Fake boat winners rail against Tim Hortons

This is not serious. Once again this year, Tim Hortons is telling customers that they have won a major prize in the Roll Up to Win contest, even though this is not true. Regardless of the cause of this blunder, the credibility of Canada’s largest restaurant chain is taking a hit.

Like many other Tim Hortons customers, Alexandre Jean Petrucci received an email leading him to believe that he would get his hands on a 200 horsepower Tracker Targa boat and a matching trailer. The set is worth $68,751.


Wrong email sent by Tim Hortons

After waiting on the phone for an hour to find out how to collect his prize, he was informed that it was an error. “I wasn’t very happy. It’s not 1 million, but it can make a difference in a life. It would have felt good, an extra $68,000 in my bank account. »

Tim Hortons didn’t tell me how many fake boat winners there are, but there are some in several provinces. By mid-afternoon Thursday, the new Tim Hortons Facebook group “You Won a Boat” already had 1,200 members from Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia, among others.

When she received the famous email, Nathalie Lefebvre went to the Tim Hortons in Saint-Jérôme to check its credibility. She wondered if it was a scam, which it could have been. The restaurant owner deemed the message legitimate, after which her husband wrote to the head office. “I don’t know if the letter was written in advance, but he received a response within 10 minutes. It was impossible to write this in 10 minutes! »

Tim Hortons explains that “technical errors” may have led to “the inclusion of incorrect information” in the email which summarized the list of prizes won by each customer since the start of the popular contest. The restaurant chain asks to “disregard the content” of the message and apologizes for the “frustration that this situation may have caused”.

Since reading this response, Nathalie Lefebvre has wondered if this competition is fraudulent, if the biggest prizes (cars, trips, sums of $10,000) are truly awarded. “How do we know if it’s true or not? Should we trust their word? » She must not be the only one to now have doubts.

The same questions were already being asked last year, when a number of customers were wrongly informed that they were the winners of a sum of $10,000. Tim Hortons also pleaded technical error. Testimonials from customers in Ontario and the Maritimes had circulated in the media.

The role of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ) was precisely to ensure that the prizes announced in this type of competition were indeed awarded.

However, to reduce the regulatory and administrative burden on businesses, the law was amended in October 2023 so that the Régie no longer regulates advertising contests. The news flew under the radar.

Companies that organized competitions had, for example, to submit a report to the RACJ within 60 days following the designation of winners if the total value of the prizes exceeded $2,000.

Because of these specific rules in Quebec, certain pan-Canadian competitions were not open to residents of the province. It’s a thing of the past. So much the better, say competition enthusiasts and businesses irritated by the paperwork required by the Régie. But now, we must believe in the good faith of organizations that promise to give cars or trips to their customers.

Last year, after the failures of the Unroll to Win competition, the Régie played a mediating role between customers who believed they were wronged and Tim Hortons. The outcome of the case is however confidential, indicates its spokesperson Joyce Tremblay.

This time, coffee and Timbits lovers have less recourse. To win in small claims or with a class action, it would be necessary to demonstrate harm which does not really exist, in this case.


At the start, you had to unroll the rim of the cups to find out if you won a prize. Today, everything happens electronically.

Tim Hortons still needs to improve its processes to put an end to the errors that give it bad press. The competition launched in 1986 is at the heart of its marketing strategy every spring and generates notable enthusiasm in its 3,590 restaurants across the country, even if people have stopped rolling out the rims of the cups with their thumbs.

A third odd in three years, in 2025, would be grotesque in the context where the company generates an operating profit of almost a billion dollars with its restaurants in the four corners of the world. In other words, she has the means to do better and avoid being the inspiration for an embarrassing sketch at the Bye.

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