Yesterday, as I opened the card attached to a gift from Craig and the kids, out tumbled a “Classic Black” lottery ticket promising a top prize of $500,000. Imagine if I won!? I couldn’t get to the cutlery drawer fast enough, to fetch a spoon and start scratching!
My brother Stephen says lottery tickets are a tax on the stupid, and I used to agree. After all, the odds of winning anything substantial are so remote that regardless of
whether you have one ticket or twenty, they’re pretty much the same. Close to zilch.
Back in the olden days, when I had a real job and a big salary, I almost never bought lottery tickets. However, now that I don’t have a steady source of income I’ve found
myself buying tickets on a semi-regular basis. How else are we going to get our hands on a cool quarter million??? We’re certainly not going to be able to save that figure in the near future. A lottery win has become our only chance.
Plus, I now have time to buy a ticket. In my prior life, shopping was all business. I didn’t have time to dilly dally around, trying to choose a scratch ticket from the display case. Even if someone gave me a scratch ticket as a gift, I could barely find time to enjoy the experience of uncovering the bingo/keno/scrabble spaces to see if I had won.
But now, not only do I need the money, but I have the time.
Although I have a fair amount of hope pinned on a lottery win in the near future, I know from my days in consumer packaged goods marketing that the odds are much better on the contests and sweepstakes offered by commercial companies. So I’ve become quite active in these as well. Every month, when my issue of Chatelaine arrives I flip to the ‘Have Your Say’ section in search of the question of the month and the associated prize pack. I do my best to pen a witty response and monitor my inbox for a message containing the good news that I have won (any day now, I’m sure.)
Two years ago, the chance to win a Game Day Experience with Sidney Crosby would have been tossed in the trash with our Dempster’s bread wrapper but today the PINs pile up on my kitchen counter along with contests and offers from other products that I regularly buy, until I can find time to go online and enter them all.
A couple of weekends ago I sat down at the computer to attack this pile.
The first website I typed in was for Elle Magazine and their monthly ‘Win It’ promotion; the colour of the nail polish in the prize pack had caught my eye. Unfortunately, the contest website address didn’t work. Never one to give up easy, I tried going through the magazine’s main site. Typing ‘Win It’ into the search box yielded nothing of value, nor did typing in the issue date of ‘October 2011.’ It was fifteen minutes before I was finally able to locate the contest entry screen, by which time I was convinced I would be the only entrant, given how difficult it was to find. Diligently, I filled in the required data and pushed the ‘submit’ button, only to be met with a warning from my computer that I should think twice before going any further; the site was trying to attach cookies to my machine. I do love cookies, but I vaguely recalled that techno ‘cookies’ were designed to function as little spies monitoring your online activities and sending information back to the Mother Ship. Crap! I knew that Craig would have my head if I did anything to compromise the security of his beloved iMac, so I reluctantly aborted my quest for the nail polish.
Next, I pulled out the Rice Krispies box we had emptied at breakfast that morning. A free $5 gas card promotion had motivated me to purchase this humungous package. Eagerly, I tore open the carton to retrieve the unique PIN code printed inside. This time, the web address I entered worked fine but the page gloomily declared that the promotion was over. What?! How old was the cereal that I’d fed my children that day? Holding the carton at an angle where the embossed expiry date caught just enough light to become legible, I was shocked to discover that the product had been expired when I purchased it. Now, I’m wise enough to check expiry dates on hamburger buns, yogurt and even pre-packaged deli meat, but Rice Krispies!? Do I really have to start checking
expiry dates on shelf stable products? I shuddered at the thought of how long it would take to do our weekly grocery shop.
Thankfully I thought, I had saved the best for last. My latest box of Sunlight laundry detergent had contained a little instant win card that promised every PIN code was a winner, and so I held high hope for a positive experience. In a few clicks I learned that I wasn’t a winner of one of the big prizes but I could still get a valuable coupon by continuing to enter information. One of the pieces of information requested was the size and fragrance of the Sunlight I had bought. Sadly, this was not on the tip of my tongue. And so I humped my way up the stairs from the computer in the basement to our laundry room on the second floor to collect this information. Lemon scent 64 loads, I chanted in my head on my way back down. I proceeded to enter my name and address but hesitated when the site asked for my complete birth date. Isn’t this a no-no? I tried to enter just the year of birth but the site refused to process my submission without complete information. I weighed the odds of the good folks at Unilever stealing my identity with my personal desire to have at least a measly coupon to show for the time I had spent online, and eventually entered the full date. (Craig later tsk tsk’ed me for revealing this information and asked why I hadn’t entered a fake date of birth. Good idea for next time.)
Finally, the site asked me to complete a skill testing question. I’d had my morning coffee, but to be on the safe side I pulled out a calculator to do the math and then carefully typed in my answer.
“Your answer to the skill testing question was incorrect”
What????? I used a calculator! How could it be wrong? I pushed the back button in an attempt to see the original question and identify the error I had made but the site wouldn’t let me get back.
With steam pouring from my ears I located the ‘contact us’ page and banged out a letter of complaint. The icing on this bitter cake was the fact that I couldn’t find the ‘submit’ button to send my rant to the powers that be. Arrrggghhhh!
I look back on my marketing days and regret that I didn’t spend more time pretending to be a consumer interacting with our products and the promotions we offered. I spent so much time making sure that our communications OUT to consumers were strategically on target and legally sound, that I ran out of time to check to see what it was like for a consumer trying to engage IN.
Maybe the lottery is your better bet after all.