By John J. Hopkins
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Wendy Herman was entering codes from her Monopoly Collect and Win Game tickets on the Tops Markets website when a thought struck her.
"I have plenty of other things I should be doing," Herman said to herself as she punched in the nine-digit codes.
Still, the mother of two kept entering the numbers to see if she could win something from the online portion of the game, besides the free bag of baby carrots she'd won earlier.
A few minutes later, she entered a code that triggered a big surprise: Herman was a $25,000 winner.
"I sat there looking at it and I wanted someone else to be there to tell me it was true," Herman said.
About a week later it was confirmed by Tops officials: Herman had won the top prize available in the online portion of the game, now in its fourth year.
"There's a verification process performed by an independent company that takes seven to 10 days," said Andy Brocato, Tops director of community relations.
For the uninitiated, the Monopoly Collect and Win Game offered by Tops Friendly Markets involves game tokens distributed to shoppers at the checkout counters. Each token features three game pieces that can be affixed to a Monopoly "board." Prizes are awarded to shoppers who collect all of one series of "streets," like in the Parker Brothers game.
Prizes range from free products to $20 cash to LED Smart-3D high definition televisions to $100,000 cash.
This year, Tops included a separate game piece featuring a unique nine-digit code that can be entered at www.topsmarkets.com to win other prizes, the top prize being $25,000.
For Herman, a court reporter for Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, the win was a shock.
"I won a television once," she recalled. "This sure beats the TV."
Perhaps an even bigger shock was the odds of winning the $25,000. Katie McKenna, a spokesperson for Tops, said the odds were 36 million to one.
Herman obtained her winning piece from the Tops store in Wrights Corners. Tops president Frank Curci presented Herman with a $25,000 check at the store on Monday afternoon. Looking on was Herman's son Austin, a Lockport High School grad who just finished his first year at SUNY Brockport.
Herman's daughter Grace, who will be a senior at LHS this fall, was unable to attend the ceremonies, nor was her husband Lucas, who was at work. Lucas is an emergency medical technician for the City of Lockport Fire Department.
With the winning ticket, the Wrights Corners store holds a special memory for Herman. Ironically, she has many special memories from the old Wrights Corners Tops location — she worked there as a cashier for 18 years.
McKenna said the game's major prizes remain unclaimed. The game runs through Saturday, or until all game pieces are distributed.