Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 - how was it for you?

So, today is the last day of 2010. Are you waving goodbye to it with a sigh of relief, or a nostalgic look over your shoulder? I'll certainly be sorry to see the end of it and hope that 2011 is as happy for all of you  as 2010 has been for me.

In terms of comping, 2010 has been one of my best years yet, with some fantastic wins, the circulation of Grape Vine starting to pick up towards  pre-recession levels, the wonderful friendship and  support of my team of "elves" who help me to find all the competitions I bring you, and the company - both real and  virtual - of old  friends I have known for years through the London Competitors club and new friends I have made through Twitter and Facebook.

On a more personal note, it has been a year of travelling- as well as all my prize trips,  we have been to America twice for our younger daughter's weddings - the official one and the unofficial one  - as well as visiting her in France where she now lives.

So here is a brief run down of my year.....

January

Got off to a great start with a letter  from Blockbuster video to say I had won a holiday to Canada and a phone call from the Daily Telegraph to say I had won a 42" TV and a year's subscription to the top Sky package.  I also won a makeover from a top hairdresser; here is the finished result, one I never seem to be able to reproduce myself!



In February I won a weekend in London, thanks to a competition run on Twitter by Best Western.

March was the month of Fiona's "first" wedding, the official one at City Hall, New York. We spent a wonderful few days with them, and  you can see from the photo just how happy they are!



We hardly had time to unpack before heading off to Ireland for a cookery weekend which I won in a competition on  Irish Beef. We cooked several delicious dishes which have become part of our standard repertoire now - even though it was already so extensive that we seldom eat the same meal twice.

In April I had a prize day out - even though I didn't win it! My comping friend Sharon Buchalter won a day's cookery classes at Fishworks in Richmond but she wasn't able to travel down to this area before the voucher expired, so she gave me the voucher and I went along with my other daughter Emma. We had a brilliant day - at least, I think we did. There was rather more wine than fish involved, if I recall correctly!

 I won another weekend break in London in May - this time from the Emma Bridgewater website. The prize included vouchers to spend in the Emma Bridgewater shop and a suite at Durrant's Hotel. In the same week I won tickets for a play at the Old Vic so we  had entertainment provided too! Later in May I went to Champneys at Forest Mere for a day, thanks to a prize of £100 worth of Red Letter Day vouchers.

June was our Big Month - Fiona's "other wedding" with the first birthday of our granddaughter Lara the day before.  We had an early party for Lara  the week before, for all her family in England, then travelled to America, where the celebrations were to be held in a village in the foothills of the Catskill mountains.

Lara's  birthday was combined with the wedding "rehearsal" dinner, an evening  barbecue


And  the next day was the wedding itself, a huge happy occasion where we all danced well into the night.



July was a quieter month for the family, but I had a lovely win from a text competition on Coca-Cola- another 42" TV, this time with a Blu-Ray player, a set of surround sound speakers and a games console. It was a good month for gadgets as I also won a Wii and two Flip camcorders!

In August we went to visit the newlyweds who by now had left America and were settling into their new home in France - but only just in France,  across the border from Geneva. They are so close to the border that we sat on their balcony and watched a firework display on Lake Geneva! August was also the month that my husband took up blogging - you  can read his blog, about vegetable gardening and the food we love to cook and eat,  here

Our big holiday, the prize trip to Canada, was in September  - it included a breathtaking flight over Vancouver harbour in a sea plane and the spectacular ride up to Whistler on the Sea to Sky railway.


Another month, another holiday! In October I took my friend Rosemary with me on a blissful holiday to Turkey, which I had won from the Sunday Times "Where Was I?" competition. Rosemary had been living overseas, so the break gave us time to catch up on several years' worth of chat in idyllic surroundings.



No sooner was I home from Turkey than I set off to Mickleover in Derbyshire, to stay with Pam Crampton and visit the Derby comping day, where I met up with all my Elves.


November was a quieter month, but we still managed to get away for a few days. First of all an overnight stay close to the NEC, to visit the Good  Food Show with tickets I had won. For those who follow Gower Cottage Brownies on Twitter, here is Kate who makes those delicious creations!



Then we headed north to spend a few days with my mother, who lives near Wigan, and took her to Grasmere to visit the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden where a stone has been laid in memory of my father. Although the snow made the Lake District look beautiful, we were worried that we wouldn't be able to find the stone, but luckily it had been sheltered by some trees.



We haven't done any travelling at all in December - instead, everyone came to us for Christmas. And we could enjoy Christmas Dinner cooked in my new oven, thanks to a Twitter competition run by Stoves.



