What’s the biggest prize you’ve ever received from a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s? While the more cynical respondents might say “food poisoning,” others might remember the time that seasonal giveaways resulted in a free Big Mac, at best.
However, for a period of time in the late ’80s, McDonald’s raised the stakes, giving away $1 million to one very lucky individual.
So how did it all work? Well, between 1988 an 1989, McDonald’s in America distributed approximately 80 million copies of a vinyl record through advertisements and newspapers.
These vinyl records, lightweight flexi-discs, featured audio of a skit where a teacher instructed his class on the ‘Menu Song’, which was simply the McDonald’s menu set to music.
After spitting out the menu items at rapid speed, the class was tasked with repeating back the ‘lyrics’ without making a mistake.
If they messed it up in any way, your record was nothing more than a flimsy piece of plastic trash. If they got all the way to the end without a flaw, you were $1 million richer.
Naturally, with 80 million copies of these things floating around (some of which featured vocals in Spanish), it became something of a phenomenon, with customers hungrily listening to the two-minute track in hopes of winning some quick and easy cash.
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However, one person did emerge the victor in this intriguing promotion, a 13-year-old boy named Scotty Landreth, who found the record in a stack of newspapers that were destined to fuel the fire in their oven.
Sadly, 2018 saw writers from Vice catch up with Scotty, who explained that while the money was a major help for his family at the time, it didn’t help them maintain a lavish lifestyle.
Rather, there are conflicting reports that either family members stole the money, or that poor financial decisions meant the $1 million didn’t last too long at all.
However, the most interesting thing about this is actually the fate of the winning record.
See, while Scotty Landreth thought he had kept the winning record in a binder for the last 30 years, it turns out that the winning record had actually gotten lost years earlier, and that his famed flexi-disc was nothing more than one of almost 80 million losing records.
While there haven’t been any massive record-related contests like this since McDonald’s tried their hand at it back in the late ’80s, there are still plenty of losing copies of the record available for purchase online.
However, if you’re not willing to throw down a few dollars for a piece of throwaway fast food history, feel free to listen to a recording of it below, and try to imagine the stress that millions of Americans felt over 30 years ago, as they wondered if they had a winner on their turntable.