May 23, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Fake Bot Winners Attack Tim Hortons

Véhicules neufs et usagés | La fin des pénuries sourit aux automobilistes

It is not serious. Once again this year, Tim Hortons is telling customers they've won a top prize in the Roll Up to Win contest, even though it's not true. Whatever the cause of the blunder, the credibility of Canada's largest restaurant chain is in jeopardy.


Like many other Tim Hortons customers, Alexandre Jean Petrucci received an email believing he would receive a 200 horsepower Tracker Targa boat and matching trailer. The set is valued at $68,751.

Screenshot provided by Alexandre Jean Petrucci

Wrong email sent by Tim Hortons

After waiting on the phone for an hour to find out how to collect his prize, he was informed that it was a mistake. “I'm not very happy. It's not 1 million, but it's life-changing. I wish I had an extra $68,000 in my bank account. »

Tim Hortons won't tell me how many fake bot winners there are, but there are a few in several provinces. As of Thursday afternoon, the new Tim Hortons Facebook group “You Want a Boat” had 1,200 members from Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

When she received the famous email, Nathalie Lefebvre went to Tim Hortons in Saint-Jerome to check its authenticity. She wondered if it was a scam, which it could be. The restaurant owner confirmed the message was legitimate, after which her husband wrote a letter to headquarters. “I don't know if the letter was written in advance, but he received a response within 10 minutes. It's impossible to write this in 10 minutes! »

Tim Hortons explains that “technical errors” may have led to the “inclusion of incorrect information” in an email that summarized the list of prizes won by every customer since the popular contest began. The restaurant chain asks to “disregard the content” of the message and apologizes for the “disappointment this situation has caused”.

Since reading this response, Nathalie Lefebvre wonders if the contest is a scam, if the biggest prizes (cars, trips, $10,000s) are really awarded. “How do we know if it's true or not? Should you believe their words? » Only she should have doubts now.

The same questions were asked last year, with many customers being misinformed that they had won the $10,000 amount. Tim Hortons also claimed a technical error. Testimonials from customers in Ontario and the Maritimes have been featured in the media.

The role of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ) is to ensure that the announced prizes are awarded in this type of competition.

However, in order to reduce the regulatory and administrative burden on businesses, the law was amended in October 2023 so that the Régie no longer regulates advertising competitions. The news flew under the radar.

Companies running competitions, for example, must submit a report to the RACJ within 60 days of the designation of winners if the total value of the prizes exceeds $2,000.

Due to these specific regulations in Quebec, some pan-Canadian competitions are not open to residents of the province. This is a thing of the past. Too good, competition enthusiasts and businesses are annoyed by the paperwork required by Reggie. But now, we must trust the sincerity of companies that promise cars or trips to their customers.

Last year, after the Unroll to Win contest failed, Reggie acted as a mediator between Tim Hortons and customers who believed they had been wronged. Although the outcome of the case is confidential, its spokeswoman Joyce Tremblay indicates.

At this point, coffee and Timbits lovers have little recourse. In order to win in small claims or with a class action, it is necessary to demonstrate harm that did not actually exist in this case.

Photo by Martin Chamberland, Law Press Archives

In the beginning, you have to unroll the edge of the cups to find out if you have won the prize. Today, everything is done electronically.

Tim Hortons still needs to improve its processes to eliminate errors that give it bad press. Launched in 1986, the competition is central to its marketing strategy each spring and generates considerable excitement in its 3,590 restaurants across the country, even as people stop poking out the rims of cups with their thumbs.

2025 will be the third oddity in three years, when the company, with restaurants in four corners of the world, will generate an operating profit of nearly a billion dollars. In other words, she could have done better and avoided being the inspiration for an awkward sketch. Bye.

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