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“YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON 10 MILLION DOLLARS!” We’ve all seen that one before. From the flyers in our mail to the ads on TV, that’s one of the classic contest lines. Many people fall for this one. Of course, if you pick it apart one by one, you’ll see how it deceives the eye. First of all, the word ‘you’ tricks you into thinking this is about you, when this is really about some big fancy pants corporation trying to get you to buy their product. The next word, ‘may,’ is the first big clue to you that the odds are against you. Whenever you hear the word may, it usually isn’t good. “We may have that movie. Let me check...oh, sorry. We don’t!” “Maybe I should go out on the blind date.” “May is when school ends.” All right, the last one was not so bad. But still, the word ‘may’ is usually a dream killer.

‘Have already’ is something that will throw your perception off a lot, also. It’s in the past tense, so it’s as if you did some previously. Did you already win? Well, did you know about yourself winning anything in the past? No? Well then, it doesn’t look like you’ll win something now, either. ‘Won’ is a big eye attractor, and it looks nice on paper. Won. Just say the word. Won. Of course, the sound ‘won’ is also bad. One is the loneliest number. OK, I’m just rambling on. But, won is again, just like the words have already, in the past tense. Ask yourself the same questions you did for the words ‘have already’ and you’ll have your answer to if you’ll actually win this prize.

‘10 Million dollars!’ That’s a nice way to end it. Money is always a nice way to end things. You end the week with your paycheck. Of course, you end the month with all your bills. And, alas, this contest will probably have you trying to get rid of some cash. Any of the ten million dollar contests bug you so much to order a magazine you feel like a dork if you don’t. One company did a neat little thing. If you don’t order a magazine you have to send your entry in on a plain, white, boring, unprotected postcard. Of course, if you order a magazine, you get to have all the security of the big fancy envelopes with colors and the whole shabang. Of course, they usually have a

hole in them to show a sticker of some sort to show through, and then the letter sorting machine has a better chance of catching your letter and ripping it to shreds. Yay.

So yes, I am talking about contests in this article. In fact, I’ve already filled up half of the whole article dissecting a common phrase of advertising. Now let’s look at some of the other quirks of the contest. First off, let’s look at the word contest itself. Is it just coincidence that the word ‘con’ is in the word contest? And why is the word ‘test’ in the word contest? Is it a test of your gullibility to order some stupid novelty Crossword Puzzle magazine” Or maybe it’s a test to see if you’ll sit beside a radio all day with your cellular phone in hand, ready to call the number as soon as the announcer says the phone lines are open? Maybe it’s a test to how much we will pay to enter a contest before we realize that it’s just a cheap trick to lure in more money. No matter what it is, it’s a funny little word.

So what about contests in general? Why do companies have them? Wouldn’t the general population be happier if they cut the crap about letting one person out of 120 million customers win a one million dollars (which is about equal to less than one percent of the companies total earnings in three months) ? Or maybe if they have to have contests to spark the winning fire in us all, how about having real prizes that we can actually win, huh? A certain fast food chain which name starts with an M and whose board game they used in a promotion also started with an M has latched onto a good idea. They give away tons of these free small fries, just to get the winning attitude going in their customers. I call this the ‘Las Vegas effect.’ When you’re in Las Vegas, and you see the bright colored lights, and banners overhead flashing that Jim-Bob-Bimbo won 24 million dollars in Keno, you’re compelled to go in and try your luck at a machine with bad odds of winning a big prize but good odds of at least winning your money back. Even if you lose $5 at that little nickel or quarter machine, if 100 people lost $5 at that machine a day, that’s $500 a day that the casino is

raking in on one cheap little nickel slot machine! Hoo boy! Multiply this by 365 and you’ll have a lot of money. $182,500 for the people who like numbers. Then let’s say there’s 100 nickel machines on the casino floor that are raking in that same amount of money, though they’ll probably be taking in even more. That’s $18,250,000 they’re taking in on their nickel slot machines alone! I don’t know about you, but to me that’s good money.

So this certain M restaurant with an M game did this, giving away free fries and hash browns by the dozen. Somebody wins one of these, comes back tomorrow, and buys a Super Si...ummm, I mean a big meal for $3.25 with four game pieces on it. He doesn’t win anything today, nor the next three times he comes. But, even so, this guarantees that he’s hooked on this contest thing. Maybe this is why you see so many teenagers hanging around at the Mc...ummm, I really wedged myself into a corner here about names and copyrights. Let’s say the ‘Mc-generic fast food place.’ What it’s become to these kids, who can’t go to a casino to really gamble and learn a lesson or two about money, is a form of gambling. It may not look like it, but it is gambling, in a sense.

But anyway, I don’t want to be an angry Gus in this article, so I’ll end it off on a high note-Contests have the word ‘con’ in them.

ATTN: Frederic Smith

Getting Started column

Karl Becker (701) 222-3202

Page 1 of 3

ATTN: Frederic Smith

Getting Started column

Karl Becker (701) 222-3202

Page 2 of 3

ATTN: Frederic Smith

Getting Started column

Karl Becker (701) 222-3202

Page 3 of 3

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