Monopoly debit cards
Hasbro  /  AP
This photo provided  Hasbro shows a British version of the classic Monopoly board game  which abandons traditional paper money, right, for an electronic debit card system. It's not clear if the system charges a transaction fee.
By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

Forget the fake cash: A British version of the classic Monopoly board game released this month substitutes a Visa-imprinted debit card for the stacks of yellow, blue and purple play money long hoarded by children worldwide.

"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a Britain.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."

British players might not be the only ones switching to plastic. Officials at Pawtucket-based Hasbro say they're considering a similar change for American versions.

First offered in 1935, Monopoly offered players a form of financial escapism during the country's worst financial depression. Players become pretend real estate magnates who compete for fictitious property named after real places in Atlantic City, N.J. A British version released that same year featured London neighborhoods.

In the new British version of Monopoly Here & Now, players type amounts into a palm-sized scanner and swipe their debit cards to seal the deal.

But the game had been modernized in many other ways. Cards that once rewarded players for winning a beauty contest now compensate them for winning a reality TV show. (We're guessing the card doesn't say "You're not fired!" as that might invite lawsuits from The Donald.) Completing a full circuit around the board is worth two million English pounds, not 200.

"Quite a nice bonus," Weatherhead said.

Yea, but with real-estate prices the way they are now, Park Place has to be selling for at least a million bucks.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Could he be a gal's ideal man? He fits in a car's glove box, appears at a flick of a switch and when a woman has finished using him, she can just pull the plug and he deflates.

Buddy on Demand
Reuters
The "Buddy on Demand" blow-up man sits in a car in this undated handout picture. Note to American readers: The car he is sitting in is British, so he's not driving.
He's the "Buddy on Demand," a blow-up man launched this week with the aim of making solo female motorists feel less nervous about driving at night.

According to research by the inflatable friend's creator, British auto insurer Sheilas' Wheels, 82 percent of women feel safer with someone sitting in the car beside them and nearly a half don't like driving alone in the dark.

"We're not saying that an inflatable man is the only answer, but we do hope it will give women extra confidence and make journeys in the dark less fearful," said Jacky Brown, the spokeswoman for Sheilas' Wheels.

We agree, but if a lady gets lost, her pressurized pal still isn't going to ask for directions.

  • A company that sells software to correct irritating Internet spelling mistakes has reissued its latest news release to correct some snafus.

TextTrust, which says it focuses on "eliminating the negative text impressions on Web sites," re-released a news release this week to correct a mistake that listed the most common spelling errors on "the 16 million we [sic] pages it has spell checked over the past year."

It said commonly misspelled words included independent, accommodation and definitely, which were spelled independant, accomodation and definately.

"It's very embarrassing," said Pat Brink, PR consultant for the Toronto-based company. "I made the mistake, not TextTrust — they do a much better job. It's certainly egg on the face of this public relations person."

The release quoted TextTrust as saying that it used both human editors and special spell-checking software to scour Web sites for spelling mistakes. "TextTrust wants to make sure that organizations never again receive the 'I found a spelling error on your web site' e-mail," it said.

We think it's high time they apply that same due diligence inside that glass house they're headquartered in.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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