Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You could already be a winner

Keep looking out the window. Yes, the Prize Patrol could soon come barreling into Burnt Hills, raining millions of lucky dollars down on one lucky resident who is among the finalists in the storied $10 million Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

Breaking new lows rather than breaking news, The Saratogian reported Tuesday that the Scotia sales rep is among 210 finalists for the company's grand prize, which is to be dolled out sometime during NBC's nightly news broadcast Wednesday. To do the numbers, this means the woman has a 0.4 percent chance of winning the grand prize. In other words, her chances are a bit better than the odds she'll write a New York Times best seller, but a bit worse than the odds she'll be audited by the IRS.

Mind you, the woman's odds are quite a bit better than the odds ordinarily boasted by the sweepstakes, where the chances of winning are roughly one in 150 million. This means she's already substantially beaten the odds that a meteor will land on her house. And that was all it took to get the presses rolling on Lake Avenue.

For those readers who never spent much coherent time living in the later 20th century, the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes --not to be confused with a similar American Family Publishers contest once promoted by Ed McMahon --was one of the bastions of hope for contest-crazed folk.

The idea originated during the 1950s with a Long Island fellow named Harold Mertz, who was trying to find a way to more efficiently hawk magazine subscriptions. When he decided to couple mail solicitation with a sweepstakes drawing, he struck gold. By sending in bulk form letters that boasted "you could already be a winner" to millions of households each year, Mertz managed to play upon the get-rich-quick aspirations of middle-class America, thrusting his Port Washington-based company into roughly 75 percent of the nation's households by the mid-90s.

After a while, however, the most gullible among the populace started to take fault with Publisher's Clearing House for their oft misleading mailings. Though the now-hackneyed phrase was technically true --the company drew winners in advance of the mailing --it didn't stop several dozen lawsuits against the company during the 90s from irate contestants that failed to read the fine print. By the turn of the century, the company had shelled out nearly a tenth of what it had given out the previous five decades to settle lawsuits filed across the nation.

But all this history didn't stop The Saratogian's intrepid reporter, who must have felt some twinge of shame for affixing his by-line to such a non-story. Then again, The Saratogian is one of the more shameless news publications in the area --and possibly even the state -- prone to hosting their own cockamamie contests to drum up quarterly circulation numbers.

This year, they've simplified. Instead of trifling with a long and complicated contest, they hired a crew of high school students to hawk free trial subscriptions outside Purdy's Wine and Discount Liquor Store at happy hour on a Friday afternoon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes magazine order form arrived - my step mother would check off 10 magazine subscriptions - then mark off the box "NO" on the outside maling envelope ("Please mark off 'Yes' or 'No' if if you have ordered any magazines - This will not affect your chances of winning the One Million Dollars Grand Prize...."
She never won any money - nor did she ever receive any magazines from the various subscriptions that she ordered.

At the Chamber's Business Showcase last year - I stopped by the Saratogian booth and asked what the rate would be for a full year - paid up front - hold the lousy $10. Price Chopper/Stewarts coupons....after asking two other people - some one gave me the name and phone number of some guy who was head of circulation - with the warning, "When you call him, you may not get a call back....he is very busy...." No kidding. We ended up ordering the Post Star at the special Saratoga rate of $87.00 per year.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But all this history didn't stop The Saratogian's intrepid reporter, who must have felt some twinge of shame for affixing his by-line to such a non-story."

Got to take issue with you on this one.

For an individual to be able to feel shame, one must be able to first define the word.

You really don't think one of Mrs. Lombardo's children has such an extensive vocabulary, do you?

For complex words like shame, The Saratogian staff contacts the American Enterprise Institute and/or the Heritage Foundation. Unless, of course, Mrs. Lombardo's son, famed scribe that he is, happens to be on the premises.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, i'm all for letting lombardo and management take the insults they deserve. people that have been members of this field for so long deserve criticism for their low standards and half-assed methods.

but let us not get erratic with our venomous spray and wound the innocent. a good number of the writers on staff at the saratogian are young, green, and just trying to wiggle their ways up the ladder. they are not stupid. they are not inept. people need to start somewhere. i applaud them for their efforts, and frankly, their intestinal fortitude.

as earlier stated, the true targets of any sizable spray should be the learned group that is shaping, and thus potentially corrupting, these amateur minds. try not to be ignorant by insulting the guileless.

8:42 AM  

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