What You Didn't Know About Tim Hortons' Roll Up The Rim Promotion

Any Tim Hortons fan will likely know of their famous "Roll Up the Rim" promotions, but those who are less familiar with the chain should know about it. Though Tim Hortons is to Canada what Dunkin' is to the United States, Tim Hortons hasn't actually been Candian-owned since 1995 (via CBC), when Wendy's bought the chain. Even so, the promotional game that occurs every year began in 1986 and might even bring to mind McDonald's Monopoly cup game from years ago (via Main Street Host).

With the "Roll Up the Rim" promotion, customers at Tim Hortons did just that: They bought a drink, and when they were done with their coffee, tea, or whatever they were enjoying, they'd pop off the lid and roll up the loose, pre-cut section of the cup's rim, which would reveal what prize they had won. According to Main Street Host, prizes could be anything from free coffee or donuts to cars and more. Though the promotion is still running today and is still incredibly popular, there are a few things about it that you still might not know, no matter how many times you've played over the years.

The first contest was something of a bust

While the prizes for the "Roll Up the Rim" contest might win you a car these days, that certainly wasn't always true. In 1986, the very first year that the promotion ran, the entire contest ended up being something of a bust. That's because the prizes were nowhere near as enticing as they are today, according to Global News.

At the time, not every purchase of a drink from Tim Hortons resulted in an instant win. To top it off, the best prize that was a part of the promotion was a single pack of Timbits, which are donut holes (to those less familiar with the chain). That means you'd have to potentially buy a lot more drinks just to win a pack of donut pieces when you could have ultimately just bought a single drink and a pack of donuts for less than trying to win them.

Fortunately, the promotion has taken off because there are a lot more chances to win these days. The odds of winning have gotten so much better, and so have the prizes.

Tim Hortons out-serves Starbucks and McDonald's

Maybe it is because of the "Roll Up the Rim" promotion, the cold weather, or maybe Canadians just really love Tim Hortons. But any way that it happens, their purchases have successfully helped the Tim Hortons chain out-serve both Starbucks and McDonald's. Canadians actually drink around 14 billion cups of coffee annually, according to Global News, which is more than Americans, Italians, or most any other country.

Of those 14 billion cups, Tim Hortons is the chain serving up two billion of them. Tim Hortons even claims to sell eight of every 10 coffees sold in Canada. Per Global News, that makes up 60 percent of their coffee market and far surpasses the business that Starbucks does in the Great White North. Not to mention, Tim Hortons does one quarter of all fast-food sales in Canada, which is how they've out-served McDonald's. Even if you don't drink coffee, that's a pretty impressive feat.

The promotion is now fully digital

The "Roll Up the Rim" promotion got a major permanent makeover in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. "This is such an iconic game. Even though it's changing, we think it's evolving to be even stronger and we hope guests will love it in its new iteration," Hoppe Bagozzi, the chief marketing officer of Tim Hortons, told CTV News. Tim Hortons started printing a scannable code on the cups to keep their staff safe during the outbreak. They didn't want employees to have to touch rims that people's mouths had been sipping from when customers exchanged their rims for prizes.

It wasn't exactly a smooth transition, either. People missed actually rolling up the rim of their cups. "People had to adjust to the fact that their beloved tabs had gone away. It's sort of a tradition. People are so used to rolling it up with their teeth or had different ways of doing it, so last year was an adjustment," Bagozzi said. Though it was a disappointment for many, there were some great incentives to continue playing the game, even in its digital format.

There are better prizes now

With a great change came better prizes for Tim Hortons "Roll Up the Rim" players. In the past, with the physical rolling up the rim version of the promotion, not every cup sold meant winning a prize. Now that the game has gone digital, every single roll or purchase is a winner (via Chatelaine). Even the environment wins, thanks to the inclusion of 1.8 million reusable mugs that were added to the playable cups this year. Tim Hortons even said that there were more prizes available than there ever has been. In addition to free coffees, donuts, gift cards, cars, and electronic devices, there are also digital prizes, too, such as streaming services. Not to mention, the promotion gives customers a way to win a lot more Tims Rewards points.

Typically, Tim Hortons awards 10 points per total purchase to rewards members. During the digital "Roll Up the Rim" game, customers can now win points per eligible item that they buy. Instead of getting a losing cup that had "please play again" written on the inside of the rim, everyone is a winner now. The message was replaced with winning Tims Rewards points. Obviously, the points earn you menu items. For example, an item of baked goods is 50 points, while something from the lunch menu will cost you 220 points.

One statistician gamed the system

While the digital game was less than welcome for some players, there was one statistician and professor who played, Michael Wallace, who was rather happy with his results (via Narcity). That's largely because he learned how to game the system. Wallace studied the game and ultimately learned a few helpful tricks to maximize his potential to win.

Wallace found that the flexibility to scan your code to win at any time you choose could be helpful, since the game no longer depended on the cup you bought. He found that unrolling his rims digitally at off-hours that were not peak times increased his chances of winning. He also learned that the prizes that went unclaimed each day were added to the pool the following day. This was due to a lower volume of people visiting the chain due to the pandemic. To him, that signaled that there would be tons of unclaimed prizes on the last day of the promotion.

On the last day of the 2020 play period, April 21, he unrolled his 96 saved chances and won 94 of them. In all, Wallace won 67 free coffees and 27 free donuts. Due to the pandemic, he wanted to transfer the prizes to local healthcare workers. While Tim Hortons couldn't transfer his prizes, they did make a donation to a hospital in his honor.