Okay, today I have with me Kathy Ford, winner of more than 500,000 pounds worth of prizes in all sorts of consumer competitions, and dubbed the queen of competitions by the British press. She is now editor of competitors World Magazine, and as an expert on competitions has appeared regularly on TV, Kathy, let's go straight to our first caller. And that's Diana. Diana, what's your query?
Yes. Hello, Kathy? Well, in order to send in two entries to a competition where only one entry per person was allowed, I asked my best friend if I could submit an entry and her name. She agreed, and the understanding was that if her entry won, I would receive the prize. But I would buy her a small gift for allowing me to use her name. Well, the inevitable has happened. I've won a much needed new washing machine, but in my friend's name, and she has now refused point blank to hand the machine over. If I went to a lawyer, would I have any hope of getting my prize from her?
Not even the faintest chance. I'm afraid that your efforts to evade the rules have not only cost you the prize, but also your best friend as well. And legally, you just don't have a leg to stand on. Even if you'd drawn up some sort of legal agreement with your erstwhile friend, I think you'd find that the law would still take a very dim view of your case, since it was obviously done with premeditated fraudulent intent. It's not worth trying to evade the rules, as you've just found out the hard way.
Next, it's Ron. Ron, go ahead. You're through to Kathy
Someone told me that some firms that run competitions keep a blacklist of frequent prize-winners, and that I should use a lot of different aliases in order to avoid being put on such a list. Is this true?
No! Competitors can sometimes get a little paranoid, and if they start going through a winless spell (and we all get them, from time to time!) they start to imagine that they've been blacklisted. No reputable firm would even contemplate such a measure, and the only time there's even a faint risk of this sort of thing happening is with 'in store' competitions, where an individual store manager might just conceivably think 'Oh no, not him again' and deliberately disregard your entry. For mainstream competitions, however, such worries are groundless, and the use of aliases is not only unnecessary but can even prove to be pretty stupid. Think about it for a moment - what would happen if you won a holiday under a phoney name? Or were asked to prove your identity to collect a prize at a presentation ceremony? My advice is to stick with your own name and if prizes stop arriving, take a long, close look at the quality of your entries rather than trying to blame it on blacklists.
Okay, next, it's Stan. Stan, what can Kathy help you with?
Well. Kathy, I recently entered a competition which asked you to estimate the distance between a store in Newcastle and its London head office, using the shortest route. In order to make my entry as accurate as possible, I used a Route master computer program to determine the shortest possible way and calculate the distance, quite literally, from door to door. Imagine my astonishment, therefore, when I sent for the results and found that the answer they had given as being 'correct' was fully 73 miles longer than mine. I know my answer was correct, so do I have grounds to make a formal objection?
I'm sorry, but no, you haven't. As far as the promoter is concerned, the key word in the instructions, here, is 'estimate' - they expect you to guess. not measure the distance accurately, and it's likely that their own answer will also be based purely on an estimate. As a result, judges will always be right, even when they are wrong as in a case like this, and in entering the competition at all, you have agreed to abide by the rule that states 'the judges' decision is final'. Distance estimation competitions have always given rise to this sort of controversy, and although court cases have been brought, the entrant very seldom succeeds in having the decision changed. You have only to check the distance charts in road atlases to see how this type of problem occurs. No two ever agree, yet as far as I know, towns simply don't move around very much!