First, complete honesty – I am definitely a Contest and Swag Slut. I love free things (good free things – not crap like bubbles or 10mL samples) and the absolute rush that comes from being chosen as a winner. A rough estimate of 100 contest entries per month would not be unbelievable for me. Sometimes, it could be 100 times a week.
I do, of course, have some criteria for contests.
- There must be no fee required to enter. (A stamp costs money, and so I consider that a fee. Will not spend money on just “a chance” **)
- It must be hosted by someone reputable.
What’s the criteria for that? Big name brand companies (e.g. Coca-Cola, Maytag, The Toronto Star, etc.) or people I have been following on Twitter long enough to know they have scruples (e.g. @Listen2Lena @LittleMissKate @SoberJuile etc.)
If it’s a stand at the summer festival it’s probably a scam.
- The rules must state that no payment from me is required to collect the prize. (Read the rules!)
- The prize has to be something I truly want, unless a cash option is available, or something I can gift to someone I know.
Lucky me, I’ve even won a few contests in the past. Always exciting for me and grateful for winning.
So what happens when the prize isn’t quite what you expected?
1st Prize Difference Example
I entered a contest via Twitter with Harper Collins. I thought I was following the Canadian account. It was their USA feed. Well, I won a book. One that I probably would not have bought in the bookstore, but might have borrowed. Harper Collins mailed the book to me via DHL Courier, and declared the cost of the item being shipped at $20US. Granted, that is the value of the book, but that was stupid of them. I didn’t _buy_ the book from them. It actually is valued at zero dollars (or $1 depending on who you ship with).
In comes the border cross, and it is stopped. Canada Customs charged tax on the value of the book, and I am okay with that (under $3). Then DHL charged me for their paying the tax, signing the paperwork, and having to collect the money from me(huh?!) The DHL fee totalled $14 and they then charged me tax on the services provided.
So my contest “win” cost me ~$18.50Cdn – to collect a book that is valued at $20US – and went on sale at a bookstore the next week for $10Cdn. I would have preferred it if that money went to the author.
2nd Prize Difference Example
@Telus (the cell phone company) does Social Media right. Hands down, they are one of the most interactive and engaging group that I’ve experienced on Twitter. They have a general account, one for Support, one for Business, and I don’t know how many more. As a company, they appear to me to be working hard at not just selling their service, but also giving back to the community, encouraging others to do the same, and interacting with people so they are the company you WANT to be with for your cell plan. Their Customer Service practices, from what I have seen, are amazing.
In the month of May 2013 Telus celebrated Social Media Month. (This was after doing 2 weeks of promotions to give away a Samsung S4 then a Blackberry Q10 via Twitter.) So what did that mean? They were going to have a #SecretWord contest each week. They would post a riddle. You had to figure out the word they were referencing, then send a tweet including @Telus and the hashtag, sharing the word. It could be just “the word”, but some friends and I decided it would be more fun to incorporate that word into a sentence. No idea why we did that, but we did. Several times; with the same word; like conversations. And sometimes, not quite sure of the word, we got a little silly, but we definitely had fun.
What was the stated prize from Telus? A stuffed critter. Meaning, the trademark animals that Telus uses in their advertising, in plush, stuffed format. And it was random. Guessing the word didn’t guarantee you a stuffed animal. But I played along. Yes, for a stuffed animal. The plan was to pay it forward to some random child that I knew in real life (see Rule 4). Lucky me – I guessed right THREE times – and got picked THREE times for a critter! (Really peeved to have missed FriendLY by guessing Friend but that is okay.)
So did I get 3 stuffed critters? Yes, but not just that.
First prize –> stuffed red panda, tote bag, sunglasses, and a pen
Second prize –> stuffed red panda, headphones with good sound, and a pen
Third Prize –> stuffed cheetah, and a Google Nexus 4 Android cellphone (no pen)
Yes, you read that correctly.
I read the hand-written card that mentioned filling my future with a jelly bean powered phone and thought they sent a toy phone filled with jelly beans. The thought made me smile – cuz Telus is cute and good-humoured like that. When I unwrapped the gift box that was in the package (yes, they hand-wrapped it like a present!), a real Nexus 4 Android cell phone was in my hands. Ho-Lee-Crap!!
So, sometimes, the prize you receive is not the prize that you thought you were getting.
And sometimes, that is the most freakin’ amazing thing that happens to you that month.
** Yeah, sort of a lie, since I do buy lottery tickets. I don’t know why it feels like that $3 cost to daydream is okay, but a stamp for under $1 is not. I’m weird sometimes.
Disclosure: Other than being a random winner in the unspoken, unadvertised contest that Telus was running, I was not compensated for this post, nor was I requested to complete it. The opinions stated are my own. Want further proof? They aren’t even my cell phone service provider… today.