And now I can look forward to the New Year thanks to my wins from the last few weeks - I have a voucher  for a manicure from Cuticura's Facebook page, £100 of La Senza vouchers from their Advent Calendar competition and £100 worth of H&M vouchers from a competition they ran on Twitter  some while ago  - the vouchers got lost in the post and had to be reissued - so I can have a lovely day out of shopping and pampering. A hamper of £100 worth duck and game is being delivered next week, and  I have a voucher for a night in a hotel on the South coast - all from recent wins.

So while I'm looking  back fondly on  2010 I'm hoping that 2011 will be  great too - and I hope that it will be great for each and  every one of you.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Giving those Christmas Chestnuts a roasting!

Do you remember the days when almost every competition had to be entered by post, with a tiebreaker to be completed in an "apt and original" way? Well,as it's Christmas, I'm going to indulge in a little nostalgia and remind you of some of the phrases that won over  and over again. Hardly original, but they still appealed to the judges, so these old chestnuts kept coming  back year after year, especially at Christmas when  groaning over old jokes is practically compulsory!

So here we go,with a list of my all-time  favourite Christmas Crackers (I hasten to add, these are tiebreakers that have been published on winners lists, not my own entries....) with any product names replaced with a general purpose word like THIS or  IT



  • It's where Santa does his stocking up
  • Wise men know the way to star bargains
  • Prices don't go ding-dong merrily up high!
  • Stuff the turkey, hang the holly, Christmas with this would make me jolly
  • They never reign deer
  • Hark the herald angels sing, This at Christmas  - just the thing!
  • yule enjoy this at prices that won't sleigh you
  • there's a Dickens of a choice to even please Scrooge
  • only a turkey would  shop  elsewhere
  • stable prices  and star value make this the inn place to shop
  • wise men travel from  afar to discover this place's brightest star
  • Liquid assets, that's my reason, investment for the festive season
Can you remember any others?

Wishing you all a very  Merry Christmas and a happy, successful and WIN-derful New  Year

Photo credit
Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Lovely new competitions for you!

The Grape Vine update went out yesterday, and as  so often happens, there has been a flurry of new competitions today!

First of all, if you eat at Pizza Hut  you will be given a gift envelope that GUARANTEES you a prize. There are 25 x family holiday to the USA, 50 x European family break, 10,000 x £20 gift card and over a million food and drink items to be won. But there is a catch - you must NOT open your envelope. You need to go back to Pizza Hut during January and give the sealed envelope to a member of  staff. If you have opened the envelope yourself, the prize becomes void. Yes, even if it is one of the top holiday prizes! Envelopes are being given out until 31 December.

While you are in Pizza Hut, pick up a copy of the  latest children's activity booklet, with a Narnia theme. It contains an entry form for a draw to win a Winter Wonderland Experience with a snow machine visiting your home, a choir singing to you and a Christmas dinner for six cooked and served to you. Yes, even if you take the prize in July! There are 5 digital cameras for runners  up. Although the form asks for your date of birth, there is no age restriction on entries.

Next up is a competition being run on Twitter by Tamba Internet   - there are daily prizes of items of Avon make up. All you need to do is follow them on Twitter and  retweet their daily  competition tweet - the one that reads "Drawn daily til 20/12: #Comp: #Win a selection of Avon stocking fillers. Tweet this: Play our game: http://bit.ly/aH8U9H  #loveAvon " You can do this simply by clicking on the word "Retweet" below the message on their Twitter page.

This is really a double whammy of a competition because if you follow the link in the message and play the  simple memory game on the Avon website, you will be entered into a draw to win a spa day for four, with one prize being won every week until the final closing date of 04 January. You may enter as often as you like.

And finally a competition that doesn't close until the end of January but you might want to start working on your entry as soon as possible. Autotrader have 10 prizes of £1,000  with one  of  thewinners also spending  a day as an Autotrader journalist to be won. To enter, you must submit a review of a car you have owned. You can find full details of the competition on the site - your review must be between 50 and  2250 characters long. You may submit as many reviews as you like, making sure they meet the guidelines given on the site. Remember they are looking for useful, helpful reviews, not competition tiebreakers! Closing 31 January.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Look after your Twitter account - don't be a jailbird!

Once you get hooked on using Twitter for comping, your account becomes vital to you, not only for entering competitions but for keeping in touch with the new  friends you will make there, so if the time comes that you are unable to use your account, you will understandably be upset. So here are some tips for keeping your account healthy and usable.

There are three ways your account can become unusable
  1. Twitter Jail this is a temporary suspension of your account, preventing you from Tweeting
  2. Not showing up in Twitter search you can still Tweet and your friends may be able to read your messages but if a company is searching for competition entries  yours won't show up
  3. Account suspended if this happens, you can't use your account at all, indefinitely,  and will need to either appeal to  Twitter or start a new  account.
So what happens in each case? What have you done to cause it and how can you prevent or cure it?

