Saturday, March 21, 2009

Confessions of a Contest Junkie

I love contests. If I am reading a magazine and an advertisement mentions a contest like "Win a Tip to Maui" at" or watching a local new and the anchor says "the secret word of the day is 'surfer' got to our website at to enter our wake up and win contest", I find myself compelled to enter. This is not a recent addiction. When I was younger, before the convenience of website entry forms, I would enter contest by filling out standard size postcard and sending them to a p.o. box frequently destined for Burbank, CA or Ansonia Station, NY. I would decorate the postcards with stickers, hoping that an extra splash of color and creativity would better my chances to be selected by the contest organizers. Even at county fairs and trade shows, I have to fill out those free entry forms with the little yellow golf pencils. They call to me, "fill me out, you may be a winner." It doesn't matter what the prize is, whether it be a new washer and dryer (which don't fit in my apt.), a free trip (to a place I am not interested in going), concert tickets (for a band I don't like), a free portrait (for a family I don't have) or a lawn mower (for a lawn I also don't have), I sign up for it. I know that most contests are all about creating customer lists that can be sold to other companies that will result in really annoying and useless solicitations filling up either your mailbox, in-box or voicemail and in some cases all three. But yet I am still undeterred. What is it about contests that draws me into their vortex?

Is it the promise of getting something free in life? Is there comfort in thinking that you could obtain something of value, which requires so little work or skill except to know how to fill out your name and address and contact phone number. A 6-year old could do it, except most contests require you to be at least the age of majority, (a requirement surly imposed on the contest sponsors by state and/or federal law, and not any sense of corporate morality). Just think of all the time and energy spent earning a paycheck. The hours spent commuting to your office, then the hours in front of the computer, on the phone, sitting in meetings, navigating the office politics, dealing with your demanding boss, just to get in the car to commute home again. That's of course if you have a desk job. Think about the energy spent by a construction worker, a police officer, a grade school teacher, a brain surgeon, a farm worker, a short order cook, etc. It's both mentally and physically exhausting earning a living. But the chance of winning a $50,000 cash prize or a fabulous 7 -day trip to St. Lucia (meals and airfare included) and all you have to do is fill in a couple of blanks on a website, or slip an entry form into a clear Plexiglas box, well that is something that can't be passed up. You would be a fool not to enter.

Or is it a more ethereal sense of destiny. Let's face it, intellectually everyone knows that the odds of winning a contest that thousands or sometimes millions of people enter are very slim. But then you rationalize the reverse. Somebody has to win, right? Why not me? Then as you are filling out that entry form, you think, "Ok, this time it's going to me! It has to be me. I'm the lucky one!" I'm sure this is the same rationalization that goes through gamblers' minds in Vegas. These next cards will be a royal flush. This next throw of the dice or spin of the wheel will make me a big winner. Of course the difference between contests (with no monetary entry fee) and games of chance or lotteries, is that when you enter a contest, the contestant is not giving up or risking anything to win. There is no entry fee or skill involved. It's more random. If you get picked as the winner, then such achievement is purely fate. A calling from the universe that you, of all the people who could have won, are special. It was your destiny to win. Aah, what a nice sense of validation. If you win a contest, then that proves you are special. You are a lucky person. The fates are smiling down on you.

Perhaps I will never fully understand what fuels my drive to fill out those entry forms. I know that if I actually win a trip or a car one day, I probably will not end up liking it. I know that I will have to pay more taxes that year based on the cash value of the prize. I know that I will get more junk mail flooding my already too small mailbox, more spam in my in-box and more annoying phone calls in the middle of dinner. But none of these will deter my dream of actually being called one day by the disembodied voice of a contest god telling me that he is giving me something for free and confirming that it was my preordained destiny to be a winner!

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All rights reserved.

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