For some people going to McDonald’s is a ritual. It’s not because of the Happy Meal or the Big Mac (good reasons in and of themselves), rather because they get the chance to play McDonald’s Monopoly and win. You could win anything from a side of fries to millions of dollars. And when you’re both a fan of monopoly and a passionate lover of cheeseburgers, then naturally McDonald’s becomes your favorite place to have a meal. After all who would say no to a chance to become a millionaire while gorging on chicken and Filet-O-Fish? McDonald’s Monopoly is the result of the fast food giant and Hasbro, the creator of the board game Monopoly, putting their heads together to offer some entertainment and incentive. The sales promotion is designed to get the Happy Meal fans to visit the franchise more and eat more burgers. The gameplay is fairly simple. You get game pieces when you buy certain items on the menu. The pieces represent property on the board. You collect the tokens, color-match the properties, and win a huge prize. Simple, right? Not exactly. There’s a reason McDonald’s patrons haven’t all turned into millionaires overnight. The game is simple but at the same time is quite difficult. There’s always a catch. For example:
10. Not All Pieces Are Created The Same
You know the saying, all men are equal in the eyes of the law but some are more equal than others? Granted, it’s steeped in cynicism, but it applies perfectly to the game of Mcdonald’s Monopoly. As you might expect, many pieces that help you match the properties are quite ubiquitous. You’ll find them everywhere. Others, however, are rare and you’ll need a lot of dedication, too many burgers, and copious amounts of luck to stumble into one. This in effect means that certain pieces are more valuable than others. So which ones to keep an eye out for when playing this game of equal portions chance and skill? According to the experts, there are 10 pieces that are guaranteed winners. When you land one, you know you’ve one something. Rideau Canal is rare but will get you an Xbox One. Mackenzie River gets you an ATV while Percé Rock is worth ten grand. Other pieces that win cash include Le Château Frontenac which nets you $50,000 and Confederation Bridge which is worth $5,000. Also be on the lookout for Vancouver Airport, Route Transcan. Highway, Portage and Memorial, Whistler, and Tunnels Moose Jaw. They are all winner pieces in the world of McDonald’s Monopoly.
9. The Myth of Park Place
But as you can expect not all single tokens are winners. Some need to be combined together in groups before you can claim your prize. Naturally the more pieces you need for a certain puzzle, the less value each piece has for the players. A prize that needs 8 pieces, for example, to complete makes it not worth your while to pursue it. But one that yields a huge prize like the coveted million that only needs two pieces will pique your interest. And that’s what makes the piece called Park Place so alluring. When you have Park Place, you only need another piece, Boardwalk, to get your hands on the million dollars. This means owning Park Place automatically puts you halfway through this challenge. In money talk, Park Place, at least on paper, is worth $500,000. But that’s only in theory. Remember what we said earlier about rare pieces? Turns out, Boardwalk, is as rare a piece as they come, if not the rarest of them all. So the next time you get Park Place on your tray with your order don’t get too excited. It’s practically worthless. And instead of chasing the million-dollar prize, you might want to focus on another game where you have better odds of completing.
8. So Many Game Pieces
For a game played everywhere from Canada to South Africa and from New Zealand to Germany and with such huge cash prizes, you’d wonder how come the number of millionaires in the world isn’t doubling every few days. Millions of people play the game so the odds are there should be a winner of the big prize on a regular basis. The reason is simple. There are so many pieces out there that finding the important ones is really really difficult. It is estimated that every year McDonald’s issues millions of game pieces in a single country. Between 2003 and 2011 alone there were over 4.2 billion pieces in circulation. Take a moment to think about that huge figure. And of course, the majority of these pieces are worthless. There are millions of Park Place pieces there compared to only 10 Boardwalk pieces. Let that sink in. Every time you order an item on the menu that rewards you with a piece of two and your heart almost jumps with anticipation, the odds are you’ll be getting a piece that has zero value. So you try again. And again. It’s what makes the game fun and keeps McDonald’s operating at a profit.
7. When Fraud Gets in the Mix
With the odds of winning the big prizes stacked so high, not everyone plays fair. In fact, the history of the game is marred with fraud. The fraud didn’t involve McDonald’s or its employees though. It was mainly the players or third party employees. A case in point involved a certain employee of Simon Marketing which McDonald’s had hired to organize the game. In 2000 it was discovered that Jerome Jacobson, the chief of security at Simon Marketing, had found a way to siphon the valuable game pieces, pass them on to his associates then they would split the profits. This went on for years before anybody even got suspicious. Jacobson who started with only friends and family, expanded his network to cover his tracks. He started selling the winning pieces to people all over the US. This tactic helped him stay under the radar while he continued his scheme. Because the people claiming the prizes were from various geographic locations both Simon Marketing and McDonald’s assumed that they were legal winners. By the time Jacobson’s scheme was uncovered he had already made over $20 million in profits. Some people just can’t chase the Boardwalk piece like everybody else.
