Increase the Volume
The more you can enter, the better your chances. If you can allow an hour or so a day, you’ll be amazed at how many you can rattle off. I used to do my entries while my babies were napping. Ok, the house was a bombsite, but I made up for it with a steady stream of prizes. You can speed up your entries in a variety of ways. If your pc has an auto-fill option, this can save a lot of tedious typing of your name and address. I know of dedicated and very successful winners who swear by a programme called RoboForm, but I haven’t tried that myself. I found what took the time was actually joining up to the sites and registering my name and address, but once you’ve done that, when you’re logged in it’s usually possible to enter all their competitions without retyping your details.
Whereas it’s obviously not a good idea to have the same log-in and password details for sites where you actually spend money, if you’re only visiting Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour, etc for the competitions, I’d advise keeping the same details for them all. You won’t want to be trying to remember a different log-in for every site you go to. For email entries – done from your dedicated comping account – set up a signature that’s your name, address, email and telephone. Then you just need to add your answer and subject line.
For the old fashioned postal entry you’ll need postcards. Brightly coloured and free postcards are readily available from cinema foyers, or you can recycle the front of birthday and Christmas cards – just make sure they’re not too large to send by second class post. When you have a stash, label a pile with those free address labels you get sent by charities, and all you’ll have to do is add your telephone number/email and an answer.
There is no real scientific reason for this belief – but I always feel it’s best to send postcard entries so they arrive within 5 days of the closing date. That way, if they really are pulled out of a ‘hat’ – as opposed to the data being entered onto a computer – they won’t be languishing too near the bottom.
Mix it up
Spread your net wide. As well as entering by email, phone, postcard and online, try and look for different types of competition as well. Most promotions just require you to answer a very simple question, often the answer is something you’ve been told in the introduction to the comp, or is easily found on the site’s home-page. These are easy and quick to enter and will get your numbers up. However, this means they’re quick and easy for thousands of other people to enter too. You might see a comp where you’re asked to make a short film or an advert – if you have a video camera and are happy to make an arse of yourself or your family, then go for it – entry is likely to be relatively low. However, so far I’ve steered clear of any kind of competition which requires you to gain votes from the public. Accusations of rigging and vote harvesting are usually rife, and I’ve heard various reports of this type of competition not being handled fairly. But hey, if you have a massive blog or a zillion Facebook friends it might be worth a try – you have nothing to lose but your dignity!
Tiebreakers are my personal favourite. They do take a little more time and effort, but the rewards can be brilliant. Glamour magazine ran a competition in conjunction with Magnum minis – only seen in the magazine, not on the website – where you were required to describe your ideal night in with magnum minis in 50 words. The prize was a year’s supply of Magnum Minis and a year’s worth of Heavenly Hands manicures from Nails Inc.
I spent a couple of hours fiddling around to make a rhyming poem of 50 words, which mentioned doing my nails, eating Magnums and reading Glamour whilst ignoring calls from Brad Pitt. [The aging square jawed one is not really my type, but you have to play to your audience]. I counted and re-counted the words to ensure it was exactly 50 – avoid contractions like don’t and can’t, as you don’t know whether the judges will deem them one word or two – typed it out, and sent it off with a good feeling. I won! I’m almost certain there weren’t many entrants, even though it was a brilliant prize, as a) it was hidden in the small print of an advert and b) most people who saw it probably dismissed it as too much effort.
Luckily the next competition I got into was on packets of Snack A Jacks, as none of my clothes fitted since every meal ended with a choc-ice on a stick. [They sent me 52 vouchers for a free box, if you’re wondering, not a refrigerated lorry.] This competition was in connection with the film The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, and was giving away pre-paid credit cards of different values – from £25 to £1000. There were lots of the smaller prizes, and proportionally fewer of the higher value ones, and you needed to buy a packet with a unique code, then visit the website and say why you deserved that amount of money. The funnier or sillier the reason the better, and while I didn’t win any of the £100 plus amounts – I did manage a prize fund of £325 in total, enough to play at being a shopaholic at Bicester Village.
Make like a Drug Dealer
‘Professional’ compers often have more than one mobile phone. Occasionally a competition comes up where they limit you to one entry a day/hour per number, but you don’t have to enter your details until you’re notified of a win. More phones = more entries. It’s not worth it for the premium rate television advertised comps at £1.50 a pop, but if it’s a standard rate text for a high value prize, the gamble can be worth it. A PAYG mobile is also a useful way of keeping track of how much you’re spending on entries, rather than getting carried away and having a nasty shock when your bill comes in.
