Tim Hortons and the crisis of competition

By Daniel Pagan

Only in Canada could a coffee shop be treated as a national institution. Every time spring comes around, Canadians get jittery in anticipation of the annual Roll Up The Rim contest. Too bad it’s just anti-environmental gambling. The chance of winning a prize by rolling up that rim is one in nine — very slim. The top prize in the contest is 35 Toyota Venzas, but there is a catch: they’re not distributed equally across the country. Fifteen of these prized cups are allocated to Ontario alone. The best chance to win big is to move to British Columbia, where one in 5.9 million cups will be the big prize while the worst odds are in Ontario, with one in 9.9 million, according to a CBC report. With so many cups, the odds of winning are very low.

Worse, the Roll Up The Rim contest only encourages environmental irresponsibility. In 2004, Nova Scotia’s environment department surveyed litter in the province and found that Tim Hortons cups make up 22 per cent of identifyable waste. Over 1,000,000 Tim Hortons cups end up in the landfill each day in Toronto alone. Worst, some customers don’t listen to Tim Hortons’ anti-littering campaigns and end up tossing cups on the roads and alleys. It’s likely you’ll see a lot of disposed cups after frustrated customers throw them away — 281,686,000 cups were produced for 2009’s Roll Up The Rim contest.

What about customers with their own mugs for coffee? They have to get an empty paper cup, roll up the rim and leave the cup otherwise unused in the trash. Or they can refuse the empty paper cup, which leaves them out of contention for prizes. Somehow, it seems odd and goes against the idea of buying a travel mug to avoid littering the world with paper cups if you have to buy a paper cup to partake in the contest. Tim Hortons should offer other options for customers who want to partake in the contest but avoid littering, such as game cards for customers with their own mugs. It would be inexpensive and simple to produce.

Roll Up The Rim is not worth shelling out for shitty coffee just to roll up the rim and possibly win a prize. Especially with environmentaly questionable Tim Hortons’ practices such as double-cupping. If you want good coffee, try local coffee stores that sell free trade, Second Cup, Starbucks or brew your own. If you’re hard up for money or a prize, go and play a sweepstake card from your local grocery: you might as well, at least those long odds have a higher payoff.

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