Aranami | Flickr
McDonald’s yearly game of Monopoly is coming back in a couple short weeks, and it has my stomach rumbling, my arteries trembling, and my doctor texting me “it’s not worth it”.
But that doesn’t matter, cause this year I’m gonna win. Probably not, but maybe I just play for the love of the game, like a true athlete.
The winners of the million dollar prize aren’t necessarily instant millionaires. The grand prize is paid out in $50,000 checks over 20 years.
The million dollar prize is given out to the player who collects both Park Place and Boardwalk, but that’s easier said than done. Boardwalk has a 1 in 651,000,000 chance of being found. But, Park Place has a 1 in 11 chance of being found to make the players think they’re so close to winning.
The 2010 million dollar winner is quite a story. Jon Kehoe was jobless for 11 months when he went to get a McRib meal. He found Boardwalk on the box, and Park Place on his drink. Odds of finding both pieces at once are roughly 1 in 3.5 billion.
But just because you didn’t win any cold hard cash doesn’t mean you’re not a winner. 1 in every 4 pieces wins an in-store prize like a medium fries or a McFlurry. Which brings you right back to McDonald’s where you buy more food because the real winner is always that terrifying clown.
This giveaway game has been going on for 32 years. The first round started in 1987 and gave away $40,000,000 worth of prizes across multiple countries.
Ginny | Flickr
In 1995 a clerk at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital found an envelope containing the million dollar prize pieces. There’s more to this story a few facts down.
In 2001 it was found out that 8 people had been rigging the game for over 6 years, along with other McDonald’s promotions. None of these people worked for McDonald’s but actually worked for Simon Marketing, the company that ran the game for McDonald’s. Together they had conned themselves into over $20 million dollars.
McDonald’s tried to sue Simon Worldwide for their cheated losses, but it didn’t go that well. The MacShack had to pay Simon Worldwide $16.6 million dollars after settling. All-in-all a pretty big loss for McDonald’s.
After the news broke of the conmen who cheated at the biggest game of monopoly, it came out that they were the ones who mailed the winning pieces to the clerk at St. Jude’s. The hospital offered to give back the money, but McDonald’s allowed them to keep it.
There are still ways to cheat the system, however, without breaking the law. One law-abiding lawyer found a fun little clause in the game: it would be illegal to have the game without it being “no purchase necessary”.
So Alan L. Friel decided to mail over 100 handwritten letters to McDonald’s asking for game pieces, seeing that the price of a stamp was less than the lowest priced item that would earn a game piece ($.99 hashbrown). Most letters came back with pieces.
The game has increased McDonald’s sales by between 1-6% over the years. A quick Google search told me that their sales hover around the $25 billion mark, so I’d say it’s a net gain even with the million dollar prize.
There were 4.2 billion game pieces created between 2003 and 2011. If we lined those up side-to-side, we could circle the globe 1 and a half times.
LeBron James was a spokesperson for McDonald’s between 2010 and 2015 and appeared in multiple commercials, including ones that would feature the monopoly game. Which is odd, considering he went on a no sugar, no dairy, and no carb diets while those commercials were running.
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