Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top Five Rules For Entering Contests

Since I run a Contest Corner, I thought this would be a good time to share some things I have learned about many of them. For the record, I have won several local radio/television contests that include concert and movie tickets, cds, dvs, and a variety of other things as well. Being laid off of work right now, I have plenty of time on my hands and sometimes need a break from work searches and Twitter and this is a fun way to do it. Without further ado, here are my top five rules you should consider before entering contests.

Rule 1: Always Make Sure You Are Eligible To Win/Willing To Do What It Takes To Retrieve The Prize.

This may sound silly but you would be surprised to find out not only are certain contests limited to a particular age group or residential area but many require you to show up to their offices in person to claim the prize. I have a few local radio stations I follow because between my wife and me, we listen to various kinds of music and the stations are 45 minutes from my house usually. Well, is a movie poster really worth driving that far for? Or a CD?

You should also consider the timing of the prize. If you plan to enter a trip for the World Series but October is the busiest month of the year at your company, maybe it is best to leave that one alone. Or if you are on a tight budget and the trip is to last 4-5 days, what will you do for food since many do not come with cash/food allowances.

Rule 2: Be Prepared For Possible Junk Mail

Many of these contests are run by companies trying to reach out to potential new customers. One way they may do that is by adding you to their mailing lists so you can see what features they have you might be interested in pursuing. And in some cases, it may actually turn you into a favorite customer of theirs like the photo above helped me to love Powerade (even though I gave 12 cases to my son's football team).
If you are like some of my family members, you may have more than one email so designate one simply for the possibility of junk mail when you enter the contest. Just like the traveling thing, if you think the reward is worth the price, enter away but be aware you could be emailed daily or weekly by the company.

Rule 3: The Prize Could Come With Taxes You Are Responsible To Pay Yourself

Sometimes, when you claim a prize, the company will ask you to sign a form verifying who you are and that could include a tax form in case taxes apply to the gift. I have never won a major gift where that applied (though it is possible my big one from this year could get me at the end of the year). Apparently they will take the estimated value of the prize and that will be the tax liability. I have been told that there is an amount that you must meet in order to meet such requirements but that could be a state or local thing as well so it is worth checking into at times (I was told by a radio station that anything over $500 in a calendar year must be filed here in Charlotte at least). Just something to consider before you enter a contest and might make you want to read the rules before completing the entry form.

Rule 4: The More You Enter, The More You Win

I have had people tell me how they never win stuff but then you find out that they rarely take the time to enter. I have numerous websites saved that feature contests and check them often to see what has been updated and what is worth entering, I do not just pick one and become a winner. Heck, I play the lottery often too but have never won millions of dollars and yet, I still try. Many radio stations and such run numerous contests daily and somebody has to win them so why not you? Some come simply by joining their online club or by being a certain caller but if you sit back and complain while everyone else is entering, your odds go from maybe to never. I have never won a prize or got a job simply by sitting around the house and hoping someone shows up (even Publishers Clearing House required registration before knocking on your door). So take the rules and stuff under consideration and if you are interested, enter and enter often.

Rule 5: If You Win, Thank Those Who Gave You The Gift

Ah, the thank you note. It is the simplest way to show gratification and appreciation. I have won stuff before and been told, "You know, you are the only person who has ever thanked us for it." It is networking at it's best when a quick and simple email can not only make someone feel better about awarding you the gift but it also could help with opportunities you may not now realize. And seriously, they just gave you something more then likely for free that either you would have had to pay for or is a rare chance in life to experience so why not take a couple minutes to say "Thank You." Maybe take a picture of yourself enjoying it and send it along or Tweet on Twitter about your experience and allow them (and others) to follow along. I have given away some of my prizes to family and friends who I thought would enjoy them more or I am too low on money to do something else for them and it feels great hearing someone say those words to you.

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