Contest Craze Days

SPEAKING OF CONTESTS, I used to be such a contest freak I wrote an article about it which The Star published on 14th May 2002.

2002 May14

Anything for a prize (The Star, Section Two, 14th May 2002)

I’M A SUCKER for contests. Who hasn’t wished that Lady Luck might smile on them and give them an all-expenses paid holiday somewhere, a car, or even a house. I could do with a year’s supply of milk powder, 10,000 bonus points, or a free ticket to watch the soccer World Cup.

In exchange, I trade in my personal details. I give contest organisers my identity card number and contact numbers, tell them my profession, my skincare brand, even my shoe size. I even sell out the personal details of my husband, my child, my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my brothers-in-law.

Now that I think about it, it really scares me. I’ve told companies where I live, and how to contact me during the day and at night. I’ve even sent in photos flashing my million-dollar-Julia-Roberts-smile for a shot at a RM100,000 grand prize. Who’s to know where the details and photos might end up? I’m practically inviting potential stalkers into my home.

I’ve also provided contest organisers my e-mail. I naively thought that in case they’ve exhausted themselves trying to get hold of me on the phone, they could still reach me via e-mail and I could still jump for joy at three in the morning.

No, I haven’t been notified of winning anything over the Net. But I’ve been up a lot at night clearing my inbox of spam mail advertisements. I suspect they had to do with the contests I entered.

My personal particulars and those of other contestants probably end up in companies’ data bank. What’s to stop them from selling us out for direct marketing purposes, as they do in the United States?

Contests are everywhere, beckoning you to take part; you can’t escape from them. You might find them in newspapers and magazines, at supermarkets and on the airwaves.

Most of these contests are no more than marketing and sales gimmicks. They con consumers into buying more. You wouldn’t think twice about buying a dozen or more bars of chocolates to increase your chances of winning. But there’ll always be someone a step ahead; like the extremist who sent in 200,000 chocolate wrappers to secure herself the top prize and a place in the Malaysian Book of Records. Imagine the frustration of the person who sent in 199,000 wrappers. The chocolate manufacturer is the real winner in terms of sales, if you ask me.

At the end of last year, a local magazine ran simultaneous contests by more than 30 retailers and companies offering hundreds of giveaways. Winners were to be individually notified by the retailer and companies on Dec 31.

I entered and got my siblings, relatives and their families, and their families’ families, and just about anyone has the magazine, to enter. Those who didn’t have the magazine bought a copy, some even several copies. After all, it was a simple matter of stating your preference for which gift and why.

I chose the least likely to be anyone’s choice. I didn’t think anyone would stoop so low for a can of odour-free shoe spray. I was wrong. Come New Year’s Eve, I sat by my phone and waited. The call never came. No one I know won anything. I wonder if anyone did at all.

The magazine publisher probably recorded an all-time high sale. I dare say the retailers and companies emerged the real winners too. They’d have a rich pool of database, and they probably didn’t part with any of the prizes they claimed they were giving away.

Contests work in a funny way. You see winners being announced in the media, yet when you actually enter, the results somehow elude you. For that matter, I’m still waiting for the results of the 258 contests I entered, some dating back to 1981.

I’m not saying all contests are bogus. I have, after all, won a couple of things. My 29-in TV set is a contest prize, so are my cassette player, iron and hair dryer. We’ve tucked in a year’s supply of muesli bars. I won my husband a shaver for Father’s Day. My sister has even won the grand prize of a car! (see postscript 1)

But the prize of all prizes has to be the urn compartments my parents won! Two sets which can accommodate the ashes of four people.

Oh, my parents are very much alive, thank you. Some months ago, they bought themselves a burial plot and qualified for a million-ringgit slogan contest that ran for few months. The first time we entered, we won an electrical item.

Feeling lucky, we entered the second month, and won one of the top three prizes – a set of urn compartments! We were, nevertheless, thrilled to death. They cost half the price of a Kancil. (On the other hand, it’s a small pay-out considering my parents paid in advance more than RM100K for their final send-off.)

For the next two months, Dad entrusted me with the task of coming up with more slogans. Night after night, I thought of nothing but death. The slogan called for something related to the company’s services, and death was inevitably one of them. I cracked my head for inspiration. I knew I had nothing to lose. At best I’d win us the grand prize of a national car. At worse, I’d die and still have a resting place. We won another set of urn compartments. So now we have four up for sale. Anyone? (see postscript 2)

Contests certainly make people do crazy things. I’ve turned and twisted my wrist and tried writing upside down; that’s creativity to me when writing the name of a shell-like product. Never mind I let my child fall of the chair because I was engrossed on the phone hoping to be the eighth caller to a radio station and win a cruise. Instead, my child got a bruise.

My kitchen cabinet is overflowing with boxes of breakfast cereals that were to win me a dream home. Someone got the house and I’m stuck with all kinds of cereals with expiry dates fast approaching. I’ve even maxed out my credit card in an attempt to win some cash.

Contests make you work too. While people collect angpows and enjoy their cookies and drinks during the festive season, I collected butter wrappers and empty drink cartons. The former was a bit messy but I was determined to spot the star and win a car. It’s been three months since the deadline, and I’ve not seen the results. Maybe someone has already driven away the car.

I’m still collecting the latter for the next contest, hopefully one that offers a trip to the moon. Failing which, I have two options – cry my heart out and finally have a use for the ceiling-high supply of boxes of tissue bought during my contest-crazy days, or choke myself with chocolates. Incidentally, I was the person who sent in the 199,000 wrappers.

Post script:

1. The grand prize of a car was a Proton Satria. My sister put in the entry, I contributed the slogan. We sold the car and split the cash 🙂

2. The urns proved useful (death, is after all the only certainty in life). When my 5th aunt passed away seven years ago, my parents donated one of the urns for her ashes. Last October when my 5th uncle also passed on, my parents once again donated another urn for his ashes.

It’s been 11 years since I wrote that article. We (hubby and I) have since won a couple of other stuff….

In the same year 2002, it was a RM150 voucher in “Special Moments With Anakku” (Mother & Baby magazine, June 2002) and a two-day-one-night stay at Avillion Port Dickson in October 2002.

In March 2003, I won fabrics from ADO furnishing fabrics worth RM500 (The Malaysian Women’s Weekly Magazine “Treats to Win” Promotion); in August 2003, won (using brother’s name) the 2nd prize in “Royal Selangor & Astro Year of the Ram Contest” of a Ram Plate worth RM180, RM200 Royal Selangor voucher and RM100 Pewtersmithing workshop voucher (attended the workshop with my sister, learnt to make a pewter bowl; earned the “School of Hard Knocks” certificate, hah2, left with the bowl and the “School of Hard Knocks” apron as souvenirs.) That October, I won my first handphone in another contest.

Receiving the prize on behalf of hubby, from former colleague Dato’ Wong Chun Wai, then Deputy Group Chief Editor II at the Menara Star,PJ, on 13th October 2004.

Receiving the prize on behalf of hubby, from former colleague Dato’ Wong Chun Wai, then Deputy Group Chief Editor II at the Menara Star,PJ, on 13th October 2004.

In September 2004, got some free Lamaze Toys in a magazine contest; and again in October 2004, we won a Fuji air-conditioner in The Star-Merdeka contest.

Up till recently, I was still trying my luck at contests 🙂 … won Em a five-day holiday programme at Julia Gabriel Centre worth RM730 in November 2011 and a RM500 Gingersnaps voucher in March 2012.

Against these two lucky entries were many unsuccessful attempts, so I am still waiting for my dream house 😦 Ahh well, maybe Lady Luck will visit again soon…