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Monopoly hides real money for French buyers

The French manufacturers of the popular board game Monopoly have replaced the fake money with thousands of euros for 80 lucky buyers, to celebrate the game's 80th birthday.

There can't be a Monopoly fan in the world who has not dreamed of one day playing a round with real money.

Now, for the 80th anniversary of the game's first appearance in France, manufacturers are providing exactly that — at least for 80 lucky buyers.

Only one set will land the major jackpot, in which every game note is replaced by real money — for a total windfall of €20,580 ($23,268).

In addition, 10 sets will contain five real €20 notes, two €50 notes and one €100 note.

A lesser prize can be scooped in 69 sets, which will have five €10 notes and five €20 notes.

"We wanted to do something unique," said Florence Gaillard, brand manager at Hasbro France, which rolled out the prize sets from Monday.

"When we asked our French customers, they told us they wanted to find real money in their Monopoly boxes," she added.

The operation to switch the notes was carried out in deadly secret, in the small eastern town of Creutzwald, where the games are packed up before being shipped throughout France.

"First of all, it wasn't easy to get the notes. They had to be escorted discretely," explained Gaillard.

Appropriately for a game where players try to cruelly bankrupt their opponents, Monopoly even roped in a bailiff to count and re-count the real notes.

"When they asked me, I was giddy as a child," said the bailiff in question, Patrice Wimmer, an aficionado of the game.

'Anyone can play'

However, they discovered a problem: the sets with the real notes expanded the box ever so slightly, making the packaging out of kilter — a tell-tale sign.

As for the weight, there was no discernable difference between the real notes and the fake money.

"The difference is marginal, unless you turn up at the shop with precision scales," said Wimmer.

The board game of Monopoly was created after the Great Depression in the United States and has been tearing families and friends apart ever since.

Fiercely competitive, the object of the game is to buy property around the board of varying quality, then build "houses" and "hotels" on one's property empire, charging opponents rent if they are unfortunate enough to land on your square.

The winner is the last person standing after everyone else is left penniless and destitute.

Even a short game can last several hours as the eventual winner grinds down opponents note by note until they have nothing left.

The longest game in history lasted 70 straight days, according to the Hasbro website.

"The rules are simple, everyone knows them, anyone can play," said Gaillard.

Hasbro says its money-spinning game is available in 111 countries and in 43 languages.

There are 500,000 sets sold each year in France alone. 

The 80 lucky sets are hidden within 30,000 boxes of different types of game — classic, junior, electronic and "vintage".

For members

MONEY

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

The French government has capped electricity prices rises at four percent - but as with many French rules, there are certain exceptions.

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

Question: I read in the media that electricity prices in France are capped at four percent, but I just got a letter from EDF telling me that my bill is going up by almost 20 percent – is this a mistake?

The French government’s bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield), froze gas prices at 2021 levels and capped electricity price hikes to four percent – it remain in place until at least the end of 2022.

However, there are some customers who will see increases to their bills of more than that – here’s why: 

The regulated tariff rate

The French government involvement in price-setting doesn’t just happen during periods of energy crisis, normally regulated tariff prices are updated twice a year: usually on February 1st and August 1st.

Typically, this value is calculated by the CRE (commission de régulation de l’énergie) and it is based on several different factors, which are explained on this government website. These tariffs proposed by the CRE are then subject to approval by the ministers in charge of energy and the economy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

These affect the state-owned Engie (formerly Gaz de France), the mostly state-owned EDF and some local distribution companies. Around 70 percent of people in France get their electricity from EDF but other suppliers do exist in the market.

These alternative suppliers, like Direct-Énergie, Total Spring or Antargaz, are free to charge more – but don’t usually charge much above the EDF rates for obvious commercial reasons.

Basic rate

The government-set limit in price rises refers only to the basic rate (option base) for electricity.

This plan represents over 80 percent of the 32 million households connected to the electricity grid in France. So, there is a good chance you might be subscribed to this without even realising it. 

If you are on the basic tariff rate, your bill will not increase by more than four percent this year.

Other tariff options

However, other options for electricity bills do exist, including off-peak rates, green deals and fixed energy prices for a certain period.

Typically people who sign up for these will have been paying less for their electricity in the preceding months than those on the base rate.

However, there are certain special deals that are not covered by the four percent cap, and some users will find that their deal period has come to an end, they are then shifted onto the base rate – which is likely to represent a price increase for them of more than four percent.

It’s little consolation when faced with rising bills, but you will likely have been paying significantly less than customers who have been in the base rate for the past few years.

READ MORE: French government to continue energy price freeze until at least 2023

Kilowatt price

Because most electricity price plans are bafflingly complicated, the easiest way to compare is to look at the price per kilowatt-hour.

Your electricity bill consists of a fixed part, the monthly subscription (abonnement) and the variable part, which depends on the quantity of electricity consumed (in euro per kilowatt-hour, kWh). The latter part is what is concerned by the tariff shield of four percent.

Here is an example of what that might look like:

The mid-August base rate price per kilowatt-hour is €0.1740/ kWh, so if you’re with EDF they cannot charge you more than this rate.

Other EDF plans charge significantly less than that – for example the Vert Electrique Weekend deal has been charging €0.1080/kWh on weekends and €0.1434/kWh on weekdays. 

Bill rises

With the tariff shield, the average resident customer on the base rate will see a €38 rise on their bill this year, while professional customers will see an average of €60 rise. 

Without the tariff shield, electricity prices per residential (non-business) customer would likely have increased an average of €330 a year, according to the CRE.

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