Tim Hortons says 'technical errors' falsely told people they won $55K boat in Roll Up To Win promo

Tim Hortons says 'technical errors' were behind a mistake that told some people they won a boat as part of the chain's Roll Up The Rim promo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Tim Hortons says 'technical errors' were behind a mistake that told some people they won a boat as part of the chain's Roll Up The Rim promo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A technical error by Tim Hortons led coffee drinkers across Canada to falsely believe they had won a $55,000 boat as part of the franchise's Roll Up To Win promotion.

It's unclear how many people were impacted, but the chain told CBC Hamilton in an email it was an "unfortunate error" and some customers were sent an email with incorrect information.

Darren Stewart-Jones of Hamilton said he opened an email on Wednesday morning from Tim Hortons that recapped all the prizes he won this year and it included one he didn't recognize: a 2024 Tracker Targa 18 WT boat and trailer, which retails for $39,995 US (about $55,000 Cdn) — the only one available to participants.

"I thought, 'Wow, this could be really awesome,'" Stewart-Jones told CBC News in a phone interview.

But his initial burst of excitement turned into questions as he scrolled through his emails to find out when he'd won the boat.

He said he'd always received emails after winning past prizes.

Submitted by Chris Rivet
Submitted by Chris Rivet

Within an hour, he got a call from a friend in Brampton, Ont., who said she also won a boat.

"That's when I clued in and thought, 'I think this is a huge mess-up,'" Stewart-Jones said.

Chris Rivet, from Edmonton, had the same experience.

"I went from being a winner to a loser," Rivet said.

Participants considering lawsuits

Alanna O'Hoski of Hamilton said she received the email and spent part of the day on hold waiting for an answer from Tim Hortons.

"With how tight things are nowadays, it was definitely a gut punch," she said in a message to CBC News. "A lot of people, myself included, ... thought they won something of potential life-changing value."

Tim Hortons sent customers an email with instructions to "disregard" the recap email they received, saying "technical errors" may have allowed for some prizes they didn't win to end up in the recap email.

"We apologize for the frustration this has caused and for not living up to our high standards of providing an exceptional guest experience," read the letter, which Tim Hortons shared with CBC.

Submitted by Darren Stewart-Jones
Submitted by Darren Stewart-Jones

Rivet said he has filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau of Canada and is considering filing a lawsuit.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Facebook group formed with over 200 people expressing outrage about the mistake and threatening to file lawsuits.

"NOPE. Not taking this as an answer!! Two words: CLASS ACTION," read a post from Christiane Marie.

"I want my boat!" read another post, from Beau Johnson.

Just over a year ago, the Tim Hortons app mistakenly informed users they'd won $10,000.

"This is a repeated pattern of behaviour and simply saying it's a technical issue just goes to show Tim Hortons didn't do its due diligence," Rivet said.

"It doesn't exclude them from the harm they've caused."

After the last mishap, Hamed Aghakhani, associate professor of marketing at Dalhousie University's Rowe School of Business, told CBC News the coffee chain's terms and conditions likely protect the company in case of an issue like this.

But he also said if the issue remains unresolved, it would erode the public's confidence in the brand over time.