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My Journey: Handwriting 100 Letters for McDonald’s Monopoly Pieces (Part 3)

This series chronicles my journey to hand-write 100 letters to McDonald’s requesting Monopoly Game Pieces for their annual Monopoly Game sweepstakes. The game rules state that McDonald’s will mail back 2 game pieces if a participant sends a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to McDonald’s. There is no mention of a limit on the number of requests a participant can send, so I’m sending in 100 letters to see if 1) I can make back the money I spent on stamps and envelopes (around $117), 2) to see if McDonald’s will live up to their claim and honor my 100 letters and 3) see if I win any cool stuff! For more details on how my journey began, read part 1 [3] and Part 2 [4].

For those of you keeping track, so far I’ve gathered my supplies and written/mailed off all 100 envelopes to McDonald’s — now it’s the hard part: waiting.

Step 11: Waiting

I was the kid carefully peeling off the tape on my Christmas presents in the closet in November, so this is going to be a nightmare.

Here’s a quick real-world timeline of events and time invested:

So that’s about a week of real-world time and approx. 10 actual hours working on this so far. I actually picked a pretty bad time to ship anything. October 5th was a Friday, So my envelopes probably sat the whole weekend (6th and 7th). Monday the 8th was Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, so again my envelopes weren’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still in Florida at this point. I had pretty much written off McDonald’s getting these anytime soon, let alone sending them back quickly, but then…

Monday, October 15th


Totally unexpected. They are post-dated October 11th. This means they must have received my request envelopes on Tuesday the 9th, inspected and stuffed my 100 SASE envelopes, then sent them on Wednesday the 10th. Wow. Props, McDonald’s AMOE/SASE team 🙂

So now it’s time to look at my bounty.

Step 12: Inspection

First thing I do is a head count, and it’s 98 out of 100. So 2 letters are sitting somewhere, sad and alone (of course my first thought is that one of the missing envelopes has my winning pieces :P)

I notice this handwritten “10” on an envelope. At first I thought it was just some form of internal tracking, but they all say “10”. So I’m guessing it represents October 10th, the day they must have shipped all of these. With that out of the way, the fun begins 🙂

Step 13: What’s in these things?

There are only 2 things in the envelopes:

Here’s the other side of the info sheet

Alright, let’s go…

Step 14: Opening all the letters

Starting a little pile already. I’ve enlisted my girlfriend to help out so we can get through it quickly.

Nothing yet, but we started separating instant-win prizes from property pieces.

Almost done. Nothing! We’ve won a variety of instant-win prizes so far, ranging from My Coke Rewards to a bevy of medium Fries, but no “big ticket” instant win prizes, and no rare Monopoly pieces.

Done. Counted, peeled and collected all 392 pieces.

Step 15: Outcome…

Ab.so.lute.ly. Nothing. This was expected, but still a major bummer. But all is not lost. We still have to input all the game piece codes online as part of the McDonald’s Monopoly Online Game [5], so there’s still a chance at something. The online game has a 10-code per day limit, so in the meantime let’s take an inventory of everything we got thus far.

Step 16: Piece Inventory

Here’s a breakdown of all the properties and instant-win pieces:

St. James definitely seems to be the #1 “throwaway” piece out there, making up almost 8% of all the total pieces I received. It’s interesting that Park Place accounted for the lowest amount of pieces at just 3.8%. Perception would have you believe it to be the most common, as everyone seems to have multiple Park Places.

As for Instant-win, I almost have a full months worth of medium fries, accounting for about half of all 45 of the instant-win prizes I won. Overall, I was way off McDonald’s “1 in 4” prize claim. I ended up with a paltry 11% success rate, or around 1 in 10. Bummer. The “rarest” prize I won was the Snapfish prints which has a probability of 1 in 159 (woohoo!).


In the comments it was pointed out that the rules actually say “*Odds are based on Game Pieces (each has 2 Game Stamps),” which means I need to double my 11% output to 22-23% since I had 392 game stamps, which equals 196 game pieces. So I wasn’t that far off from the “1 in 4” claim after all. Kinda sneaky on McD’s part since one would assume the 1:4 claim applies to each stamp. But hey, did I really need 44 medium fries instead of 22? No. Not really. So I’m fine with the odds as is. Thanks for catching this, FreeBy50!

Step 17: Conclusion

When I started out my journey, I had a few questions I wanted answered:

Would McDonald’s live up to their claim and mail me back 100 SASE envelopes?
Answer: Yup, for the most part. I’m still missing two letters so we’ll see if they come in.

Would I make any money back?
Answer: Nope. Actually, I lost money. My total expenses (not counting man-hours) was $117. My total earnings in instant-win prizes only tallied up to $90.62. So I have an ROI of -$26.38. Yes. I made negative money. This was actually surprising. I figured that with the “1 in 4 wins!” claim, I’d easily match and probably offset all my expenses in food earnings. But even at a decent 22-23% success rate, I wasn’t able to break through.

Here are some more fun stats: If I divide my earnings by hours worked, I effectively made $6.47 an hour. That’s more than a dollar less than the minimum wage in Florida [6]. If I tally up the total amount of calories for all the food prizes, I won a combined 15,340 calories! That’s more than a week’s worth of calories, and that’s not even taking into account the total fat, carbs, sodium and everything else in McDonald’s lineup.

Was mailing 100 letters actually cheaper than buying food?
Answer: Maybe? I spent $117 dollars, but I also invested around 14hrs of my life into this. Comparatively, I could have bought 200 hash browns at $209.88 (includes 6% FL sales tax) with little to no time investment, but I don’t know if my prizes would’ve offset my costs. But all that really matters is…

Was this a fun experiment to do?
Answer: Definitely. I’m still glad I completed this stunt. I learned plenty about the process of a sweepstakes, and the amount of time and attention required to participate. Though I didn’t win anything substantial, I’m still amazed by the outcome, and how the numbers worked out (or didn’t, technically :)).

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. It was fun, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about — Fiat or no Fiat.