Thursday, November 09, 2006

What are the Odds? Winning Life's Lottery (Or at Least McDonalds)

Think you have a chance to win McDonald's Monopoly? No, I don't either. First of all, the nonsense one must endure to keep the tiny tabs makes the whole thing daunting. When the game comes out again I make a half-hearted effort to keep them. Eagerly ripping them off the cups when it would take ripping tabs off of oh, say a million cups, and I can assure you that I won't eat at McDonalds a million times in the next five lifetimes.

Five lifetimes and million sodas might not quite do it, even still. From The Numbers Guy, Carl Bialik of The Wall Street Journal:

Patrons get game pieces with the purchase of certain menu items or by sending in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. To collect the grand prize this year, a customer must gather four game pieces corresponding to the four railroads on the Monopoly game board. The agate-like official rules say the odds of this happening are "approximately 1 in 41,497,391,309."

"In other words, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning while on your way home from purchasing a winning Lotto ticket with your wife, Jessica Alba, the first lady of the United States," Richard Roeper wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. The odds are also far worse than some estimates of the probability of picking a perfect NCAA bracket, as cited in a Numbers Guy column in March. (As the blog Fast Food News pointed out, at least the odds are better than they were when employees of the company hired to run the promotion hoarded the rare game pieces, a scandal uncovered in 2001.)

But for all you lottery players, there is hope. Underwriters believe the odds are much better--the "odds of someone winning are very high, from an underwriting perspective". Really? How's that?
That's because the person who gets that rare piece is likely to take extreme measures to get the other three, "if they know they've got that rare game piece." Insurers typically take into consideration a "look factor," or the probability that a big winner will notice that she's won, rather than crumpling up the game piece in a french fry carton. This factor can range from 5% up to 60%, Mr. LaCroix said, and depends heavily on how much the sponsor has marketed the game and thereby raised awareness among the players.
This brings me to a sad realization: I think I had the winning piece and threw it out. I had no idea there were "rare" pieces. I had no idea the railroad one was rare. All I've been getting is railroad pieces. One of them had to be the winning property. I just know it!

You see that? You see how it works? McDonald's won't make any $5 million dollar winners but it might spawn a whole class of crazy people which is good news for the mental health profession.


kman said...

I can assure you I don't have any winners, not even the $50 gift cards, out of my 1200+ monopoly pieces I've looked through. :)

I do have about $400 in Best Buy Bux though.

Anonymous said...

I actually have won $1000 with McDonalds one time when I worked there for a short time as a teenager. Our supervisor let us open the pieces for free fries or drinks but got lucky. I gave it away though, because I was employed there and it would have been dishonest to keep it. I gave it to a pastor who told me he would give part of it to me and of course I never saw a dime of it. Oh well!

Chuck said...

I think you would have better luck playing e-lotto. I've already won a couple of times, but nothing big yet.