Win Fabulous Prizes!
December 17, 2004 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone here ever won either the grand prize or a major prize from one of those "instant win" games on cereal boxes, candy bars, fast food promotions, or soda cans? Has anyone ever known someone who has won or known someone who knows someone? [More inside]

I'm interested mostly in the big prizes, notably cars, trips, or more than $1,000US in cash, not free Big Macs or cans of soda. Of course, the deeper question is whether these prizes really do go out to real people.

For every contest, there used to be a list of winners one could send away for. Has anyone here ever sent away for it or know any write up about someone who did and tracked the people down?
posted by ontic to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A friend won a contest years ago to attend the MTV movie awards. She got an allowance to buy a dress, trip, etc.
She said that the most surreal moment was when she got out of her limo at the red carpet and the paparazzi all turned toward her, ready to take her picture. They were disappointed when she wasn't anyone famous.
There was an article in Salon (?) a while ago about the culture of people who enter sweepstakes.
posted by Coffeemate at 7:04 PM on December 17, 2004

Brings to mind the eight people who rigged several McDonald's promotions, defrauding the company of $13 million.
posted by ericb at 7:23 PM on December 17, 2004

About 15 years ago Captain Crunch cereal had a contest where you had to piece together clues in order to enter to win $100. My brother (in college) eventually figured it out and entered for himself as well as for a bunch of aunts, uncles, and other family members (the rules said one entry per person). He wound up winning 3 times -- I don't know how many total prizes there were, but there must not have been many people who figured it all out and entered if they pulled 3 of his entries.
posted by cgk at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2004

I had a friend in college who drove a Jeep that his mother won in a contest from Brach's candy (I think). It was the very basic no frills model but, hey, free Jeep!
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:46 PM on December 17, 2004

Sounds like you need to read The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:58 PM on December 17, 2004

My uncle won a new Beetle from a Mentos contest. (Top of the page here.) I think he sent in like 40 "coupons" from inside the candy packages. The deal was that if no one won the "instant" prize inside the package, they would draw from people who sent in the coupons. So, he won, and they were either going to give him a Beetle or something like $18,000. I think to get the best chances of winning you should do something that is simple, but is inconvenient enough that most people won't do it, eg. sending a coupon in the mail, or solving a difficult puzzle like cgk's brother.
posted by anarcation at 8:21 PM on December 17, 2004

I have a friend who won a trip to Marlboro country. She cashed it in for $3,000. Ever since, she's been entering contests. She got a free trip to Vegas out of one. She also gets lots of runner up prizes, like high-quality shampoos and toiletries and I think she may have gotten a few nice household items and lesser quantities of money several times.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:26 PM on December 17, 2004

A friend of mine won a trip to Las Vegas or New Orleans, I forget which, from one of the radio call-in type contests.
posted by whatzit at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2004

I won $2,000 in the first McDonald's Monopoly contest. It was instant win, and it was an insert in our local paper on Thanksgiving Day.
posted by gramcracker at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2004

My brother won a kool-aid sweepstakes when we were kids. The prize list was a hockey set, roller skates, a foosball table, and probably eight other games and recreational things. Winning was incredibly exciting, but the prizes were disappointingly cheap and plasticky.

Our neighbors across the street around that same time won a car in a contest.
posted by bonheur at 9:35 PM on December 17, 2004

I won $25 from McDonalds Monopoly contest. And I've won tickets to a theme park from a call-in show.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 9:53 PM on December 17, 2004

I agree with what anarcation said- do what other people are too lazy to do. I've won several things (a designer coat, a gift set of nice body products) from magazine drawings, where all I had to do was send in an e-mail.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:01 PM on December 17, 2004 [1 favorite]

Also try this story about winning a Chevy Trailblazer.
posted by rfordh at 10:18 PM on December 17, 2004

My SO won a trip for two to Antigua last year, all expenses paid, by filling out an online questionnaire for the New Yorker.
posted by bshort at 10:43 PM on December 17, 2004

I know someone who won 1,000,000 air miles at Safeway (or 100,000; some large amount anyways).

This is more of an exercise in exploring the six degrees of seperation theory than a fact finding question.
posted by sleslie at 11:00 PM on December 17, 2004

Not quite twenty years ago, my grandparents filled in a little name-and-address form somewhere (I think some promotion at the mall) and won a trip to LA to see the Tournament of Roses parade.

And in the course of four months in London, I won concert tickets and stuff like that from the Evening Standard three times.
posted by Vidiot at 11:14 PM on December 17, 2004

Can all you prize winners please enter this contest and win 100 dollars worth of goose clothes? I just want to say I know someone who won goose outfits. I can pretend I know you people right?
posted by aspo at 1:06 AM on December 18, 2004

I won a year's supply of beer in an online promotion, but only after I complained that they had done me out of a smaller prize because they had let a competition run past its supposed end date. It turned out to be one can per day of the year, which did indeed last for a year as we all got fed up of Tetleys fairly quickly.

