McDonald’s first started the Monopoly promotion in 1987, and its premise was simple: attach Monopoly pieces to food cartons and cups, with each piece signifying a Monopoly property or a small prize. One out of every four pieces would be a small prize, such as a medium fry or soda, and a very few of the prizes would be significantly more valuable, such as a car or, with the proper pieces, cash – up to $1 million.
The key to any promotion is to keep the cost of the prizes below the increase in sales it produces, and so for the Monopoly game, there were very few expensive prize pieces. In addition, as a full-set of properties was needed to win the nice prizes, for each set, at least one property only had a few pieces printed (e.g., there would be many Park Places but precious few Boardwalks). Nonetheless, as long as everyone played fair, and diligently collected the attached pieces, eventually someone could win each of the prizes (although some years no one won the $1 million grand prize). But that’s the key – playing fair.
It turns out, as with the real game of Monopoly, its not so hard to cheat if you’re the banker. Enter Jerome Jacobson of Simon Marketing Inc., the latter being one-time managers of the Monopoly promotion for McDonald’s.
Most important to the story at hand is that it was the aforementioned employee of Simon Marketing Inc, security officer Jerome Jacobson, who was put in charge of the distribution of certain key game pieces. As a part of that job, he would travel with said pieces to the factories making McDonald’s cups and cartons, where the pieces would then be attached to said items.
Not exactly an Ocean’s 11 style caper, en route with the sealed envelope containing the pieces, Jacobson would simply go into a private place (like an airport bathroom), carefully open the envelope, steal the best pieces, and then reseal and deliver the rest.
Smart enough not to try to redeem the pieces himself, with his first theft in 1989, Jacobson gave the piece ($25,000) to his stepbrother who shared the proceeds with him. Over the years, apparently Jacobson became more emboldened, and by 1995, he was stealing most of the…
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