Twitter Jail

Twitter allows you to make a maximum of 1,000 Tweets in one day  (that's any 24 hour period, not midnight to midnight) with no more than 100 in any one hour. If you go  over this number, you will suddenly find that you can't Tweet any more, although you MAY still be able to send Direct Messages. You also have a limit of 250 DMs  a day - if you have exceeded this, you won't  be able to send anything at all. Not being able to Tweet is known as Twitter Jail and if you are lucky, will only last for  around  an hour but COULD last for up to 24 hours. While you are in jail, you will still receive Tweets and DMs as normal.

If you find  yourself in Twitter Jail, there is nothing you can do about it. Don't panic, just accept it.  Send your closest friends a direct message telling them  you can't Tweet, if you think they will be missing you, but don't ask them to start posting "Get out of jail" pleas for you. Not only will it not help, it might get them sent to jail for over tweeting too! The only thing you can do is to wait - once Twitter has decided that you have served your time, your account will be back to normal.

You may occasionally find yourself sent to Twitter Jail when you are sure you have not over tweeted. There are other things that Twitter considers to be misdemeanours, although we aren't always told what they are. Some people have been sent to jail for deleting a Tweet then posting an almost identical one.

As a comper, you need to be  very careful of competitions that ask you to post a Tweet or a hashtag as often as possible  - do it too often and you will soon exceed your Tweet allowance.

Something that happens more often - especially if you follow a lot of people - is that you exceed your "API allowance".  This is a rate set by Twitter, that sometimes varies if they are overloaded or having technical issues - connected to your total use over an hour.  When it happens, you will not  be able to send OR receive messages until the hour is up - but as  soon as  your hour is up, everything will be back to normal.  This isn't really Twitter Jail, just a normal occurrence, and if you use a Twitter client such as Tweet Deck, you can adjust the settings for how often you download messages and how  many you download  at once, to help make sure it happens as rarely as possible.

Not showing up in Twitter search

If Twitter starts to think you are a spammer - for the same reasons it may suspend your account (see below) - it may filter you out of the search results. This means, for instance, that if a competition asks you to Tweet a hashtag, and the winner is chosen by searching for that hashtag,  your entry won't show up. This  seems to be quite a common occurrence; in competitions I have run, I have often been puzzled to see that while somebody's entry showed up in my @ replies, it  wasn't listed among all the messages with the hashtag.

The trouble  is, it can be very hard to tell whether this is happening to you because your friends will still see your messages. You may suspect that it is happening if you are a regular winner then find you go for much longer than usual without a win - longer than a run of bad luck would  explain. You can try to check by searching for the hashtag of a competition you have recently entered. If your entry is there, then  you are safe. if it isn't, you can send Twitter a query here  under the "everything else" heading to ask whether you  are being filtered out and why. With luck, your account will be reset within a couple of days, but if you are unlucky I'm afraid you will need to open a new account.

Account Suspended

If this happens to you, there is  no going back - your account is closed for good and you will not be able to use it any more. Twitter does this to prevent abuse, identity theft and spamming, so we should all be very glad they do it, but unfortunately the way some competitions are run puts us all in danger of losing our accounts. There is a list here  of Twitter's rules. Breaking them occasionally can lead to you not showing up in Twitter search - serious or repeated breaking of the rules will lead to your account being closed.

So which of these are of most concern to compers?
  • being blocked by a lot of other people. If  your friends and family get annoyed by your comping tweets, they may block you. One way round this is to have two accounts, one for your non-comping friends  and one for competitions and comping friends. Also if you retweet other people's competition entries,  and don't stop it when they ask you to, they are very likely to block you,endangering not only your competition  entries but your entire Twitter account!
  • your updates consisting mostly of links and not personal updates. If you ONLY use your Twitter account for comping and don't interact with anybody, this could well happen to you. Why not interact with some of the other compers on Twitter? You are always welcome to say hello to me for a start!
  • you post multiple duplicate updates. In most cases you only need to enter a competition once. The T&C may let you post once an hour or once a day - check this. But entering over and over again won't help your chances of winning and might do a lot of damage to your account. Promoters who ask you to "tweet this as often as possible" are themselves breaking Twitter's rules for running a competition, as are those who make.....
  • you tweet hashtags in unrelated updates. If you tweet a hashtag, it MUST be connected  to the text of your tweet. If a competition asks you to tweet the tag  #winathon  and  you were  to tweet "I had baked beans for tea #winathon" then, unless the competition was about baked beans, you would be breaking the rules.
  • you have multiple  accounts and  post the same thing on each. You might think it's smart to have several accounts  with different names so you  can enter every competition several times  - but Twitter is watching!
If Twitter is considering closing  your account,  it may filter you out of search for a time while it investigates you. If it eventually decides to close your account, you will have no option but to start again, building up your list of friends  from scratch - so take care of your account and Tweet wisely!

