BUSINESS

No need to pay to play

CHARLIE GILLIS March 20 2006
BUSINESS

No need to pay to play

CHARLIE GILLIS March 20 2006

No need to pay to play

You don’t have to buy a coffee to roll up the rim

BUSINESS

CHARLIE GILLIS

They’ve long described

it as a gift to their customers, but 20 years after Tim Hortons launched its Roll Up The Rim To Win contest, the company is learning the lengths to which some participants will go to play. Last year, the doughnut maker mailed out some 760 empty cups to people who had taken advantage of little-known federal rules forbidding anyone other than licensed lottery operators from running a contest where entrants must pay to play. This antiquated law—written in the Criminal Code, of all places—is the reason Tim Hortons prints “no purchase required” on every contest cup (look in the yellow portion, near the bottom). It means you can play without actually shelling out for a medium double-double.

Understandably, this is not a fond subject around Tim Hortons headquarters, perhaps because added publicity might nudge still more people to engage in this time-wasting activity. When asked about it, company spokesman Greg Skinner sighs and mutters darkly about the countless, more pressing matters facing the world. The contest, he explains, is run by a third-party firm in Saint John, N.B., whose duties include firing off cups to those who send in postage-paid, selfaddressed envelopes. The system helps prevent hordes of people from lining up at the company’s counters and demanding free cups.

Why any corporation should be forced to indulge non-customers in this way is a decent question. A better one is who would spend $1.02 on postage to get in on a game you can play ambling over to one of Canada’s 2,500 Tim Hortons outlets and paying $1.25 for a cup of joe. You still have to buy an envelope that will accommodate the cup, after all, and you’re allowed only one cup per request. Anyone who thinks he’s gained an edge by using the mail would probably be hard-pressed to answer the skill-testing question required for major prizes.

Skinner is too politic to make this point. No one keeps track of where the requests come from, he says, and the company won’t speculate whether it’s being pecked at by Timbitdeprived Canadians (inhabitants of remote communities, say, or sailors). “If anyone wins,” he says, “we don’t know where the cup came from.” Anyway, no one’s accusing the mail-order rim rollers of poor sportsmanship. The odds are the same for them as anyone. And in a contest where the rewards are scrolled under the lips of 28 million paper cups, it doesn’t much matter how you play the game. M