ERIE, PA—While removing an insurance card from an infrequently used section of his wallet Monday, local resident Don Turnbee came across a soda-winning Inspector Gadget-themed McDonald's game piece he had long forgotten about.
"When I got out my Physicians Plus card at the doctor's office, I found the little winning ticket stuck to the side of it," Turnbee said. "Then I remembered putting it in my wallet so the next time I was at McDonald's I'd have it right with me."
The small, adhesive-backed stub, part of a summer-long McDonald's Inspector Gadget Code Name Game contest, would have entitled Turnbee to a free medium soft drink during his next trip to any participating McDonald's. Upon close examination of the game piece, however, Turnbee discovered that it had an expiration date of Aug. 15, meaning he had unwittingly missed out on his chance to cash in on the free-soda offer, an 89-cent value.
"Now that I think about it, I haven't seen any Inspector Gadget signs at McDonald's or ads on TV for a couple months now," said Turnbee, who participates in numerous fast-food chains' movie-tie-in contests. "I don't know how I could just forget about something like that."
Turnbee recalled being "pretty excited" when he peeled back the winning game piece on June 11.
"I remember the night I won that soda," Turnbee said. "I was over at the Best Buy looking at TVs, and on the way back, I stopped at that McDonald's with the drive-thru over on Sherman Avenue. The first red light I got to, I pulled the game piece off the side of my SuperSize Mello Yello. I saw I won, but it was too hard to turn around to get the free drink, so I just put it in my wallet. Besides, the Mello Yello was really big, so I didn't really need the free drink all that bad right then."
Turnbee said he went on to patronize various Erie-area McDonald's outlets approximately 15 times over the course of the next two months, never once remembering to redeem his game piece.
"I just forgot, I guess," Turnbee said. "Maybe McDonald's makes those game pieces so small on purpose so people will lose them, and then they don't have to give out the free stuff."
Despite the game piece's expired status, Turnbee decided to attempt to redeem it. Singling out the cashier he believed to be the most inexperienced at his neighborhood McDonald's, Turnbee ordered a Quarter Pounder and placed the piece on the counter.
Jessica Wohlper, the 16-year-old cashier, promptly informed Turnbee that the contest had "ended, like, a few weeks ago." When Wohlper offered to get the store manager, Turnbee declined and paid for his Quarter Pounder.
After unsuccessfully attempting a similar gambit at the West Frontage Road McDonald's, Turnbee gave up and discarded the no-longer-valid piece.
"I guess I missed out," Turnbee said. "I usually keep better track of things."
Turnbee-family sources said his behavior was in no way out of character.
"Don's always collecting all those contest things, and he never does a thing with them," said his wife, Shelly Turnbee. "They just sit around the kitchen countertop and bedroom for months. He saved all those Monopoly pieces, and he never even stuck them to the game board."
"And then there's those little round Star Wars pieces from Taco Bell," Shelly added. "I don't know how many of those I found in the laundry. Don said if he defeated the Dark Side, he'd win a Hummer. There was also some other Star Wars thing where he said if he found Yoda, he'd win $20. There must've been at least 30 of those plastic Pepsi-bottle caps lying around this place."
In addition to expired game pieces, Turnbee also possesses many no-longer-valuable money-saving offers. The glove compartment of his '89 Corolla currently contains four expired Hardee's coupons, a flier from last March advertising a Pizza Hut lunch buffet, and a SuperAmerica cash-register receipt, on the back of which is an offer good for $1 off a regular Tombstone Pizza with a fill-up at any SuperAmerica gas station.