If a promoter is running a competition that you feel puts you at risk  of breaking these rules,why not send them a link to the rules for running a competition on Twitter?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Have yourself a winning little Christmas

You  may have noticed that I haven't posted much to the blog over the last couple  of weeks. That is because like most of you, I've been  rushing around trying to get ready for  Christmas. There is so much to do at this time of year that something has to go - and in many cases, that means less comping.

But for a keen comper, that can be a good  thing - as people cut down on their  comping time at this time of year, competitions tend to get fewer entries. The competition on the Grape Vine website has a ridiculously low number of entries so far this month! Online compers are concentrating on all the Advent Calendar competitions, so if you make an effort to enter ones that are NOT Advent or Christmas competitions, you will have a better chance than usual.

Check your local newspaper to see if they have any competitions. Entry numbers for local  papers are very often low, and sometimes  at this time of year they don't have enough entries to give all the prizes away. And look out in any shopping centres and malls you visit - most will have a Christmas competition and the majority of shoppers will ignore it in the frenzy of last-minute presernt buying.

Everyone needs a little me-time. The busier you are,  the more important it is to set some time aside for yourself, so  give yourself  a treat of some daily comping time to help to keep you sane! And hopefully to help you start the New Year with some unexpected treats.

Thank you to everyonewho has sent Christmas cards to me at Grape Vine. I would love to be able to  send  each and every  one of you  one  of my hand made cards, but there REALLY  isn't time for me tomake so many, so here is a photograph of one of my hand made cards instead.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Have you been bitten by the Advent bug?

I wonder how many of you will actually have time to read this post? December  is  a manic month for compers, with dozens  of websites running Advent Calendar or Twelve  Days  of Christmas competitions,  many of which have a new  prize to be won every day. And this year as well as the usual websites, the competitions are appearing on Facebook and Twitter too.

One  lovely competition I would like to give a special mention to is on the Visit London website which has prizes such as theatre tickets and restaurant meals - lovely treats for those of us  living within easy reach of London.

I'm not going to make  a list of Advent competitions here - there is a wonderfully comprehensive list   at Loquax  which tells you  whether you need to enter on a website or through Facebook or  Twitter.  And Superlucky Di had made a list divided up according to the type of prize on offer. Very useful if you are pushed for time and intend to only enter for the prizes you want to win most of all. And if you do start to feel overwhelmed by them  all, there is some very useful advice on the Loquax blog.

I'm not planning to enter very many this year, although a couple of snowbound days when I couldn't head out to hunt for new competitions for Grape Vine gave  me chance to look at them all and choose which I'm going to be trying to make time to  enter during the rest of  the month. But Advents  or not, I've had a super winning week. My  prizes have included

Two pairs of tickets to the Taste of Christmas exhibition from different web competitions
A  Stoves double oven-  this was from a competition on their Twitter feed and will be wonderful for all my Christmas  cooking
A selection of Christmas crafting goodies from Debbie Cripps
A £5 Love To Shop voucher from  Nivea
A £10 Amazon voucher
A CD of songs for babies
A box of chocolates
A rose facial oil
A pack of windscreen wipes
A lip gloss
A double presentation pack of stamps
A voucher for a £55 manicure  from Cuticura's Facebook page
A £25 voucher  from Spafiners' Facebook page
A nail polish from the Sainsburys Cadburys Bliss  text competition
and finally, a Donkey Kong  game. from the rather puzzling text/WAP competition I mentioned in my post "A Comper Goes to Basingstoke" 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

An Arctic expedition?

Well, that's what it felt as if  it was going to be today when I woke up and the garden looked like this:


Now I'm the biggest baby in the world when it comes to driving in snow - but I knew that the December Grape Vines were at the printers ready to be collected this morning, so I had to grit my teeth and tackle the icy roads to collect them, then when they were  all  tucked into envelopes, get them to the Post Office.

So your magazines are all onthe way - but given the current weather conditions I don't know when they will reach you. We didn't have any post today - did you?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tweeting through a Winning Week

"I wish I could get into comping on Twitter but there are so many messages I get overwhelmed and can never find the comps!" Have you ever said that to yourself? Or are you a regular Twitter comper who would like to speed  up your comping? Well,  Twitter lists can help you and here is one idea for a way to use them.

