You bet your ass it is! Pink popcorn is nostalgic, but it doesn’t taste very good. The Galaxy Pop has a freakin’ alien on the wrapper and tastes great! In fact, the pop itslef is slightly alien-head-shaped as well. The mold was obviously crap, but it’s got the basic alien head shape, so that’s good enough for me.

What? You want a picture? Nuts to you. There are already enough pictures in this thing. And no, I’m not trading a fruitfudge for an unwrapped Galaxy Pop. The pictures are already done. Get off my back!

Huh. Well, they can’t all be winners. I was kind of hoping we’d spent the loser quota on those damn fruitfudge bricks, but here we are, and there are some generic-ass Halloween gummies.

We’ve got a couple poorly-molded skulls there and some bats, but I am absolutely unable to positively identify the orange blobs. I thnk that maybe they’re supposed to be owls, but the jury’s still out on that one. Perhaps they are owls as designed by a confectioner who had never actually seen an owl before.

The gummies felt pretty rock-solid to the touch, but since it is my sworn duty to shove anything that resembles candy into my food-hole, I decided to eat them anyway. They were pretty tough, but softened up enough to eat comfortably with a liberal application of saliva. They tasted exactly like jube-jubes, if a little less flavourful. I doubt they’re very old; they’re probably just cheap stock Halloween candy.

Where this paragraph here is, there should be a picture of some chocolate eyeballs and Halloween caramels. Unfortunately, either I forgot to take a picture of them, or it got lost in the shuffle somewhere. So instead, you get to use the Power of Imagination! Fun!

It’s early July as I type this, and Halloween was about forever ago. I’m assuming these are from last Halloween, so the thought of them doesn’t make me wretch. I know they’re almost 100% sugar and intended to last for ages, but still, the Dubu gum fiasco has taught me that everything has an expiry date.

The eyeballs are chocolate filled with peanut butter, and the other things are your standard Halloween caramels that even the poor kids throw out because they’re crap. I gave up on the caramels right away because who wouldn’t? The eyeballs I was kind of excited about because hey chocolate and peanut butter are usually a pretty good combination. That enthusiasm didn’t last too long.

Either they eyeballs were on their way out (less likely) or they were made with cheap ingredients (more likely). The chocolate shells were fairly bland, all things told, and not of the consistency of a good chocolate. I don’t want to say they were dusty, but… flaky, perhaps? It didn’t melt in my mouth as much as it did decompose. The peanut butter was unusually tough, which isn’t the best state for peanut butter to be in. I’ve had tough peanut butter before, and it was in a Reese cup that had seen at least two Halloweens come and go. Guess my hypothesis of these being newish was at least a little off. Still, they were edible. Just not necessarily enjoyable.

My other gripe about the eyeballs is that they weren’t quite as photogenic as I’d hoped.

I guess that a plain sucker was inevitable, as they show up in even the best surprise bags. I’ve gotta say though, not too thrilled with the Jolly lolly. Not because I have any love lost for the Jolly lollies, but because it’s friggin’ pink lemonade again. Now that I stop to think about it though, most Jolly Rancher flavours are too strong for my tastes. The problem is compounded by the generic sucker being yellow in flavour, making everything in this photo nigh inedible. Just give me plain old cherry any day.

This, my friends, this is the kind of thing I keep buying these damned surprise bags for. I love it when I find candies or toys that are obviously very displaced in time or location. This Mini Cluber is easily the latter, as there’s a handy stamp on that back that claims that it was hecho en Mexico. While Mexico is maybe not quite as exotic as it could be, I’ll gladly take it.

Why am I interested in these foreign products? It’s hard to explain, really. I think a lot of it comes from giving me the opportunity to Google the product or compan’s name to see what kind of information I can dig up on ’em. The Mini Cluber, for example, was made by a company called Mmmh! Michel. Upon Googling and visiting their website, I learned that in addition to candy, they also make stuff like sauces, wheat crackers, and cereal. They manufacture marshmallows called Muchoo Bombons. That’s a fantastic name and I would buy something called Muchoo Bombon no matter what it is.

Here’s an excerpt from the description of their cereal product line: “Because of our qualified personal and use of state of the art technology, our cereals are ranked #1 in quality and value.” They use state-of-the-art technology to make their cereal! How could I lose? I bet that means they use lasers to cut out the shaped of the marshmallows. Also I’d like to add that the Kinx cereal, which looks like Frosted Flakes with marshmallows, is exactly the kind of thing I want to be stuffing my face with on Saturday mornings. Why is there no Canadian equivalent to Kinx cereal?

See? Wasn’t that fun? The Mini Cluber on it’s own isn’t quite as fun as the online adventure that it inspired, but it’s got it’s charms. Take that name for example: Mini Cluber. For some reason I feel compelled to type it out in caps every time, but I’m resisting the urge for you, dear reader. I have no idea why the mascot is a little ghost, but to be honest I don’t give a flying crap. He’s so cute! Look at his big eyes and adowwwable widdle smile. The candy sealed within is a comparatively boring marshmallow with chocolate coating and a little strawberry goop. Think Viva Puff but less amazing and without the cookie.

For the record, the Mini Cluber was as hard as a rock. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way, but my teeth are weak enough that I don’t feel like it’s worth putting them through that. Let’s just give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that a fresh Mini Cluber is a decent candy.

If there’s absolutely nothing else to take away from this, at least the Mini Cluber has taught me that the Spanish word for marshmallow is “malvavisco” and I feel that this knowledge has truly enriched my life.

That was the last thing in the bag, and while it wasn’t all really noteworthy, it was so so so so so much better than those other two. I’m a little let down by the fact that there weren’t any toys or other novelty items in the bag. It may seem weird, but my most memorable surprise bag prizes were the Baby cards and the Magi-Ojitos. Maybe they weren’t the most amazing things, or even things I’d keep for more than half an hour, but they were downright weird enough for me to care about them long enough to immortalize them on the internet. No such goodies here.

In the end though, the underground dollar store had a half-decent bag. Now that I know this, I have a burning desire to go back and snap up all the remaining surprise bags at that dollar store. It might be better that I live in wonder of what could have been in them. After all, do I really need to spend $10 for the chance to wind up with enough fruitfudge to build a fireplace? No, I think that I’ll let the others go. For now, at least. Next time I need to pick up a cheap greeting card -which, by my calculations will be next week for my dad’s and brother’s birthdays- I’ll head down there. If there are any surprise bags left, I’ll make sure to pick up a couple of them. That’s my promise to you. Too bad the surprise bags don’t promise to contain stuff that’s worth writing about.

MINI CLUBER. Aaaah… That feels better.


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