I have a thing for entering contests. Not that I have won anything of great significance. Once upon a time my Mrs. (when she was still my fiancee) won a week’s stay in a resort condo in a drawing. And I later won a television/VCR combo in another. I think my best showing might have been when I won a grand opening drawing held by a little frozen custard shop. My prize was fifty-two medium dishes of frozen custard. My children remember that summer quite fondly.
I come by my thing for contests honestly, as my mother was always entering them as well. She actually did quite well, winning a new car during one of General Motors’ big giveaways a little over ten years ago. It was a fun experience but I had to laugh at one thing: there was GM trying to expand its customer base and they ended up giving a new Buick to a retired lady in the Midwest. Oh well, that retired lady really enjoyed it while she was still driving.
A few weeks ago I was watching television and up popped a commercial for the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. I remember this one from my youth and had no idea that it was still a thing. I was actually a little unsure of what Publishers Clearing House actually does. I remembered that they had sold magazine subscriptions, which is why I had suspected that they had dried up and blown away along with most of the magazine business.
But no, they were still pitching the contest which would result in “The Prize Patrol” showing up with a big fake check representing the grand prize of $1,000 a day for life.
“Alright”, I thought as I saw the website flash onto the TV screen, “let’s do this”. After all, my smartphone was at hand and who among us could not find some way to use an extra $1,000 a day? And thus began my odyssey.
I am a decently educated and reasonably intelligent guy. But here I was voluntarily entering into the online purgatory of page after page of fine print, sales offers and additional games of chance that I had no interest in. It all came back to me how the PCH entry packet of my youth was this thick envelope full of little forms and stickers to put places and other little hoops through which to jump. Now we got the 21st century version.
After maybe fifteen minutes of scrolling through junk I had no interest in seeing I finally got to the sweepstakes entry page. I followed the instructions and completed my entry. “There!” I said to the Mrs. – “I have finally entered this stupid contest!” I had no idea that my interaction with Publishers Clearing House was far from over.
Even though I had purposefully not checked the box that said “Yes! I would simply love to get offers of special promotions from you!”, the emails began the next morning. From then until the day this published I have received at least one and sometimes two or three emails a day, each one warning me that if I do not respond I risk not winning the grand prize.
Did I not do something right on the first entry? I opened the first email and began the five minute scroll-and-clickfest that would finally lead me to “completing” my entry. At least until the next day. After a few days I took it as a challenge. “OK PCH, I’m man enough to take everything you throw at me. You may be able to trick some little old lady out in the sticks, but in me you have met your match”. And so they have.
At first I paid no attention to the various bits of flotsam that they were trying to sell me. No, just quickly scroll through the four pages (with a big orange “CONTINUE” button at the bottom of each one) so that I might accept my winning prize number or confirm my eligibility for a visit from the prize patrol or verify my acceptance of my winning entry or whatever other daily “suggestion” I might receive that I had not completely registered. But then I saw the pennies.
Yes, they were selling pennies. Something like a five pound bag of obsolete wheat-back pennies that were last minted in the 1950s for four easy payments of some amount I didn’t really pay attention to but which probably came to about thirty cents a penny. Once I understood that these guys will sell absolutely anything, thus began my paying attention to PCH’s wares. Which were way more fascinating than the magazine subscriptions. Paying attention does not mean buying, but the way.
Things like the NFL charm necklace (with matching beads no less). Four payments of $4.99 and it could be all mine! An LED blinking pet light? (The kind to help you find your pet in the dark, not the kind for you to start a Pet Disco.) A solar-powered light-up owl wind chime that changes colors? Who buys this stuff?
There was the 30-song Top Doo-Wop Classics collection. Being on three separate CDs, those must be some long songs. For four payments of $4.99 I could find out. Or I could get three live Japanese Irises for the same price. Just to be clear these were flowers, not women. Or the salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Betty Boop and her dog Pudgy. The Mrs. would love those, I’m sure. She does have a birthday coming up.
There was the half pound of roasted, salted cashews, this time only $2.99 for four payments. When you buy cashews on the installment plan I think you have a problem. The 100th Anniversary Coca-Cola recipe tin (4 payments of $4.99) sounds like a much better investment. Unless the recipe for Coca Cola is not actually part of the deal.
And who would have figured that a two hour DVD of “Totally Nude Aerobics” would be among their wares. I am not kidding. Thanks, but I think I will pass on that one. I am more of a Digital Talking Tire Gauge kind of customer. But I am not yet ready for the set of two Handicap Placard Protectors. Really, you expected the folks who put plastic on their furniture to just leave the plastic handicap parking tag all naked and unprotected on the rear view mirror?
I wonder how many examples of the “Inspirational Shower Curtain” (with hooks) were shipped to happy, optimistic customers? Looking at positive sentiments in the shower in the morning could be a great way to start the day, don’t you agree? Then there was the set of four Taco Plates. I had never thought this important way in which my life is incomplete because of my tacos having to lay on their sides during dinner. Could these plastic plates with molded-in ridges for holding three tacos upright be that huge quality of life improvement that I have been looking for?
I realize that a month of this has been a lot of effort but sometimes we just have to push through and finish what we start. And later this month after the nice people with the Prize Patrol have left me my big fake check and my first day’s thousand clams it will all have been so worth it. Yes, I know . . . you don’t believe that I am really going to win that prize. But then you didn’t believe that Donald Trump could be elected president either, so what do you know?