Homeless in Vancouver: McDonald’s exercise in upsizing still has a Monopoly on confusing

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      Hey! Your one-in-five chance not to win $10,000 but probably pick yourself up a few free food prizes at McDonald’s Canada restaurant locations is back.

      That’s right, the fast food chain’s popular Coast to Coast Monopoly contest is in effect until November 11.

      For the next two weeks, select McD’s product packages will be adorned with pairs of Monopoly stickers for customers to peel and collect.

      It's all in hopes of completing property sets and winning the related prizes—everything from instant win food prizes and barbeque sets, to gas for life, or a cool ten grand in cash!

      Seniors still have a high chance of losing!

      The nearly 90 stickers I have collected so far, including the five food prizes.

      In the case of medium, large, and extra-large coffee cups, Monopoly stickers have replaced the usual McCafe loyalty card stickers.

      However, McDonald’s customers who are retirees on fixed incomes and used to buying the small-size coffee at the senior’s discount will find that their little cups have lost the McCafe stickers but not gained anything in the way of Monopoly stickers.

      The placement of these stickers, it should be remembered (in fact, half of the purpose of the Monopoly contest itself) is to drive customers wanting the stickers to upsize to larger and more expensive food portions.

      So, nothing personal seniors, it’s just business.

      Otherwise, there’s nothing really all that earth-shakingly new about this year’s Coast to Coast Monopoly contest.

      I suppose the biggest news is the return of the SnapFish online prize. Oops! I’m sorry, I meant to say—the introduction of the CanvasPop online prize—to replace SnapFish.

      CanvasPop, like SnapFish, is an online service that will take your treasured digital snapshots over the Internet and print the bits and bytes onto real-world objects. CanvasPop is more specialized but, as an instant win Coast to Coast Monopoly prize, it is every bit as confusing as SnapFish ever was.

      Meet CanvasPop—the new SnapFish

      “CanvasPop $25 Gift Card” instant win prizes from the 2018 Coast to Coast Monopoly contest prizes—free for anyone who wants to go online and redeem the codes (four from me and two from a friend).

      For many McDonald’s Canada customers the SnapFish instant online win prize that was part of the Coast to Coast Monopoly contests, going back to at least 2013, was a proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle and stuck on the side of their fry box. The prize had a meaningless name and it required effort (and a computer) to redeem.

      Well, there’s no SnapFish prize in the 2018 Coast to Coast Monopoly contest. However, McDonald’s Canada apparently believes that its contest is not complete without some kind of digital photo printing prize.

      This year it’s CanvasPop,

      While the U.S.-based SnapFish will put your digital photos on a plethora of real-world objects, the Canadian CanvasPop is an online provider of on-demand photo printing with a decidedly artsy artisan vibe.

      As the nine-year-old, Ottawa-based company’s name suggests, its special expertise is printing digital images onto actual artist’s canvas fabric. Additionally CanvasPop will print photos onto throw pillows, along with the more mundane medium of paper. There is a choice of sizes and picture frames.

      The framed canvas prints are described as hand-stretched and the imaging on the 18″ x 18″ plush “photo pillows” is full-bleed (edge-to-edge) and apparently (though not explicitly stated) durable and colour-fast enough to stand up to laundering.

      Judging by the reviews I’ve read, though, the biggest virtue of CanvasPop is its relative affordability.

      One particularly sharp review draws attention to the so-so fit and finish of CanvasPop’s canvas prints and the fact that it only accepts images in JPEG (JPG) format.

      JPEG is not a format that professional photographers use. It is the output format of your average point-and-shoot camera. It embodies destructive “lossy” compression that permanently degrades image quality to keep file sizes small. The more you enlarge a JPEG the worse it will look.

      That it is CanvasPop’s image format of choice is a clear indicator that the company is not competing at the high end of online printmaking.

      All the same, according to the above review, CanvasPop’s canvas prints start at around the $40 mark, so the $25 CanvasPop gift card you can win in this year’s Monopoly contest is less of a free prize than a potential discount.

      The confusion of online Monopoly prizes

      One thing that the substitution of CanvasPop for SnapFish hasn’t changed is the confusion and frustration caused by such online prizes. They look just like the instant win food prizes but take one to the till in a McDonald’s and you will be told—rightly and perhaps wrongly—that you have to go online to claim your prize.

      On October 16 a homeless friend asked me to help him claim the Monopoly contest prize he had won earlier in the day at a McDonald’s near Cambie Street—a “$25 McDonald’s gift card”, he said.

      Staff had given him a Coast to Coast Monopoly–branded McDonald’s gift card, which had to be activated online, they told him. They had also given him a smaller piece of plastic, with some printed instructions and a marked space where the original gift card prize sticker was supposed to be stuck.

      I saw two immediate problems. First, the McDonald’s Canada prize redemption website made no mention of a McDonalds gift card prize with a value of $25—only $10 and $50. And second, the sticker was not, in fact, stuck anywhere on the little piece of plastic.

      McDonald’s staff, apparently, had mistakenly kept the sticker. And without its 12-digit code I could not begin to activate my friend’s McDonald’s gift card.

      I got him the phone number of the McDonald’s head office in Vancouver and pointed him back in the direction of the fast food chain’s Cambie Street location, where he said he had won the prize.

      Coincidentally, the same evening another homeless acquaintance found me in the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway and asked what he should do to get the $25 McDonald’s gift card that he had won.

      Feeling myself on firm ground, I advised him to get the unactivated McDonald’s Monooply gift from a manager at the counter and—under no circumstances—relinquish his winning sticker.

      The McDonald’s manager he spoke to contradicted what I had told him, saying that he didn’t need anything to redeem the online prizes; he just needed to go online.

      Waiting until the following Wednesday morning and a different store manager, we were able to get an unactivated McDonald’s Coast to Coast Monopoly gift card. Between that and his prize sticker, my friend and I thought we had everything needed to go online and claim the $25 McDonald’s gift card.

      Except, when he handed me the sticker, I saw that it was actually for a $25 CanvasPop gift card—arrrggh!

      He and two McDonald’s managers had recognized “Gift Card” and assumed the rest. No doubt the same thing happened with my other homeless friend and the manager he dealt with. That would explain why he thought he had a “$25” McDonald’s gift card that the price redemption website had no listing for.

      Talk about having to read the fine print carefully!

      On top of any other possible changes (like maybe using a QR code to optionally streamline the online prize redemption system), McDonald’s Canada should think about making the Monopoly prize stickers bigger.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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