McDonald’s Monopoly is a Scam (sort of)

Marketing is one of the most difficult hurdles that a company must leap in order to achieve their goals (revenue). Certain companies offer promotions, giveaways, and sweepstakes to lure consumers into overspending. No company on earth does this better than McDonald’s. Last week, McDonald’s opened its 19th year of the enormously popular Monopoly game, offering the opportunity to win $1 million. If you are like me (a skeptical consumer) you wonder if the Monopoly game ever really pays out and is simply a scam. I’m here to tell you that yes, it is a scam. Well, it was (but not intentionally). Confused? Good, because it’s complicated.


I suppose I should clarify: the McDonald’s Monopoly board game has never really been a scam. In order to ensure fairness and legitimacy, McDonald’s is mandated to put an independent company in charge of any sweepstakes. They chose “Simon Worldwide”. So far so good. That is, until Jerome Jacobsen (an employee of Simon) nicked extremely rare game pieces from production lines and gave them out to family and friends to redeem. This means that from 1989 to 2001 your odds of winning $1 million sunk from .000000001% to flat-line because the grand prize pieces never even left the manufacturer (well, technically they did…in Jacobsen’s pocket). So as you can see, during the 90’s the whole game was inadvertently a scam—but not through any fault of McDonald’s. To McDonald’s credit, they actively assisted the FBI in investigating suspects when it was discovered Jacobsen was just 1 member in a ring of 51 jobbing the system (all of whom were indicted). At the end of the ordeal Jacobsen was sentenced to 3 years in prison, $13 million in restitution, and $750,000 in fines. Moral of the story? Don’t mess with McDonald’s.


Nowadays the game is wholly legitimate. Last year the grand prize was claimed by an unemployed (for 16 months) Wisconsin man. (I can say with supreme confidence that his odds of staying unemployed are greater than his odds of winning were.)


Personally, I consider the game to be a scam as well as gimmicky because of the infantile odds at winning anything valuable (a medium fries, obviously, is not valuable). However, I do applaud McDonald’s for planting the seeds of grandeur in the minds of their customers, handshaking with their right hand and squeezing nickels with their left. It truly is remarketable.


Atlas Signs and Plaques understands the importance of giving back to customers. We will be offering a giveaway (meaning 100% win-rate) effective immediately for the holiday season. Stay tuned to this blog for further details. Here’s a small hint of what’s coming.



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