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Ottawa Tim Hortons customers express disappointment, anger at Roll up to Win boat snafu

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Tim Hortons customers in Ottawa are joining the chorus of Canadians who are angry and disappointed with the coffee chain after prize emails erroneously claimed they won a boat and trailer valued at more than $68,000.

The company apologized for the mistake in emails Wednesday, calling it a "technical error" and asking customers to "disregard the content" of the email they had received detailing their prizes.

"Unfortunately, some prizes that you did not win may have been included in the recap email you received. If this was the case, today’s email does not mean that you won those prizes," the company said. "We apologize for the frustration this has caused and for not living up to our high standards."

The company added, in a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Thursday, that it had the "best of intentions" but "human error" resulted in the wrong information being sent out.

"We developed a Roll Up To Win recap email message with the best intentions of giving our guests a fun overview of their 2024 play history. Unfortunately there was a human error that resulted in some guests receiving some incorrect information in their recap message," Tim Hortons said.

Jennifer MacWaters told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Patricia Boal that when she saw the boat in her email, she thought it was a scam at first.

"I checked. I made sure the link was accurate. It was linked to my Tim's rewards card and the app. All the other prizes listed were accurate, so I was really confident this was the real deal."

She said that's when she got excited, only to have a customer representative at Tim Hortons tell her it wasn't true.

"I was at work, so I was dancing around, I was showing my coworkers. I was so excited," she said. "I spent my lunch hour on the phone with Tim Hortons, on hold. I finally got through and said I was calling to claim my prize and she said, 'The boat? You didn't win. It was a glitch,' and that was the end of the conversation."

She says she didn't receive the email apologizing until about six hours later.

Cynthia Gravel had a similar story. She told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that she and her husband were going over all the plans they were going to make before learning she didn't win the boat.

"I spoke with a lady who was so nice and she basically said all day long she was getting the same call and explaining the same email that everyone's prizes were so accurate with the exception of this boat," she explained. "I want to say I was uber-disappointed, but I was not surprised. I mean, they did this last year."

Last year, several people who played Tim Hortons' Roll Up to Win contest were told they won $10,000. The company later said it was a glitch, and claimed it was offering affected customers a $50 gift card.

There was no such compensation this year, MacWaters said.

"They didn't offer anything. The email just said 'please disregard the previous email.' How do you disregard $68,000?" she said. "They literally gave us nothing, which was a complete insult."

University of Ottawa law professor Gilles LeVassuer said customers basically have no legal grounds, due to the following found in the Roll Up to Win rules and regulations:

"Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to modify or suspend the Contest should a virus, “bug”, tampering, unauthorized intervention, health risks or governmental restrictions (such as those that may be implemented to mitigate COVID-19 transmission), fraud or failure of any kind whatsoever, or any other cause beyond the reasonable control of Sponsor corrupt the security or proper administration of the Contest. The Sponsor, in its sole and absolute discretion, reserves the right to cancel, amend or suspend this Contest, or to amend these Rules, in any way without prior notice or obligation, in the event of any accident, printing, administrative, or other error of any kind, or for any other reason whatsoever."

Gravel said she won't step foot in a Tim Hortons again.

"Today is my day one of boycott and I'm sticking to it. I'm not going back. This is not okay," she said. "I know not everybody is going to get a boat, but people deserve something for getting their hopes kind of like oh my gosh, and then yanked away from them. That's not right."

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Dylan Dyson.

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