Many promoters have regular  weekly competitions which run on the same day every week. So if you know that Bloggs's Biscuits always run on a Tuesday, you need to remember to look out for their competition Tweet that day. Just looking in from time to time could  mean  that you miss it - wouldn't it be lovely to just be able to  see tweets from people who are running a competition that day? Using lists, you can do just that.

NOTE: at the moment, if you try to add somebody to a list using the official Twitter site,  you may get an error message. In fact while setting up my lists I found  that more than half of them failed to add. Therefore I am going to base the rest of today's instructions on  Tweet Deck. If you don't have Tweet Deck, I suggest you download it from http://www.tweetdeck.com/ and use it for creating your lists. Once they have been made, they will appear on your normal Twitter home  page and can be used with that or with any other Twitter  client you choose.

How it works

I have created lists  for every day of the working week - very few companies start new competitions at the weekend - and each day, I open the list either as a web page on my computer, by clicking on "Lists" at the top of my Twitter home page, or by clicking on the + sign at the top of  my Tweet Deck screen, selecting "groups/lists" from the "Add Column" menu that pops up, then selecting that day's list. When I have finished comping for the day, I can close the web page or click the "t" on the top right of the column and it's gone -until the next week.

How to create a list

Using your Twitter home page,   click on "Lists" at the top then scroll down to "Create a list" which will be below any lists you already have, then type in the name you want to give your list and save it. With Tweet Deck,  go to "Add Column" then "groups/lists" as above and  use the "New List" button at the top. My lists are  called - unsurprisingly - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

How to add somebody to a list (Tweet Deck only)

Before you start: click on the spanner on the top right of your Tweet Deck panel and in  the General section of the settings menu  that opens, make sure that the box next to "Open profiles in web pages" is NOT checked, as you will  need to view them using Tweet Deck to be sure of being able to add them to a list.

If you can see a tweet from the person you want to add to your list, hover your mouse pointer over their avatar and you will see a block  of four squares. Click on the bottom right one, "Other Actions" and move the mouse down to "User" from the mini-menu  that opens, then "Add to list" from the sub-menu. Select your chosen  list from the window  that opens  up and click "Finish".

If you can't see  a tweet from them, you need to use Tweet Deck to search for them. To do this, click on the circular symbol at the right of the line on the top left of your Tweet Deck screen (I think it's supposed to look like a torch) and type the user name into the search box. Their user profile will open up  and you can select any of their Tweets (but not a retweet) and use it to add them as  in the last paragraph.

Who to add

This is where YOU come in! The people listed below are those on my own lists, but if any of  you know of  other Twitter users that run  competitions on a regular day of the week, please add a comment and I will update the  lists as necessary.
I have just given user names rather than links to their Twitter  pages, since you  may not be able to add them to a list from their Twitter page. You probably ewon't want to add them all - some, like  TPExpressTrains are regional and some like deramores are connected to a hobby - knitting in this case - that you are not interested in, so check their profiles before adding them  to your list.

MONDAY

gowercottage
richersounds
BlurayReporter

TUESDAY

GettingPersonal
theatre_direct
BrowniesbyBB

WEDNESDAY

panasonicuk

THURSDAY

my Thursday list is empty - is yours?

FRIDAY

Moneywiseonline
cravendale
SodaStreamUK
mybagonline
BandBguide
thehut_com
Gifted_com
zavvionline
sendit_com
washbag_com
TPExpressTrains
lessonsinlegs
CharnosHosiery
crunchie
giraffetweet
BrowniesbyBB
GardenNewsmag
deramores
JamesonCultFilm
dabsdotcom
polydorrecords
VanityVan
DouweEgbertsUK
hallmarkUK
ShakeTastic
RibenaUK
DynaGirl
Accessorize
PsychologiesMag
V_and_A
Superbandz
GuitarHeroUK
TheLondonEye (not every week)
ElffieMakeup
Foyles
MonsoonTweets
sainsburys
InsideSoapMag
Illamasqua
MostlyAboutChoc
Official17
SEGA

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A comper goes to Basingstoke

“Basingstoke - a word that teems with hidden meaning.” Well, that’s what Gilbert and Sullivan had to say about it, but it was more the hidden competitions I was interested in when I set off yesterday. I always feel that I am going to have a successful day – after all the registration letters of my car are WNR so I’m driving around in a WiNneR.

Once I reach Basingstoke’s Festival Place car park, I make a daring move and park two spaces away from my usual slot. Anyone who has never experienced this car park won’t understand how important it is to always park in the same place: the car park was created by linking all the old multi storey and rooftop car parks in the town to the new part built a few years ago, so it is a labyrinth of zig zags and ramps. On almost every visit I meet somebody wandering around in a daze wondering where their car is. I know the route to “my” parking spot and feel very insecure if it is taken.

