I usually reserve Friday for exposing an MLM/pyramid scheme scam, but today I thought I’d take a lighter-natured look at different kind of “scam.” I’m putting it in quotes, because I’m not sure many people intelligent people are tricked by it. It also doesn’t directly cost them any money. However, it does fall into the category of a “confidence game.”
In New England, one of the biggest grocery stores is Shaw’s. Following on the heals of McDonald’s popular Monopoly game, Shaw’s has launched their own Monopoly game. For some reason, I didn’t notice it last year. This year, it caught my attention.
It’s a bit of a kooky game. It doesn’t have properties that you collect like McDonalds. Instead it has pieces such as 122C and 187J. They don’t limit you to collecting 2 or 3 pieces, but it varies. The big prizes have 6 pieces to collect.
That’s not why I’m writing the article today. I’m writing it for two reasons:
You Have Almost Zero Chance of Winning Shaw’s Monopoly Game
I think everyone knows from the McDonalds’ game that there’s a rare piece. That’s what limits the company (I should say the insurance company) from paying out billions of dollars.
As Savings Advice points out McDonalds doesn’t pay out the million dollars very often. They explain why in detail, but the gist is:
1) The Boardwalk piece may never get shipped to a store… they make more pieces than necessary so they don’t run out before the end of the game.
2) It may never get served to a customer.
3) The customer may never open the piece.
4) The customer may throw away Boardwalk not realizing it is the magic piece.
5) They have to go get the easy Park Place place as well.
The last two are probably not too limiting, but the first three are. It’s a little scammy (as in “confidence game”), but not the kind of thing I’d waste my time writing about.
So let’s get to the Shaw’s version of the game…
When you spend a certain dollar amount or buy special Monopoly ticket items you get game pieces. Every time I have gone to Shaw’s, they ask me if I’m playing the game before giving me the game pieces. They aren’t automatically served to customers. From what I’ve seen, I’d estimate that 80% of customers reject the game pieces.
I figured I’d play the game. Figuring that there are rare pieces like McDonalds, I went on a search for a list of the rare pieces. Fortunately, Boston on Budget had what I was looking for.
However, I found something I wasn’t expecting… for the bigger prizes there appear to be TWO rare pieces.
We just covered how hard it is to find Boardwalk… and people know to look for it. People don’t know to look for 107A… pieces aren’t getting consistently served… customers may throw it out. They have to collect 6 total pieces.
But then they have to find the rare 105A piece as well.
(All this is according to Boston on Budget’s list, which comes with the disclaimer that I can’t verify the information.)
It is almost like having to pitch a perfect game in baseball and then them saying, “Well now you need to go out and pitch a no-hitter.”
Therein lies the scam/confidence game. The image you see above of $80,000,000 in prizes is tempting consumers to come in and play. It even tempts them to buy products that they might not otherwise to earn extra game pieces. Yet Shaw’s will very likely only pay out a small percentage of the money… and I highly doubt they pay out the million.
I’d be more harsh on the scam, but with so few playing the game, it doesn’t seem to be a big temptation.
However, perhaps the real reason I’m writing this is because I decided to play the game in hopes of getting one of the small prizes. I thought I might even be lucky enough for an instant winner prize similar to the free food that McDonalds gives away.
I was lucky. I pulled one of the instant winner prizes:
Worst instant winner prize ever from @shaws pic.twitter.com/5f66vaN5hB
— LazyManAndMoney (@LazyManAndMoney) February 20, 2015
I was a winner of something that literally had no cash value.
I do love Shaw’s response to rub a little more salt in the wound with the #BePositive hashtag:
@LazyManAndMoney But it's the prize that gives you a chance to keep on winning! #BePositive #Monopoly2015
— Shaw's Supermarket (@shaws) February 20, 2015
I’ve been in good contact with Shaw’s Twitter account. They saw the article are responded with:
@LazyManAndMoney No scam here. Customers play to win, & get lucky. We just had a winner celebration of one of the $20,000 Tuition prizes.
— Shaw's Supermarket (@shaws) March 6, 2015
This lead to:
@LazyManAndMoney Great question. When the Monopoly collect & win game ends, you can request a prize summary.
— Shaw's Supermarket (@shaws) March 9, 2015
Which naturally lead to:
@LazyManAndMoney See some of the prizes we awarded from 2014 here: http://t.co/PzV1OaM9ag More prize information: https://t.co/OdIN8rHSZZ
— Shaw's Supermarket (@shaws) March 9, 2015
So I decided to take them up on their invitation to look at the prizes that were given out last year. In fact, I put them in a spreadsheet so I could add them all up.
Before I go any further, I want to highlight that not all prizes are listed there. There are many smaller prizes and the odds are here. Shaw’s made that point, but it isn’t exactly clear if that’s the 2014 or 2015 numbers. If I had to guess I’d say it is 2015 due to the copyright at the bottom (2015).
However, they only pointed me to that page of prizes claimed, so I can only go on that. To the best of my knowledge I have no way of knowing how many $25 grocery gift cards were awarded.
What’s interesting is that this Playmonopoly.us is not Shaw’s website. It appears as if the game is run across the grocery chain’s many brands. This means that it is possible they could limit winners by shipping different rare pieces to different geographic regions and pairing them with the “more rare” pieces to other chains.
All that said, I’m going to present the data from the link they suggested a few different ways.
Of the “over $55,000,000 in prizes and money saving offers”:
Overall: There were 77 people who won $600,500 in prizes represented on the page.
Winnings from game pieces: There appear to be 63 people who won a total of $73,500.
Second Chance Winnings: One person won $500,000 which only came into play as a second chance winning because none of the top 6 prizes were claimed. (the rare pieces on Boston on Budget no one won when there were two rare pieces… just as one would expect and as I wrote.
My analysis is that a little more than 1% of the over 55 million in prizes was awarded. The amount won from game pieces themselves appears to be 0.13% of the marketed $55 million number. (Again, this all comes with the caveat that it doesn’t include smaller prizes.)
I’m not one to nitpick, but at this point I figure I’m in for a penny, why not be in for a pound? Of the $100,500 in non-second chance prizes awarded, $42,000 or 42% of it was in the form of groceries or gift cards. It’s a fine prize and actually what I was hoping to win when I decided to play the game. However, it is worth noting that the $42,000 is value to consumers, not the value that Shaw’s has to pay. We know that it is much cheaper for McDonalds to give out free food than cash. No one thinks it costs McDonalds $1.25 for a soda or a $1.50 for fries… we are all smart enough to understand margins, right? To Shaw’s it is probably less than $30,000 worth of groceries… a very far cry from the big number they claim they are giving away.
Once again Shaw’s is running the Monopoly game. I had compared it to McDonalds before so I did a little research into that one and found this article on Priceonomics about McDonalds Monopoly being a fraud. One quote from that is how these setups can cause real consumer harm:
” So thousands of people with 3 out of the 4 railroads are all searching for Short Line Railroad, with only 1 in 150 million odds of finding it. The setup draws scammers, who put out Craigslist ads or post on forums that they have Park Place and want to team up with someone who has the (rare) Boardwalk piece. When someone ignorant of the odds agreed, he or she sends the rare piece and never hears from the scammer again.”