Features 10/17/01

McDonald's Monopoly scandal didn't come close to passing 'Go' in Logan

By Holli Gunnell

While the rest of the world may have been disappointed and even a bit angry when the news broke in August that McDonald's Monopoly game had been rigged, patrons of the local McDonald's didn't seem to mind much.

"We had a few customers ask us what had happened," said Heidi Stimpson, assistant manager of the Logan restaurant. "But for the most part, people didn't get angry."

It took a while before people even started asking questions, Stimpson said. In response to the scandal, McDonald's corporate headquarters sent out a letter of apology to all customers explaining what they knew up to that point, and reassured customers that there would be a "second chance" contest. Stimpson said there were copies of the letter posted on all doors of the restaurant.

"That's how a lot of our customers found out about it," Stimpson said. "There were a lot of students coming back from summer vacation who hadn't even heard of it until they read the letter."

According to a press release issued by the FBI on Aug. 21, the Monopoly game and another popular promotional game, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" were both rigged by an employee of Simon Marketing, the firm hired to ensure the security of the game. The FBI said that Jerome Jacobson, an employee in the security department, obtained winning game pieces and distributed them to friends.

The press release said Jacobson's friends then found people to turn in the winning game pieces and collect the prizes. The winnings were then split among the participants.

In an article written by Karen Gullo of The Associated Press, published on the WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth website, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "This fraud scheme denied McDonald's customers a fair and equal chance of winning. Those involved in this type of corruption will find out that breaking the law is no game." In an effort to appease curious and angry customers, Jack M. Greenberg, chairman and CEO of McDonald*s Corp., released a statement immediately following the FBI press release.

"Millions of McDonald's customers legitimately won prizes over the years, from free food and drinks to cash and merchandise. We now know, however, that this criminal enterprise has been charged with stealing many of the highest value prizes from our customers*and that is completely unacceptable," Greenberg said. "To right this wrong, we are announcing today the opportunity for McDonald's customers to win prizes valued at $10 million between Aug. 30 through Sept. 3 in a McDonald's Instant Give-Away. McDonald's is committed to giving our customers a chance to win every dollar that has been stolen by this criminal ring."

Employees of the Logan McDonald's said that although they had heard of people suing the company and customers being angry and wanting answers, their customers were understanding for the most part.

Brooke Tribett, a crew trainer who works mostly nights and weekends, said that she didn't hear a lot about the scandal from customers.

"I got more customers complaining that we don't have twist ice cream than that there was a big scandal going on," she said.

Bree Ann Leng, a shift manager who works mostly days said her regular customers were curious about how the new contest would work. "They were just confused about how the winners of the new contest would be chosen," she said. "It seems hard for people to accept that winners were going to be chosen at random from different stores all over the place."

Logan McDonald's regular customer Harry Smith said nothing could stop him from coming to get his morning coffee.

"I come here to meet my friends and drink my coffee," said Smith. "Scandals won't be stopping me from getting my up-and-go."

Customer Jesse Weiss said he wasn't concerned about the fraud. "It has not changed my opinion of McDonald's cheeseburgers," said Weiss.

Stimpson said she never worried about losing customers over the scandal. "I think people have other things to worry about than boycotting McDonald's over something that wasn't their fault."

In Bruce Horovitz's USA Today article, which ran Aug. 21, he said that McDonald's probably wouldn't suffer any financial loss from the scandal. The article quoted Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a restaurant consultant, saying that although there was image damage, McDonald*s can deal with it.

"It looks like they're gonna make lemonade out of lemons," Paul said.

The article also quotes Scott Hume, managing director of Restaurants and Institutions. He said the second contest might bring in even more customers. "But people will think, 'Hey, I have a really good chance of winning this time."

Customers around the globe had a chance to react to the events on message boards. One such board was on the WFAA website, a TV station in Dallas. Posters were joking around more than anything. Jule, a registered member of the site said of the scandal, "I guess that's what you get when you take a 'Chance' and mess with the 'Community Chest'."

Another member, Crng1960, supported McDonald's in his post. "From what I read, it wasn't McDonald*s that committed fraud, but the company that is responsible for the games," he said. "I have always hated those McDonald games. I throw away those things as soon as they give them to me."

Overall, employees at the Logan McDonald's said, local patrons didn't let the scandal bother them.

Customer Brian Shields said it all: "It just doesn't matter when you're craving a Big Mac."


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