Nearly 300 extra winners and €450,000 bill after Bochum lottery employee error

Making an error at work is regrettable at the best of times. But as reported in the Westdeutsche Zeitung, for one Bochum lottery company worker, a simple numerical mistake has cost his company €450,000.

German lottery company Faber runs a monthly scratch card competition, where card recipients can check their four-number result against the numbers published in the company’s monthly free magazine.

If the numbers match, they’re entitled to a €1,500 prize. Each month, the competition is designed to have 15 winning scratch cards – meaning the company must pay out a total of €22,500.

In January, the winning numbers as planned were 6-8-10-16, however the staff member wrongly inserted 15 instead of 16 as the final number. When the hopeful scratch card customers checked their results against those printed, 300 found their lucky numbers.

‘We’re sorry’

After hundreds of people approached the company to claim their winnings, Faber quickly realized the scope of the error had left them liable for 300 payments of €1,500 (€450,000) rather than the usual 15 (€22,500).

The company sought to get out of the obligation to pay by apologizing and promising the ‘lucky winners’ €100 each. They said they regretted the error but that their decision on the matter was final.

The case highlighted the controlled nature of lotto and other 'chance' competitions. Image: DPA

One angry customer complained to the Westdeutscher Rundfunk television program ‘Servicezeit’ (Service Time) in mid-February and explained their complaint. Faber decided to avoid further controversy by paying out the full €1,500 – but only to that customer.

After the case gained additional notoriety – and the involvement of a lawyer – each recipient has been encouraged to plead their case.

Faber eventually relented, agreeing to pay the full amount to each scratch card holder who comes forward.

‘He’s devastated’

The company was quick to point out that the employee would not be punished for his mistake. It told the Rheinische Post that the staff member would not need to fear personal consequences.

“He’s devastated, (but) we’ve explicitly asked him to continue working for us," the company told the newspaper.

The firm has already begun a process of improving its scratch card system so that similar errors can be avoided in future.

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