Come Halloween, homeowners arm themselves with bagfuls of Snickers and Skittles to give the masses that come a-knocking. Homeowners alsobrace themselves for an onslaught of eggs, toilet paper, burning garbage bags of poop, and other pranks that, for some reason, are deemed OK to do to a house on this one day—with the poor innocent homeowners left to clean up the mess.
But guess what? Maybe not all of them are quite so innocent. No, I’d wager that some of the homes that get creamed on Halloween actually deserve it. Why? Because these are the homes inhabited by Halloween Scrooges who just don’t treat trick-or-treaters with the respect they deserve.
If you’re worried whether your Halloween habits have turned your home into a sitting target, check out these misdeeds to avoid.
Look, I get it. Not everyone is into giving out candy. Maybe you don’t want a bunch of tempting treats lying around the house for a week. Maybe you believe kids these days get too much damn sugar already.
If you’re not going to give out candy, do not substitute a joyless bag of shriveled grapes. And while we’re at it, even if you happen to be a dentist, don’t you dare give kids toothbrushes. Try fun-size bags of Pirate’s Booty, or spider rings, or spooky erasers, or stickers. Or anything a kid might actually be excited to get.
2. If you aren’t giving out candy, turn off your porch light
It’s a universal rule: no porch light, no trick-or-treaters. Nobody’s going to be mad at you for skipping Halloween. People understand that adults have things they have to do, like working, going to a Halloween party for grown-ups, or sitting in the dark shoving fun-size Butterfinger bars into their own faces. That’s your business!
Just remember to turn the porch light off, and avoid that awkward moment when Anna and Elsa are screaming “trick or treat” on your porch while you try to stand still enough that your neighbors can’t see you behind the curtain.
3. Don’t give out business cards with your candy
Somehow, this has become a thing. It should not be a thing. Business cards are for adults. Trick-or-treating is for children. Do not try to get at the parents through their children’s treats.
I have heard people suggest that it’s OK if you’re giving out full-size candy bars or other premium treats: false. It’s tacky. Don’t do it. Not everything needs to be a marketing opportunity. If you don’t want to give out candy without getting something for yourself, see rule No. 2 and turn off that light.
4. Spooky decorations are good, dogs are bad
Many children are terrified of dogs they don’t know. It’s a good instinct actually. Kids should be scared of strange dogs.
“But my dog is really nice,” some folks might argue. “Yes, he’s huge and barks a lot and lunges at people when they ring the doorbell, but he’d never hurt anybody!”
Yeah, see, kids don’t know that about your dog, though, and by the time you’ve explained it, they’re already crying and cowering behind their parents. If you have a dog that goes bonkers when the doorbell rings—which, to be fair, is what many people want their dogs to do—keep it contained. Even small, apparently harmless-to-an-adult dogs can rattle small kids. Do you really want a trail of weeping 4-year-olds leaving your house?
5. OK, but not too spooky on the decorations
There’s a line with the scary decor, and some people take sadistic delight in crossing it. Severed body parts, gory scenes, motion-activated stuff that screams at you, even the gag where Grandpa sits on the porch and pretends to be a dummy until kids get close and then he jumps up and scares the pants off them—these have no fans. While the last one is admittedly funny sometimes, you’re probably not making friends in the neighborhood doing this kind of stuff.
6. Don’t micromanage the bowl
A classic move if you’re not around to personally hand out treats is to leave a bowl full of candy on the porch and let trick-or-treaters help themselves. If you have children and both parents want to go on the trick-or-treat run, this is a great option. But you have to let go of the illusion of control over the bowl. Those treats? They’re the universe’s treats now. Taping up a sign reading “Pick ONE TREAT ONLY PLEASE save some for EVERYONE” is not going to keep unsupervised kids from shoveling every last one of your treats into their bags. And honestly? On Halloween, the rules of the jungle apply. Your sign is worse than useless—it’s a downright provocation. So if the little monsters down the block want to make themselves sick on your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, you just have to let it happen.