Please roll responsibly

An article published in the Toronto Star Feb. 28 explores a moral dilemma with a caffeinated twist.

On the 25th anniversary of the annual Tim Hortons Roll Up The Rim contest, the Star article considers the problems raised by purchasing someone a coffee that goes on to win big.

A Tim Hortons spokesperson was quoted as saying that “the simplicity of the contest is what’s so nice about it.” It’s a pleasant idea, but the big-ticket items in the Tim Hortons contest can have divisive outcomes.

One such incident took place in St. Jerome, Quebec in 2006. An elementary school teacher discarded an unrolled coffee cup, which was the winning cup for the contest’s grand prize—a Toyota RAV4.

The cup was rolled by two students who found it in a garbage can, prompting a legal battle between each student and the teacher over who should win the car.

It’s important to acknowledge that this incident speaks more to the desirability of expensive prizes than to any kind of innate greed or pettiness on the part of the public.

At the same time, it’s embarrassing to see people behaving so childishly about an incident of random chance.

Buying someone a coffee with a chance in a draw attached is the same as giving someone a lottery ticket as a gift. The giver has no claim over the recipient, or anything they might win. Holding recipients responsible for sharing what they win begs a silly and similar question—do recipients have the right to hold a buyer responsible when they don’t win something?

The responsibility for deciding what to do with a prize falls on the shoulders of the winner. If he or she feels inclined to share a free coffee or muffin—in part or whole—with the original buyer, he or she should be commended for generous behaviour.

If the winner choses not to do so, everyone involved should acknowledge that they have a reasonable sense of proportion.

Similarly, the responsibility for avoiding unpleasant consequences falls on the shoulders of the buyer, not the winner. Anyone with such petty tendencies should probably refrain from purchasing anyone coffee until the contest is over—or ask for coffee cups that don’t have a “rollable” rim.

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