– Ben Martens

Safeway Monopoly

safewaymonopolyFor the last couple months, I’ve been playing the Monopoly game at our local grocery store. When you buy items, you get game pieces and if you collect all the pieces in a specific set then you get the associated prize. I know it’s ridiculous to play but it was something to do during the times that I was watching Elijah but he was content to play by himself.

The most I ever won was a free DVD rental from Red Box (not even a BluRay) and a free jar of pickles. Yay. Totally worth my time.

I’d love to know exactly how much they actually pay out. They say they are giving away a hundred of million dollars, but there are so many sneaky ways that they don’t actually end up paying.

  • Many of the game pieces include $0.25 coupons for specific products. I imagine that most people, like me, immediately toss those.
  • It’s a lot of work to keep track of everything. You have to stay on top of it to have any hope of winning so that weeds out a huge number of people. I bet a lot of gamepieces get lost or just thrown away when they are taken home.
  • If you do keep up with it, you pretty quickly figure out that there are some game pieces that are common and one from every set that is impossible to get.
  • If you assume that a decent percentage of people who get the tickets don’t actually end up following through with analyzing them all, then it follows that the rare pieces that you need to win are ending up in the trash somewhere.
  • The game is spread across the country and across many grocery chains.

I knew all this going in, but I still played.

When it finally ended, I looked up the odds. I should have done it from the beginning. Here are some of the interesting stats:

  • Each set does indeed have a rare piece, but there is also a semi-rare piece. The odds of getting the semi-rare piece are 1 in 5000. So if you get to the point where you only need one more, you’re doing pretty good.
  • Free Redbox rentals are the easiest to get. The odds of finding the rare piece for that prize are 1 in 1620.
  • If you take out the little instant winner prizes (like Redbox) and the prizes that just gives you two more game tickets, then your odds of finding ANY rare game pieces are 1 in 4157.
  • Lots of the game tickets include a code that you can enter online for another chance to win. All I ever won there was more of the free ticket coupons. If you take out those, the odds of winning anything online are 1 in 80,598.

It’s relatively easy to collect all the non-rare pieces. The whole game really boils down to just finding those rare pieces. I’m guessing that I probably acquired around 400-500 game pieces over the course of the game. So even with all that work, my odds of winning anything were tiny. Put all those numbers together and I had about a 10% chance of winning anything worth more than $10. Bump it up to a prize worth more than $100 and my odds fell to less than a percent. That’s not a very good return on my time investment.