From the Contest Queen

Over the past two weeks, I have received many questions about sweeping and contesting. I decided I would start archiving the questions in a new section called Your Questions Answered. The questions are saved by year and you can read all of the questions and answers from 2005 here and 2006 here.


Tips and Tricks

A fellow sweeper sent in this story about how good intentions can go sour.  She is still friends with the people involved and wished to remain anonymous. Her tip is very good. DO NOT enter other people into sweepstakes unless you are willing to just let them do whatever they wish with the prize if they win.

My friend wanted to win tickets for her grandchildren to see The Spanish Riding Horses of Vienna which were coming to a nearby city. She stressed to me that she really wanted to win those tickets. However, she does not do much contesting; therefore, I purchased several newspapers for the entry form and mailed them with her name.

She won five tickets to the horse show (in very good seats). The tickets were worth anywhere from $35 to $170 each depending on the location. Based on her seats, I would say they had to be worth at least $50 each. She knew they were the entries I sent in for her because when she received the tickets the sponsor had also put in the winning entries in the envelope. Both were ones I had written out and mailed for her.

Here is where the problem started. Within a day or two of notifying her daughter-in-law that she won tickets for the horse show, the daughter-in-law decided that she did not want to take the grandchildren. So now Alice was stuck with five tickets worth almost $200. She asked me to sell them for her and then, immediately after, stated she was also going to call her niece because she might want them. (This was also just five days before the event and a major holiday was in that week and that only left three days to mail anything out.)

I tried to sell them for her on four different sites but because of the short time it was impossible. I even hung a sign up at work. She told me that we could “split” the money that I received from selling the tickets and if there wasn’t much money to split then maybe we could go to dinner together. Well, all this was really making me upset. I was the one that tried to help her win the tickets I paid for the newspapers, stamps and now I was investing all my time trying to find someone to buy the tickets. Also, at this time I was working and trying to prepare for the holiday with my own family. I ended up “giving” the tickets to a co-worker who had two young girls. Fortunately, they did go see the show and enjoyed it.

The lesson I learned here is that now I will not enter contests for this friend again. I will also think twice before helping anyone out to win again. Most of you know that we invest a lot of time in our hobby and the expense of stamps. However, I never thought such good intentions would turn sour.

I would first like to state that the friend wanted to take her grandchildren and should have checked with her daughter-in-law before even trying to win the tickets. Even if her daughter-in-law had said yes, then changed her mind at the last minute, it is not really your friend’s fault. She had good thoughts and intentions when she initially wanted to win the tickets. When she found out she couldn’t take her grandchildren she should have 1) offered you the tickets or 2) given them to a friend of hers that could go.

I am a big believer in karma, what goes around comes around. Neither of you paid for the tickets so giving them away is only passing the winning karma on to someone else. Also, you must always pass on a prize with the joy you felt when you won. Do not give away a win with a heavy heart. Whenever I win a prize I cannot use I always give it away. My friends and family are always happy when I call because they know I love to share my enthusiasm and prizes with them.

Have a great tip? Send me your best tips to share with the contesting community. Remember “You Can’t Lose Helping Others Win”.

Your Questions Answered

Hi Carolyn,
When entering on-line sweeps, many contests often ask if you want to receive further information from them, and include ‘yes’ and ‘no’ boxes. Do you decrease your chance of winning if you choose ‘no’? I’ve just read one of your responses citing how random number generation is used and was wondering if somehow the ballot would be electronically flagged or considered ineligible because of the ‘no’ response.

Oakville ON

Hi Tessa,
What you are referring to is opt-in or opt-out. Opting-in or opting-out does not alter the outcome of the sweepstake. Opting-in only gives a company permission to contact you in the future regarding their products or services. However, always read the rules, because you may garner an extra entry into the sweepstake if you opt-in. The e-mails that you opt-in for will always offer an unsubscribe feature which you can use after the sweepstake has ended if they are not sending you any information that you find useful.

I hope that answers your question.

Hi Carolyn,
I am recently "new" to the contesting scene and to date have not really won that much. I really like your suggestion of keeping track of every item you win in a spreadsheet, thank you for the tip.

I have a contesting question for you:
"If you have won something and they will be contacting you via telephone - do you have to answer the call or will they leave a message and you can call them back?"
Why I am asking is that whenever I receive a call from an unknown long distance phone # I do not answer it as we get so many telemarketers calling and I am afraid that I have maybe won something but because I did not answer the call they moved on and picked another winner.

Thank you.
Edmonton, AB

You should always answer your phone if you can. They may or may not leave a message. Sometimes it will even state in the rules that if they cannot get hold of the first person drawn they will move on to the next name selected. I have received messages that I have won a prize. There are times I have calls showing on my caller ID and no message and I wonder if I missed out on something really good...  Also, I cut the telemarketers off, say "No thank you." and hang-up right away so they don't waste my time.


I am both a dual citizen of Canada and of the USA and lived with my family in Toronto, Ontario. I am now in graduate school in the states but still keep residence in my home in Canada with my family since I visit there often. My question is since I am a resident of USA currently and a resident of Canada, can I enter contests that are for "Canadian residents only" with my Canadian address and also enter contests that are for "residents of USA only" with my USA address?

New York NY & Toronto ON

Hello Izzy,
You could enter contests for both countries since you have residency in both countries. The question then becomes what if you win? The winning phone call or letter would arrive at the address given on the contest entry form. The affidavits/ release forms would also be sent to the same address. They would then require your signature and likely need to be returned within a specified period of time. How would you handle a winning notification arriving in Canada if you are living in the US? And visa versa? Also, in the US, if you win a prize with a dollar value over $600 you are required to pay tax as though you had earned the value of the prize. You would need to do some planning around having people checking your mail at the location that you are absent from in-case you get a winning notification. You may want to focus on entering where you spend the most time since the logistics of receiving a prize may become cumbersome.


Send me any sweeping or contesting questions you would like answered.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter

The book has be re-laid out and re-submitted to the printing company. I am currently awaiting an author’s copy. I will have books in hand 10-15 business days after the author’s copy has been approved. The Canadian Edition will be for sale at and on

Keep your eye on this section for future updates on the book’s progress.


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