Tim Hortons popular Roll Up the Rim contest kicked off on Wednesday and it’s already facing some backlash – this time from a trio of feisty young Calgarians.
Mya Chau and Eva Helman, both 12, and Ben Duthie, 16, launched an online petition asking Daniel Schwartz, the chief executive of Restaurant Brands International, which owns the iconic coffee chain, to invest in compostable or recyclable paper cups.
“We see so many people buy coffee at Tim Hortons every day and we also see their cups littering the streets and in the garbage,” the petition says, highlighting that an estimated 600 billion single-use cups end up in landfills each year.
“Our planet and our oceans can’t take any more waste! We think it’s time for Tim Hortons to join the movement towards a sustainable future.”
The message seems to have resonated with many Canadians. As of Thursday morning, nearly 110,000 people have signed the online petition.
— John Louisse Fernandez (@jllfernandez) February 7, 2019
This morning, I was given a disposable coffee cup for #RollUpTheRim at @TimHortons after my reusable mug was already filled. I bring the reusable mug to reduce waste? If you think Tim's should be more sustainable, sign the #BetterCup petition 👇 https://t.co/wLbdniYgNq
— Nick Voutour (@NickVoutour) February 6, 2019
I'm joining 🇨🇦 #ecowarriors Eve, Mya, and Ben with their @TimHortons #BetterCup petition that asks #TimHortons to move away from the single-use culture and promote the use of reusable cups. #plasticpollution #plasticfree #oceanheros https://t.co/tGod0kEQSp
— Jr Ocean Guardians (@NoStrawNovember) February 6, 2019
The situation puts Tim Hortons in a bit of a bind, says Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. The Roll Up The Rim to Win campaign has been wildly successful since it launched in 1986, so there is little motivation to make major changes to it – not to mention the fact that the paper cup itself is a central tenant of the campaign.
“There’s been so much talk about packaging and plastics, that Tim Hortons is going to have to pay attention to that movement. The campaign itself relies so much on the physicality of the cup itself,” Charlebois said.
“But financially, the case is very weak for Tim Hortons to change anything, really.”
Chau, Helman and Duthie have suggested the coffee chain could encourage customers to bring in reusable mugs by giving them two chances to win instead of one, or moving the contest entirely online. Tim Hortons has included electronic components, introducing Scroll Up the Rim to Win on smartphone apps last year. However, prizes were limited to coffee and doughnuts.
“The more they see customers walking in with reusable coffee cups asking to participate in Roll Up the Rim to Win, the more likely franchisee owners are going to reach out and express concerns to RBI in Oakville,” Charlebois said.
“Maybe the end solution will be a hybrid model between digitized Roll Up the Rim to Win and physical ones. It’s going to be a tough one for Tim Hortons to maneuver around.”
Not the first controversy for Tim Hortons
This isn’t the first time Tim Hortons has found itself in hot water over Roll Up the Rim to Win.
In 2015, a Newfoundland woman attempted to claim a $100 gift card she won through the contest, but was denied for not abiding by newly introduced rules. The winner failed to include a PIN number that was located near the rolled up message, disqualifying her from her prize. The manager of her local Tim Hortons eventually intervened and offered her a gift card.
In 2008, another Newfoundland customer accused his local Tim Hortons staff of pre-rolling the cup after he spotted teeth marks on the rim. Around the same time, a similar accusation was made in Halifax. Tim Hortons pointed the blame at a manufacturing error.
And then there was the time in 2006 when a 10-year-old found an unrolled cup in the garbage. After unrolling it with her friend, it turned out to be a Toyota RAV4 winning cup. Parents of the two girls eventually got lawyers involved to sort out who would win the car. Tim Hortons had to intervene, and decided that the car belonged to the family of the girl who had originally found the cup.
But Roll Up the Rim hasn’t been the only source of controversy for the company.
At the start of 2018, the children of the company’s billionaire co-founders reduced employee benefits in response to the Kathleen Wynne government’s minimum wage hike in Ontario. Wynne had said the cutting of employee benefits was a “clear act of bullying” and Tim Hortons responded by blaming a “rogue group” of franchises that it said did not represent the brand’s values.
And who can forget the simmering conflict between the company and the Great White North Franchisee Association, a group representing more than half of Tim Hortons franchises. The good news is that, as of late, the two sides seem to be closing in on a settlement in two class-action lawsuits the franchisee group filed against Tim Hortons.
What do you think of Tim Hortons’ Roll up the Rim contest? Let us know in the comments and vote on the poll above.
With files from the Canadian Press and Yahoo News.