In the town, my first stop is H&M to spend the £100 gift card I recently won. Normally I could easily spend £100 in H&M, but because I have the gift card, I get overwhelmed and can’t find a single thing I want. So I put that aside and head off to hunt for competitions.

I’m sure I must get stalked by security staff when I’m searching for entry forms and promotional packs. Scrutinising every display yet seldom buying anything, occasionally stuffing a handful of entry forms in my bag and from time to time scribbling in a notebook are just NOT the behaviour of a normal shopper. And answering the question “Can I help you?” with “No thanks, I’m just browsing” is fine in a gift shop but doesn’t work quite so well in a travel agent, an optician or even a bank!

Usually my “safaris” are pretty successful, as you may have read in my previous post “A day in the life….”. But this time Basingstoke is determined to hang on to all of its comping secrets and I leave almost every shop empty handed. Things look up for a moment when I spot two different competitions on Dettol No-Touch hand wash dispensers in Boots. Although they are quite expensive, I buy one of each so I will be able to give Grape Vine readers the competition details.

Even Debenhams, which quite often has competitions in its Beauty Guide and several others on the concessions scattered throughout the store, doesn’t have a single competition. I’m beginning to feel a lot les like a WiNneR!

However I have shopping and comping tasks of my own to do as well, including collecting a yummy box of chocolate angels which is my latest gift from the Festival Place online loyalty scheme, handing in a Festival Place competition entry and braving the temptations of the kitchenware shop to hand in Zwilling Henckel entry forms for myself and a few friends.

Then I pop into Evans to look for a blue, long sleeved top. I’m sure it’s the poster on the wall of the dressing room, advertising an online competition, that distracts me and results in me coming out clutching nothing blue or long sleeved but two purple short sleeved tops, a black and orange skirt and some socks with cartoon cats on them. (I promise not to wear all the garments at once) Worse still, while writing this I have checked the competition and it is already closed. As is the one in the USC magazine I spent £1.50 on.

Eureka! I spot a competition entry box on the counter of Model Zone. A man with a talking monkey on his shoulder (apparently it is the latest gift for the man who has everything) explains to me that the entry form is in the catalogue. I fill in a form for myself then pick up half a dozen catalogues for “my husband’s wargames club”.

Pocketing the catalogues, I make my way back to the car, passing several Yummy Mummy shops like Baby Gap and Pumpkin Patch. Although I can see from outside that none of them have current competitions, it is very difficult to resist the siren song of all those beautiful clothes for my lovely granddaughter. But knowing that only last month I won a £50 Pumpkin Patch voucher and treated her to some new clothes with it helps me to resist.



My next stop is Morrisons, where I hope – and fail – to find copies of the latest customer magazine. I go slowly up and down every aisle, searching for flashed or stickered packs, shelf edge tags, pads of entry forms on shelf edges, posters hanging above displays and even signs stuck to the floor, but the only sightings of the word “win” are on a tWIN pack of tissues and a bottle of WINdow cleaning spray.

PC World, Comet, Currys, Toys’R’Us, Maplins, Halfords, Hobbycraft and more stores on the out of town retail parks – nothing new in any of them. Not that there are no competitions at all, just none that are new to me or would be new to Grape Vine readers.

Things look up a little in Asda, where I find the new Photo Smile booklet and a couple of books with stickers about competitions on them, and in Sainsburys where a display of shampoo has news of a text competition and a bottle of whisky has an instant win promotion on it. And a display stand for the new Donkey Kong game tells you to text KONG to 62364 to get more information about the game and have a chance to win prizes. (There was no information about the text cost or closing date on the stand, so I tried it and was sent a WAP link to visit in order to enter. The competition is to win a copy of the game: the answer is Diddy Kong but the space for your phone number won’t accept enough digits. Try it if you like but I won’t be putting this in Grape Vine, there just isn’t enough info).

As I start to head for home, I pass one last small retail park and see a sign outside Pets at Home saying “Competition – find our veterinary clinic to win a free consultation” so I go inside, expecting to pick up an entry form with a treasure hunt or a maze to complete. But no, the “task” is to walk to the back of the store to find the vet’s registration counter. Everyone who completes that arduous challenge appears to be entitled to a free registration consultation. Maybe somebody needs to explain to them that the word “competition” is related to the word “compete”? However right next to the vet’s counter there is a rehoming centre and it is very, very difficult for me to walk out without offering to rehome two rather cute honey coloured rats.