Tis the Season
I’ve been really enjoying Mrs Thrifty’s posts on Christmas prep. I love Christmas, and am always keen to make a few presents for people whom I know enjoy a handmade gift. Last year it was teacup candles, this year it will be wild plum vodka and sloe gin. However, it’s been my experience that there is invariably one relation who will not fully appreciate the effort that went into that jar of runner-bean chutney with gingham mobcap – teenage brothers being a case in point – and thus it’s always handy to have some ‘retail’ gifts. Even better if you don’t have to pay for them, and that’s the beauty of a lot of wins – I’d never have been able to buy my aunt a Longchamps handbag, but I was happy to give her the one I won as a present. [It was the bag part of the Bafta awards goody bag given out to nominees]
The run up to Christmas is also an excellent time to win, as loads of companies are feeling generous, and many also run ‘advent’ competitions. So many advents pop up in December that Loquax devotes a whole section to them, and basically they’re an online advent calendar. You visit a site every day, click on the relevant ‘door’ and enter to win something different each time. Get in early and make sure you’re one of the few in the first draws, before the promotion becomes widely known about. Each comp is only open for 24 hours, and you’re therefore likely to be notified of any wins pretty quickly.
Have a small baby
Seriously. If you don’t have a small child you can rely on to wake you at regular intervals through the night, insomnia or a job working the graveyard shift work just as well. This tip is probably one of the best for genuinely increasing your chances of winning certain types of competition, but is overlooked by thousands of entrants. Look out for competitions where there are draws throughout the day – often advertised along these lines – “One games console to be won every hour!”. Soft drinks companies often do this kind of promotion, and you just need to enter the code from under the label (by text or online) to be entered in that hour’s draw. Don’t bother sitting at your desk, finishing your sandwich and diet coke and entering the draw at 1.30pm. That’s when everyone will enter. Save the code as a draft message in your mobile, and when you’re woken in the wee small hours by screamy junior, [or your bladder, or needing a drink of water] reach for your phone first. I have won several great prizes thanks to the 3am – 4am slot!
Don’t have any children
I really wish I’d got into competitions before I had any kids, as there are loads of holiday giveaways out there, and most of them are for couples, or need to be taken at short notice. When I was a student I was collecting tokens from the paper for £30 flights to stay in a Parisian roach hotel – these days I’d be entering comps and hopefully jetting off for luxury breaks in Reykjavík. When you do track down the elusive family holiday comp – almost always for 4; fine unless you have that pesky extra child – a peek at the terms and conditions is likely to reveal that you can’t take it over school or bank holidays. Not much use when the terms and conditions in question also often stipulate that the children must be over 3 years of age. And we all know that requests for time off during term are greeted with about as much enthusiasm as Gary Glitter’s CV.
A freezer full of ice-cream, a fridge full of lard
Look in any comper’s kitchen and you could be forgiven for assuming that they’re in the grip of a bizarre eating disorder. 10 tubs of margarine, 8 boxes of Special K, 3 bottles of vanilla essence… You thought that woman at Asda rooting through the identical packets biscuits was just a nutter? She was probably trying to find ones with a different time stamp and best before date. Someone on the Loquax forums confesses to the following behaviour at the supermarket:
“I make a list of things I need to purchase and then usually do it in one go. Only problem is I usually need separate receipts that need to be sent off or kept just in case. So….I get in the queue and it do something like this…. Family size bag of Walkers…..Next Customer Please sign…..multi pack of pepsi…..Next Customer Please sign…….Box of Magnums…..Next Customer Please sign…….A bag of Pears from South Africa…..Next Customer Please sign………Packets of McVities Biscuits……”
Yes, this does sound a little OTT, but this is exactly how some people make serious money. Magnum ice-creams ran a competition a couple of years ago where you needed to get a code from the sticks, which could then be entered into an hourly draw to win ‘Pleasure cards’ – another type of pre-paid Visa. There was all sorts of hoo-ha about people buying hundreds of pounds worth, extracting the sticks, chucking the ice-cream, and easily doubling or tripling their money with thousands of entries. Presumably Unilever ran the competition in the hope of increasing their sales – it was certainly successful in that regard, even if it didn’t work quite as they’d expected! They have a similar promotion running at the moment – but sadly they’ve changed the rate of prizes to one a day, shifting to one a week later on!
It just goes to show though, a careful reading of the t&cs and a working knowledge of arithmetic can pay big dividends when there’s a sufficiently large number of high value prizes on offer. When Pepsi were giving away Flip Camcorders as prizes, there were a couple of sellers on Ebay I just knew were using this technique.
Tick the box
Debate still rages about whether you should tick the box saying no to newsletters/marketing/keeping in touch etc. Personally, I say no to postal and phone communications, but I’m fine for them to send me information by email – that’s where that dedicated comping email address comes in again. Technically, everyone is supposed to have an equal chance of winning, no matter whether they’ve opted out of communications or not. But if you were a company running a competition, wouldn’t you rather award a prize to someone who’s at least willing to receive the odd email from you? I mean, it’s only polite. Also, if you at least have a cursory glance at your emails, you may well find out about sales and promotions before everyone else. This is the method I use, and it works for me.