Saturday, November 21, 2020


Should you enter a contest?  Maybe not.

I was perusing the BJ's wholesale catalog and as usual there was some sort of come-on for tires.  One thing that is tiring (sorry, pun) about BJ's Wholesale is how they use coupons and sales and discounts to distract you from the underlying bargain.  Although sometimes you score on this - I bought two cases of Juame Serra Cristalino for $5.99 a bottle on sale.

Anyway, I saw a promotion for Michelin tires.  The tires on the truck have about 45,000 miles on them, and they will need to be replaced fairly soon.  Sure, you can run them down to the wear bars, but when you wrap your car around a tree, the "savings" are pretty nil.  Anyway, the 20" Michelin tires (!!) on the truck are "only" $220 apiece (as opposed to $500 for the M Roadster) and I guess that isn't too bad.   Of course, the standard tires on the Nissan were under $100 apiece, and that's a better bargain.

The come-on this time around, in addition to a sales price (buy three get one free or some such nonsense) was to enter a contest to win a $500 gift card.   You are automatically entered when you buy a set of tires.  But of course, that would be considered gambling, so most States require that if you want to have such a contest, you have to offer another way to enter for free.  In the past, this meant mailing in a coupon or other type of entry form.  Today, you can do this online.

Turns out, Michelin has a number of contests at their site.  One lucky guy won a new mid-engine Corvette.  Of course, he would have to pay income tax on that, so unless he could get a loan from his credit union, he likely would have taken the cash equivalent or sold the car right away.   You don't want to be the idiot who won the Lamborghini and then wrecked it the same day.  Even with the insurance "repairing" the car, odds are, it is now worth about half what he could have received by selling it right away.  And the car was worth more than his house - far more.   Not a car for people who don't own a garage!

UPDATE:  Turns out the repair cost for that Lambo was more than the car was worth, so they cut him a check, which makes better sense.  His insurance rates must be murder though.  Who in hell drives a Lamborghini in the snow?

Some of these contests have odd prizes.  I am not sure what I would do with a surfboard, other than sell it on Craigslist.  But since it was easy to click and enter (and Google Chrome auto-fills my name and address) it was pretty easy to enter all the contests for both myself and Mark.  I made sure NOT to click on the box allowing them to send me tire SPAM.

Years ago, I recall reading an article about someone who made a hobby of this - and I am sure there are plenty of people who do this today - perhaps even forums for such folks.  I suppose it is a harmless hobby - like genealogy, just boring and a time-waster.   Maybe, like clipping coupons, you might make a few bucks here and there, but not enough to buy a yacht.   Again, like with the Corvette or the Lamborghini, even if you won a yacht, you'd have to pay taxes on it - and it would know you into a very high tax bracket (and I would lose my Obamacare subsidy!).  You have to be careful what you wish for.

I guess that is the worst of it - the time-bandit nature of such contests. And if you made a hobby of it, well, you'd waste even more time.   It also plays to the something-for-nothing mentality of it all, the idea that you can get ahead in life by "winning" rather than working.  Of course, these companies don't give away stuff for "goodwill" - they want to raise your brand awareness and be able to market to you.

The article I read many years ago was interesting.  The fellow noted that in many of these contests, few people enter and win, as they don't think the odds of winning are very good - because so many people enter, right?  So they don't enter and the fellow profiled in the article won a lot of stuff over the years.

But today?  When you can enter with the click of a mouse, there is no longer a monetary barrier to entry (postage stamp).  And with online discussion groups bringing new contests to the attention of more and more people, well, the odds of winning diminish accordingly.

Speaking of time bandit, many of these "Sweepstakes" require more than filling out a form.  One for LG laundry machines requires you photograph your "Laundry routine" and upload it to their site. Another requires you visit a company's social media site for an "unlocking code" to enter - effectively getting you to watch an advertisement for their product.   They ain't giving out free money samples this week, kids!

And it goes without saying that some of these "Sweepstakes" could be fraudulent, trying to harvest credit card numbers or whatnot, or just harvest personal data (phone number, e-mail) to sell online.

And it goes without saying that if you get an e-mail claiming you won a contest you never entered, you should not reply, and never hand out banking information, credit card information, or send money to someone who claims you won a lottery or contest or whatever.

I entered the Michelin contest on a whim.  I will probably regret doing so when my SPAM inbox fills to overflowing and the junk phone calls start.