Entering these sweepstakes takes a lot of work

April 21, 1997

I have come to the conclusion that my odds of winning the last 10 sweepstakes contests I received in the mail are high, because I can't imagine anyone else being dumb enough to hunt, cut, peel, lick, paste and insert all the stickers they need in order to enter.

Frankly, most people don't have the three hours it takes to read the instructions, and the additional two hours it takes to complete the ENTRY ORDER form and find and detach the two to three additional documents necessary for a valid entry.

When it comes to Publishers Clearinghouse, the little stickers you must find if you want the Prize Patrol to knock at your door are hidden in a maze of magazine stamps - usually in the middle of the maze. The perforations are incomplete, which means you must be very, very careful or you'll tear that stamp and adjacent stamps to shreds while trying to separate them.


Shredded stamps render your entry invalid.

Believe me, eight hours after you begin filling out your sweepstakes entry, it is no fun to find out that it is null and void.

Fortunately, that's not a big problem, since most companies send you approximately 16 such sweepstakes entries a week for the entirety of your natural life. You can always start on a new one the next day.

But getting back to the odds...I figure you can eliminate from competition anyone with arthritis, and anyone without a sense of humor.

I mean, I find it absolutely hilarious that these companies send you a two-inch thick envelope on the front of which, clearly visible, are the words "TERRY TALBERT....GUARANTEED MILLIONAIRE....." and something that looks amazingly like a negotiable check.

Inside, there's this little note from an investment firm associate who is just drooling at the prospect of handling your account.

What's so funny about that? Take the following, for starters:

  • You're a guaranteed millionaire only if you return the entry containing the winning number, in one of only 3 winning color-coded envelopes mailed out nationwide.
  • The check in your envelope is not negotiable. In fact it's not even a real check.
  • You have $3.22 in your checking account, and some guy with a major investment firm is offering to manage your portfolio.

(I have news for this guy. I wouldn't let him manage my portfolio even if I had one. I mean, I'd trust a set of box springs before I'd trust some stranger with my millions.)

At any rate, if you can approach the sweepstakes contests with your sense of humor intact, I've found the odds are better that you'll fill out the entry forms, rather than bend, fold, mutilate, stomp and burn them.

You might even find something you like about them, other than the fact they give you a chance of becoming a millionaire.

For example, unlike Publisher's Clearinghouse, Michigan Bulb Co. doesn't offer to invest your winnings for you. At least it didn't in the sweepstakes entry form it sent me last week.

I liked that.

Besides, with Michigan Bulb you get to look at pretty colored pictures of flowers and fruit and bonsai and even beneficial nematodes.

They also let you win useful "special, first-round prizes." Why, once I won a packet of cilantro seeds. You don't get stuff like that from the clearinghouse.

Because I figure my odds of winning a sweepstakes are very high, I continue to enter them unabated, despite their drawbacks.

I must say, however, that I resent getting little warning notices in my entry packets. I do not like the threat of being blackballed from sweepstakes if I don't buy a magazine or perennial every week.

To be frank, I would have to be pretty stupid to pay $5 in shipping on a $1.95 periwinkle order, when I could find the same plant at my local nursery.

I also resent the fact that you have to have a microscope to read the small print that tells you 1) it's not necessary to order, and 2) if you don't order, you will be punished. You will have to toss away all the little stickers you've already stuck, and instead enter by writing your name, address and phone number on a 3 x 5 piece of paper which you must insert in one of your own non-color-coded envelopes.

Now that I think about, I shouldn't gripe so much.

After all, how many people own a microscope? That fine print probably ups my odds of winning another notch.

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