When you order at 5 guys burgers (which you should if you haven't because they are amazing) you are given a ticket between 1 and 100 which is then use to collect your order. Last time I was there my friend suggested trying to collect all 100 tickets. The question is:
Assuming you receive a random ticket number between 1 and 100 inclusive on every visit. On average, how many visits would it take to collect all 100 tickets? Solution:
Define $S$ to be a random variable which counts the number of purchases required to get all 100 tickets. Then we are interested in $\mathbb{E} [S]$
To help us analyse $S$ we need to define another collection of random variables. Let $X_i$ denote the number of purchases required to get the $ith + 1$ ticket given we have already collected $i$ tickets. So if we have collected 2 tickets (say ticket number 33 and ticket number 51) and the next two tickets we get are 33 and 81, then $X_2 = 2$ because it took us 2 attempts to get a new unique ticket. We can actually view $S$ as the sum of these $X_i$, i.e. $S = \sum\limits_{i=1}^{100}X_i$ (to see that this is the case the number of visit it takes to collect all 100 tickets will be the number of visits to collect the first ticket plus the number of visits to collect the 2nd unique ticket, and so on) There are two further observations that we need to make before deriving the solution. Firstly, each $X_i$ is independent of $\sum\limits_{k=1}^{{i1}}X_i$. Secondly, each $X_i$ is actually distributed as a Geometric Distribution where:
$P( X_i = k ) = \frac{i1}{100}^{k1} \frac{101i}{100}$
Giving us: $\mathbb{E} [ S ] = \mathbb{E} [ \sum\limits_{k=1}^{100} X_i ] = \sum\limits_{k=1}^{100} \mathbb{E} [X_i ] = \sum\limits_{k=1}^{100} \frac{100}{101i} = 100 \sum\limits_{k=1}^{100} \frac{1}{101i} = 100 \sum\limits_{k=1}^{100} \frac{1}{i}$ 
AuthorI work as a pricing actuary at a reinsurer in London. Categories
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July 2021

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