I also won a £250 Interrail ticket in a competition advert in a newspaper, which I think I can genuinely say changed my life.

My mother won a supermarket trolley dash in a competition in a national newspaper (which will remain nameless to protect the biffa family honour).
posted by biffa at 5:02 AM on December 18, 2004

My brother won airline tickets to Hawaii from a McDonalds instant win peel off the fries promotion. Oddly enough, it happened on April 1st, and he had a hard time convincing the manager it wasn't a prank, even after showing him the sticker from his fries.
posted by cj at 5:24 AM on December 18, 2004

I won a Phillips portable MP3 player from a Sprite bottle last year. It's a little 64 MB no-frills model, but it was free and I do like it.

On a more grander scale, back in 2002 I won two front row tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld perform plus dinner at a ritzy restaurant and a limo for the night just by calling into a radio contest and doing a little impression of a Seinfeld character. I performed Newman's "why postal workers go crazy" rant that begins with "Because the mail never stops..."

Digging into the distant past reveals two t-shirts I won from various online contests, but that's not as impressive.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2004

Friends of my family won a trip to Disney World through the McDonald's Monopoly game the first time they had it. They would have never been able to afford to go there on their own, but for 2 weeks, they lived the high life in a suite at the Grand Floridian. They still talk about it (this had to be at least 15 years ago).
posted by AlisonM at 7:32 AM on December 18, 2004

So are there any high-quality websites run by real people that list all of these contests? Like an RSS feed?

I won a bag of hair once.
posted by mecran01 at 7:35 AM on December 18, 2004

My mom won a grand on a radio call in back in the 80s. I'm still miffed that she took my little sister to the toy store and not be. Sis got to pick the toys she wanted, but I was left with their dubious taste in what I'd want.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:56 AM on December 18, 2004

I served as an intern at a promotions company. They ran an "instant win" promotion for a candy company. They had all of the winning candies in our office. To determine where the winning pieces would go, they randomized a list of ZIP codes in Excel. They used that list to determine where to place the grand prize, second prize, etc. The grand prize ZIP code was in Hawaii, so a co-worker flew to Hawaii with the winning candy and dropped it off in a random grocery store or convenience store. This was also done for 2nd prize, 3rd prize, etc.

I got to pick the winners for a promotion that required you to mail in an entry form to win a trip. There were about 12 corrugated plastic mail bins full of entries and I had to choose three winners. Most of the entrants were kids, and many had drawn pictures in crayon or magic marker on the envelopes that contained their entries. Some people had mailed in 100 entries that were all stacked together in the mail bin. I picked three random entrants and got to call them and inform them that they had won.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:32 AM on December 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

Neat story, Grimey. :D

Friends of my sister's won $5,000 from an M&Ms contest.
posted by sugarfish at 9:27 AM on December 18, 2004

I won front row seats to a couple of concerts one summer through an online contest. Haven't won anything since then....
posted by whatideserve at 10:23 AM on December 18, 2004

Are there any websites that track open sweepstakes or contests? I need a new car. :)
posted by zymurgy at 12:28 PM on December 18, 2004

It doesn't have RSS feeds but this site is constantly updated with new sweepstakes -
posted by pwb503 at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2004

I won a $20 ATM card from a 16oz bottle of Coke in college and used the money to buy a copy of Stereolab's "Turn On." My dad won a motorcycle from somewhere when I was a little kid, which is pretty funny if you know my dad.
posted by symbebekos at 3:22 PM on December 18, 2004

I have never won anything. Ever. And I hate you all.
posted by Grod at 6:40 PM on December 18, 2004

OK, I don't really hate you all.
posted by Grod at 6:41 PM on December 18, 2004

When my brother and I were kids he won his height in boxes of Lego. A department store had decorated an entire floor with Lego sculptures, and you had to guess how many Legos were used in total.

My mum filled it out for him. I won a few boxes too. I was jealous and happy at the same time.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:44 PM on December 18, 2004

I won an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World for me and my family in McDonald's Millenium Dreamers contest. Got to meet Christopher Reeve and Levar Burton too.

good times, good times.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:22 AM on December 19, 2004

i won a case of pop-tarts once. "find the gold wrapper" contest, and instead of $10 grand i got free pop-tarts.

i'm still sorta mad that my wife gave a few boxes away. i would have eaten them. they were mine, i won them fair and square, dammit!

not that i'm much into pop-tarts now. "american idol" has pretty much ruined them for me (both because pop-tarts sponsored the last tour, and because the "idols" really are pop tarts in the first place.)
posted by caution live frogs at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2004

I got a rock.
posted by ninthart at 10:55 AM on December 19, 2004

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