6. No Purchase Necessary
While some people try to rig the game in their favor, others resort to some unusual ways to get their hands on the precious pieces. Now you might think that your only way of getting a token is if you bought a menu item that rewards you with a game piece. Others who are more enterprising would scour the local papers looking for redeemable coupons. And still, there are others who would think of really clever ways to get the pieces. For example, since you don’t need to purchase anything from McDonald’s to get the pieces, a lawyer in 2012 decided to try something different. Alan Friel decided to game the system and see how many pieces he could get for free. McDonald’s is legally required to send you pieces but only if you ask for them by mail. Friel sent 100 handwritten letters to McDonald’s asking for game pieces. He got 98 replies with a piece enclosed in each one. And when you consider that a postal stamp costs less than the hashbrowns, the cheapest menu item that rewards you with a game piece, then Friel did save some money in that transaction.
5. Marketing Success
Even though the million dollar prize remains as elusive as ever, still there are other prizes which are still valuable. And people win all the time. So why does McDonald’s keep rolling out the game year after year? Surely they must be losing money by now having to give away all those cash prizes, ATVs, and Xbox sets. What do they get in return? Well, for one thing, they get a lot of publicity. With the huge number of game pieces, the chances of winning a valuable prize become slim. Yet people love playing and keep coming back for more. This increases sales which is the whole point of rolling out McDonald’s Monopoly in the first place. Remember this is a sales promotion designed to make you buy more burgers and Big Macs. The more people play the more burgers McDonald’s sells. According to some estimates, since the launch of this game sales in McDonald’s has gone up 6%. This translates into huge profits which dwarf all the rewards and prizes the game offers. So remember that the next time you go chasing that rare Boardwalk piece. You’re actually driving the sales, and subsequently McDonald’s shares, up the roof.
4. You Won’t Become a Millionaire
This one might come as a shock to you so you’d better be sitting down while you’re reading this. Even if the stars aligned and you finally got so lucky that you landed that elusive piece and won the top prize, you still won’t become a millionaire. McDonald’s won’t pay you $1,000,000 dollars in cash. No way. You’ll get it on installments. Usually what you get is a $50,000 check every year for the next 20 years. So you can cancel your luxury car, big summer house and that cruise to the Caribbean. Winning the million dollar prize means you will get a steady annual check no more. Still, $50K a year is a lot of money. So maybe it’s worth it after all.
3. The Average Joe Doesn’t Win Much
Every one of us thinks they are special. We’re either smarter than people around us, more gifted, have special talents, or we’re just luckier. Yes, we all believe Lady Luck favors us with her winning smile more than anyone else. It’s an illusion but we take comfort in believing that. This is why we keep playing the lottery knowing full well that only a tiny fraction of one percent will actually win something. Still, we go and buy the lottery and keep hoping our number will come up. McDonald’s Monopoly is just like the lottery. Your chances of winning anything but some fries are slim. We’re talking 1 in 250 million. Just think of the millions of people who play it around the world. Think of the billions of pieces in circulation. Remember we said out of 4.2 billion pieces only 10 were Boardwalk pieces? That just shows the chances of winning the big prize are really low. The same applies to the rest of the valuable prizes. You can secretly think of yourself as Lady Luck’s favorite disciple, but the truth is unless you consider the ratios and the mathematics of the game, you’ll be greatly disappointed. You can still console yourself with the mountain of fries in front of you while you dream of the ATV.
2. There’s a Movie Coming Soon
Because of the sensational nature of the fraud case and the years it had gone undetected, the story got the attention of Hollywood. There’s talk that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck would star in a movie adaptation of this heist. In fact, the story was so juicy it is rumored that Damon and Affleck paid over one million dollars for the rights of the story. And when you consider that said story was an 8,700 words article, that says something about the movie budget itself. And considering that both stars are attached to the movie, we can’t wait to see it. Damon would play Jerome Jacobson, the former head of security and the man behind the largest fraud case in the history of McDonald’s Monopoly. The movie will be directed by Ben Affleck who after the success of Argo is undoubtedly willing to try his hand at direction again. No date set for when the movie will come out yet. But fans of both stars, monopoly, and thrillers, in general, can’t wait to see the daring case on the silver screen.
1. Playing Online
There’s another form for the traditional McDonald’s Monopoly game that you can play online. It was introduced back in 2005 and has had huge success. The rules for the game are different depending on your location. But generally speaking you use a code instead of a physical game piece and you’re allowed to enter 10 codes every 24 hours. When you enter a code you get one roll of the virtual Monopoly board just like any other online game. If you roll a double you can move again. There are properties in the online game just as in the real game. But some online properties are worthless. For example, if you get to either Water Works, Luxury Tax, Income Tax, Electric Company, or Go to Jail you won’t get any prizes. Any unclaimed properties you land on become yours automatically. You win a prize once you’ve collected a colored set of properties. Other locations on the virtual board are an instant win. These include Go, Chance, Community Chest, and Free Parking. You need to land on any of these places and not just pass through them in order to claim your prize. Prizes vary from cash to winning points that can be redeemed in McDonald’s outlets for meals or beverages. While many players prefer the traditional game, others find the online version more attractive and convenient. You can play it from anywhere using a phone, tablet, or laptop.