entering sweepstakes has been a side hobby of mine for about 17 years. no, not that crappy clearing house one, but actual sweepstakes that people can (and do) win. i’ve won so many prizes to date that i couldn’t possibly list them all. trips to disney, shirts, electronics, gift cards, you name it. i wish i had the time to do more of them, as it gives me some weird thrill. sort of like the lottery, where my friends make fun of me. my favorite line was “allen, you crack me up. you genuinely believe that you’re going to win, but then you’re genuinely suprised that you didn’t”. yep.
for the sweepsatakes newbie, let me give you the easy version in case you want to take a crack at it. the cost is very minimal….just the price of an envelope, a 3×5 card, and a stamp and you’re entered! here’s how it works…
every company from pepsi to your local store seems to offer some type of sweepstakes drawing for cash and/or prizes. the cost of these things are not only promotional advertising for them but is also a tax write-off (per se) for all the incurred costs to them for the promo. all the big guys (i’ll continue to use pepsi as an example since everyone’s familiar with them) uses what’s called a “third party judging agency”. this simply means that they pay an outside company to be objective by running the sweepstakes, randomly picking the winners from all entries, and then getting the prizes out to those winners. the logic here is that the sponsoring company keeps the whole thing as objective as possible and their hands aren’t in the proverbial cookie jar.
the law is that in order to offer a sweepstakes, it’s illegal for them to require you to make a purchase of their product to enter (i’ll assume that most of you have heard the term “no purchase necessary” when a sweepstakes commercial hits the tv stations?). so…if there is no purchase necessary, then what’s the alternative to enter the sweepstakes? easy…they want you to jump through a couple of hoops to enter the sweepstakes. about 99% of the time they want you to write your name, address, phone no., and birthdate on a 3×5 card (a pack of 100 is about 60 cents) and mail to them in a stamped envelope. for every sweepstakes, there must be rules and inside of those rules is the alternate entry information on what they want specifically. or….to make it easier just do what i (and almost all other sweepstakesaholics do) and get a subscription to one of the newsletters that gives you the list of sweepstakes and entry instructions in an easy to read/understand format. one of my favorites is the “best sweepstakes newsletter“. the only real rule of thumb is to follow the rules to the letter or your entry is disqualified. nothing difficult, but they are unforgiving from what i understand.
on a side note: even those “peel n’ win” prize pieces that are on cups and fries at mcdonald’s, taco bell, etc. must have “no purchase necessary” instructions. those are usually an address to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to and get free game pieces mailed back to you.
anyhoo…the entry arrives at the judging agency and then, when it’s time for the drawing, a random entry (or entries) are drawn. if you won something of real value, then they will notify you by certified or registered mail and request that you complete, notarize, and send back their form and affidavit. this doesn’t mean you’ve won yet, until they check you out to make sure you’re not a relative of an employee of that company, etc. if you haven’t broken any rules, they’ll send you your prize (which can take anywhere from days to months to receive). if it’s a smaller prize like i usually win, you’ll never know you won until the prize just shows up on your doorstep one day.
there are more details and caveats but that’s the foundation to get you started. if you decide to give it a try, please remember me if you hit big (and forget me if you suffer from the same addiction as the rest of us 🙂