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Congratulations, You’ve (Not) Won Free Chipotle for a Year

Last Friday (the 13th) was MrConsumer’s lucky day. He got an email from Chipotle, the Mexican fast-food chain, congratulating him on winning “free Chipotle for a year.” Opening the message revealed a celebratory animated graphic raining down burritos.

Chipotle email heaader
Chipotle raining burritos

There was no fine print. Clicking the link in the email brought me to my Chipotle rewards account, but the only things there were two offers to get free guacamole or a side and chips if I made separate $5 purchases.

Chipotle w $5 purchase rewards

That’s it? That’s their idea of free Chipotle for a year, a promotion they launched last week?

To claim my prize, I looked for and found the sweepstakes official rules online. It appeared to have two parts. In one part, over 3000 rewards members would be chosen to win free Chipotle for a year, and in the other, the company would spin some type of wheel of fortune and select members to win the free year’s worth of food. I assumed that that must have been how I won.

In reading the rules further, the company defined exactly what they meant by the “Chipotle for a Year Prize” — and it wasn’t just free guac and chips.


Chipotle prize

So, how do I collect the prize? Going to Instagram and sending a message to @Chipotle seemed to do nothing. So, I sent a message via Twitter to the company and they quickly replied.


That’s it? We goofed. We’re sorry?

So we wrote to the PR folks and the chief marketing officer at Chipotle asking what happened, how many customers were affected, and what they were going to do for those people to make up for misleading them into thinking they had won the big prize. The company did not respond despite multiple inquiries.

Online buzz, however, suggests what actually happened. It appears that Chipotle mixed up their mailing lists and offers. On January 13, those reward members whose birthday was January 12 were slated to receive a birthday message offering free chips and a side, but instead they were sent the free Chipotle for a year winners’ notification.

Some five hours after the errant email was sent, a new one from the company arrived apologizing for the error and offering one free entrée as a goodwill gesture.

Chipotle apology

What do you think? Should Chipotle provide a little more than a single burrito to these disappointed customers or was that really enough?

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Is the Domino’s Random Food Giveaway a Lottery?

Domino’s just launched a huge national advertising campaign promising random customers who place an order using Domino’s own delivery service a chance of receiving some additional free food items with their order.

Domino's free


According to the promotion, one in fourteen customers placing a delivery order will get a freebie along with the food they pay for.

Domino's free

There’s just one problem. Paying a price for the chance at a prize is considered an illegal lottery when conducted by a company even in this context. Oops.

But not so fast. In tiny print in their commercials and elsewhere, those magic words “no purchase necessary” appear as they are required to into order convert what would otherwise be an illegal lottery into a legitimate sweepstakes.


In the official rules, you can send in a request to get a game code by return mail.

B. Request a Code by Mail:
(i) During the Promotion Period, participate without purchase by requesting an entry code (“Code”) by hand printing your name, home mailing address, valid email address, and date of birth on a piece of paper and mailing it along with a self-addressed stamped envelope [emphasis added] in an envelope with proper postage to “Domino’s Surprise Frees Giveaway,” c/o Merkle, Inc., P.O. Box 5005, Department 848994, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-5005.

So, for your expenditure of $1.10 for postage both ways (soon $1.16), once you receive the code, you will have a 1-in-14 chance of winning an e-gift card worth $13.49.

For those who make purchases anyway from Domino’s, potentially getting free food with your order is a nice extra benefit. But for those who want to play the game for free, it is just a roll of the dice, so save the postage.

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Google Ran An Illegal Lottery — And We Got Them to Stop

Last Wednesday evening, Google sent out an email to Google Assistant customers announcing a sweepstakes to win a free Google Home Max speaker.

Google email

To get your chance to win, you had to either buy a 2-pack of Google Home Minis smart speakers yourself (or anything else from the Google store), or get a friend to buy two using a special link that would secure your entry. At the bottom of the offer was a terms and conditions link with the contest rules.


Despite the rules saying multiple times “no purchase necessary” to enter the sweepstakes, they provided no free means of entry. You or someone else had to make a purchase for a chance to win. And that makes this an illegal lottery, against federal law and the gambling laws of virtually every state. “Paying a price for the chance of a prize” is the classic definition of a lottery. To convert an illegal lottery into a legal sweepstakes, the promoter must always include a free means of entry.

But Google didn’t do that.

We wrote to their PR folks about 12 hours after their email was sent, contacting both Google and its parent company, Alphabet, pointing out the problem and asking how they were going to remedy it. By that evening Google sent out a new email to customers entitled “Update to Home Max Sweepstakes.”

Google Revised Email

Miraculously, all mentions of a purchase being necessary disappeared from the promotion. And the sweepstakes rules were changed to include an additional alternate means of free entry.


Google updated sweepstakes rules

Did Google or Alphabet reply to our email, or even send a note of appreciation for getting them out of potential legal hot water? Nope.