Once home, I spend an hour sorting out my shopping and of course entering all my receipts into the Visa and Mastercard competitions.
Then I have to think of ways to explain to my husband why

• His wargames club can NOT have the catalogues

• His favourite brand of whisky has been replaced by one which he’s not so keen on

• He is expected to wash his hands with Roary the Racing Car hand wash.

Thank goodness I didn’t rehome the rats - that would be one explanation too much.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Hurry! Last minute competitions for you!

The GrapeVine update was sent out on Wednesday but a few new competitions have appeared which close too soon to be included in the December issue. Comps which don't run for long often have a low  entry which means a better chance of winning.

A new Asda magazine has  appeared. While most of the giveaways in  it don't close until the end of December, there is a competition with Grolsch - also mentioned on separate leaflets - with a prize of a Home Cinema system consisting of 1 x 2 Seat Leather Sofa, 1 x Acer H5360 HD Home Cinema Projector, 1 x 200 cm Manual Wall/ Ceiling Projection Screen, 1 x LG HT305SU Home Cinema System, 1 x Toshiba C650D Satellite Pro Laptop, Including All Cables For Projector System, Speakers; Laptop - and Grolsch will even come to your home for one evening and give you a complete cinema experince with blackout screening and snacks
According to the promotional material, you will need a till recipt for a 4 pack of Grolsch bought at Asda in order to enter. The leaflet and magazine advert give different URLs for entry - neither of which works! To get to the entry form, go to http://www.asda.com/  then  select "Groceries home" from the top right, then choose "Drinks" then "Beer and Cider" and finally "Grolsch" from the "View more types" drop down menu under "brands". Phew! I can't give you a direct link to the entry page as the site  uses cookies, so you'll need to go there by the round about route. The good news is that once you've gone through all that, you are NOT  asked for your receipt details after all! They might decide to ask the winner  for proof of purchase, but it doesn't say so in the rules, so you may want to risk making an entry even if you haven't bought the product.
The rules DO say one entry per person  though, and that they will be making "system checks" to verify this, and as we already know they are using cookies, make sure nobody else in the family enters from your computer! The comp closes on 07 December.

Also in Asda  magazine is a chance to win a VIP Christmas Dinner in the Asda  Café (I can't say this appeals to the foodie in me - but it sounds like fun for a family). The prize is a three course meal for a family of two adults and up to four children with crackers, candles and festive treats and must be taken between 13 and 19 December. Enter by 06 December, either by emailing giveaways@asdamagazine.co.uk with ASDA CAFÉ VIP CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY in the subject line,  or send your name, address, phone number and email address by post to
Asda Café VIP Christmas Giveaway
Asda Magazine
Asda House
South Bank
Great Wilson Street
Leeds
LS11 5AD.

Next a mailshot from Oxfam which tells you to visit www.oxfamunwrapped.com/intrepid  for a chance to win a 9 day trip from Paris to Berlin for two. Note that travel to Paris and home from Berlin  isn't included. While you are visiting the site, why not have a look at some of the range of Oxfam gifts? The  competition closes on 30 November.

You'll need to hit the High Street - RUNNING! - for this next one because there are two prizes of a  place in the 2011 London Marathon. To enter, you will need to pickup an  entry form from   JJB Sports when you buy any Adidas running shoes or running apparel from them, give the answer  B. 26.2 miles and hand your entry form back in to the shop. You should also be able to enter when you make your purchase at http://www.jjbsports.com/  - I can  see a reference to the competition on the Adidas page but I can't see how to enter, unless you are offered the entry form after you buy the product. The competition closes on 01 December.

Finally one of those annoying entry forms that doesn't give a closing date, so seek it out as soon as possible. The postcard-sized form offers a  prize of £1,000 Racing Green clothing and is to be handed in. Participating Racing Green departments can be found in the following stores:
Beatties Birkenhead,  Solihull. Wolverhampton
Cavendish House  Cheltenham
House of Fraser High Wycombe, Hull,  Leamington Spa, Maidstone, Manchester, Northampton, Sutton Coldfield, Telford, Worcester
Rachkams  Altrincham, Shrewsbury

Friday, 12 November 2010

Earn £500 just for being a comper!

I received this mesage today and with the permission  of Becky, who sent it to me, I am sharing it with you all. I am not able to take part but I hope some of you will apply - and maybe even end up on TV. If  you have any questions, please  call Becky on the number  at the end  of the message  - I'm afraid this is all the information I have.

Hi Jane,


I work for Zeppotron (part of Endemol UK ) and we’re making a brand new ITV1 Celebrity Panel Show. We’re looking for fun, interesting couples who may drive each other up the wall with something.


