Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Contest Mentality

You have won a contest you never entered! Click here to WIN!

Like anyone else I get SPAM messages.  Gmail is remarkably effective in filtering them out, though.  However, after a week or so, the SPAM box is filled with dozens of messages.  You can either let them accumulate - they self-delete in 30 days - or periodically dump the SPAM.  It is interesting to see what angles they use to try to trick people into handing over credit card numbers and other personal information - a process known today as "Phishing".

Online Casinos that don't exist tell me I "won" $9456.17 (a very exact amount!) and I just need to "Click Here!" to claim my winnings.  All they need is my bank account number to credit my account!  Of course, they can debit it the same way.

But an alarming number of other messages are related to contests, drawings, or prizes associated with surveys.  These messages tell me I "won!" a contest I never entered and once again I just need to "click here!" to claim my prizes.

It is an interesting gambit and illustrates how the poor obsess about contests and prizes.  40 years ago, I rented a room in a bad part of Flint, Michigan (which is to say, Flint Michigan - there are no "good parts").  One of the fellows there was obsessed with the McDonald's "Monopoly" give-away.  He would go there every day and order a small fries or a coke to get a game piece or even dig them out of the trash.  He collected them over time and was always just missing one piece to get the prize.  "If only I got Boardwark, I would win a million dollars!" he said.  But of course, the gag was, they gave out a ton of Park Place coupons, but only one Boardwalk piece for the entire United States.  He wasn't a very bright lad, I'm afraid.  He thought he was this close but was in fact, a thousand miles away.

Of course, marketers use our fascination with contests and surveys to induce us to spend more.  If I am nice to a Walmart cashier, they hand me the receipt and say, "There is a survey link on the back of the receipt! Complete the survey and enter for a chance to win $1000!"  If I am surly they don't mention this - their performance appraisal is based on the survey results.

What they want is a perfect "10" on the net promoter score and nothing less than that counts - or counts against you. It is sad, but not only managers, but individual employees are victimized by these surveys, which are baited by contests.  I mean, it is hard enough doing a retail job as it is, but you have to dragoon customers into answering surveys to get your next raise?  It isn't fair.  What's worse is guilting the customers into answering surveys - the old, "buy this magazine or we shoot this dog" routine.

That's bad enough.  But these register receipt "surveys" make it all that much easier for scammers to convince the plebes that they "won" the WalMart or Home Depot or Lowes survey contest, and then get them to click on some dreaded link.

Yet other contests - like those entry forms you used to see in the lobby of a restaurant - just sell your name to a timeshare company or a scam cruise line or worse yet, authorize them to "slam" a service on your telephone.

Contests are for losers, and I say this having entered a number of contests over the years.  At best, I wasted a few hours of my life filling out forms. At worst, I spend a few dollars on a drawing.  Only once did I ever "win" a drawing, and that was at a campground (I did win $500 though!).  You can see how the contest mentality appeals to the gambler in all of us - we remember those sweet wins, but forget about all the losses.

Just say "NO" to contests!