The Hype Game!

Rite Aid's The Game of Life

I stopped into a Rite Aid downtown to pick up a few things. I paid for my stuff and as I was about to go, the cashier looked away and slipped me a little something with my receipt. Well, it wasn’t her number. I looked and to my surprise it was a pamphlet for a game board. Rite Aid’s “The Game of Life!” I thought it was hilarious and I had a good laugh. What made it so funny was that she couldn’t even keep a straight face. She must have known I was going to say “something” about it perhaps because other customers had.

For those not in the know, this trend is gaining some steam. McDonalds branded its Monopoly game over 15 years ago. And recently, Subway came out with “Subway Scrabble.” So when I saw “The Game of Life,” I thought these games are getting out of hand. They already started off on the wrong foot, because the name doesn’t roll off the tongue like the other 2 games.

It’s one thing to put little peel off tabs on drinks, burgers, and fries, but where do they fit in with the convenience items at Rite Aid?  To win a 2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible all I have to buy is a stick of deodorant, a bottle of body wash, a bottle of dish detergent, and 2 full size tubes of toothpaste, but only 1 toothbrush. I don’t have to tell you how ridiculous this sounds. The items correspond to numbers (there are no peel off tabs).

Hypercommercialization isn’t a game! Nobody likes to be nickled and dimed for every little thing. However, if every little thing is branded, is it justified? I think The Hype Game is a slippery slope. Just take a look at airlines. What motivation is there to pay for something that used to be free? It depends on how hyped up that something is. These games are the new “lost leaders.” People will go to these places every time in hopes of winning one of these prizes, but chances are it’s not going to happen.

I played Scrabble and Monopoly toward the end of last year and I was close to winning a number of items. I was just 1 letter short or 1 property short from about 10 prizes. The games have even taken a cue from casinos. At one point I stopped playing for a couple of weeks and they “comped” me free plays via email. If you stay at casino hotels or gamble often enough, they’ll start sending out “comps.” Here! Take this $20 coin voucher and parking validation. Here’s a complementary Snuggie. Here are some tickets to a show and a free buffet meal. If you stay 5 days we’ll comp you 2! Just… come… back! McDonalds and Subway aren’t as desperate, but casinos do this all year long.

On a side note, I went to Walgreen’s yesterday and it’s doing a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket promotion. Hmmm.

I don’t know about Rite Aid, but Subway and McDonalds have consolation prizes. Sorry you didn’t win a Lamborghini, but here’s a free apple pie. McDonalds has changed its game over the years. The prizes are truly lost leaders because game pieces are only available on the most expensive of menu items. They used to be free and many people still think they are. What customers are really doing is buying an $8 value meal for a chance to win a $1 apple pie (which is probably sold at a mark-up). If there were no brands involved, these games might be mistaken for a racket.