It’s a very light-hearted show, and is celebrating the funny little ongoing tiffs that couples have – anything from squabbles over habits and hobbies, all the way through to disagreements about their favourite pop star! We will film with our lucky couples at home, and invite them into the studio to meet the celebrity panel, who will decide which one of them is right.


In our quest to find interesting couples, we’ve been seeking out people with interesting hobbies/obsessions/jobs/lifestyles and so on, hence why I thought of the comping world. I imagine there must be plenty of active members of this world, whose other halves get driven crazy by all the paraphernalia, or other aspects of the lifestyle!


It’s a non-broadcast pilot that we’re making so there’s no need to worry about being embarrassed in front of the nation. Those involved also get paid £500. If the pilot is a success then we will make a series for ITV1, and would ask those in the pilot if they wished to do the show again for real.

If you or any of your Comping chums are interested then please get in touch as soon as you can – we are speaking to everyone over the phone and then if we think they’re right for the show we are visiting them (in their own homes) this week and next.


People are most welcome to call me on my direct line 020 8222 4236 with any questions.

Kind Regards,

Becky

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Introducing the latest service for compers - Competition Hunter

Today we have a guest spot, so I'm going to hand the rest of the space over to Iain Haywood who has just set up a new site for compers - please give him a warm welcome:

My name is Iain Haywood, and I'm the founder of Competitionhunter.com. I've run many successful startups, as well as some very silly ones over the years, and myself and my team have significant experience in running many large and small-scale online competitions. Now I'm on the other side of the fence. I've set up Competition Hunter as a dedicated UK competition community, which hopefully takes some of the best aspects of some of the other competition platforms you know, and provides a useful, fun, and easy-to-use place to find the latest competitions and contests. I'll be honest, it's a big job, and I need your help...


The way it works is very simple - users can register, submit competitions, vote on these cometitions (up or down, depending on whether the entries are worthy), comment, make friends, join groups, share - all the things you'd want a proper community site to do. We've made it that both compers and providers of competitions can submit and interact rather than just one group or the other, as other sites are known to do. Everything is open, free, and made with the comper in mind. Hopefully we've achieved this - we've still got a lot of work to do though, and we'll be working very hard to make sure this community works well for its users.

And so, as we're about a day old, we're reaching out to compers, old and new, to sign up, try us out, submit competitions they find and help build and grow our community. We're naturally going to take some time to get up to speed, but the sooner we get a core of passionate and resourceful compers at our centre, the site will start to really fly. So why bother joining at all? Well, hopefully we do certain things better than other sites, like how easy it is to register, and submit competitions. Perhaps we offer things that others don't, like the opportunity to moderate the quality of competitions through voting, or dedicated community features. Maybe it's because we've implimented a fun and accessible incentive scheme called Karma. Karma is something every user can earn simply by submitting, voting, commenting or interacting every day. It's a thank you from us, and a way of showing how brilliant you are to other users. Eventually we will open Karma up and allow you to exchange the Karma you've earned for real-life rewards. You can see it in our Top Users section, and on your profile.

So that's us in a nutshell. We want to be the "go-to" place: a democratic, fun, and accessible comping community. No complications, no ridiculous rules, and certainly no charges. Get involved, and I know you'll be glad you did!

We're at Competitionhunter.com. For those who are Twitter inclined - you can follow us here: http://www.twitter.com/competitionhunt. For Facebook'ers - we're here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Competition-Hunter/162857813748397

My door is always open, any comments, issues, suggestions or marriage proposals, feel free to email me at contact@competitionhunter.com


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Where's my prize? What to do when a prize doesn't turn up.

Getting a letter, email, phone call or Tweet to  say you have won a prize is wonderful, isn't it? But sometimes you wait for your  prize to arrive.....  and wait..... and wait..... and eventually you start to wonder whether it is going to arrive at all. So what can you do about it?

The first thing to do  is......

WAIT!

Yes, I know you feel as if you have already been waiting forever,  but in these days of instant communication, just a few days seems like a long time. In fact, the guidelines for promotions say promoters have to provide prizes within 28 days - yes  A WHOLE MONTH!  - of notifying winners. This is because there are often several links  in the administrative  chain. Prizes are  seldom already siting on the organiser's desk, waiting to be posted out to winners. Notifications have to be sent between departments or even to different businesses, such as a company sponsoring the competition,  delivery has to be arranged and sometimes the prize has to be ordered from an outside source, and all these things are done by people juggling them with  other  tasks as well. Only the very biggest businesses will have anybody whose job is solely dealing with competitions.

If  28 days have passed and your prize  still hasn't arrived,  your next step is to contact the person who told you that you had won, if you can, and tell them it hasn't arrived. At this stage be friendly and polite,  and don't lay the blame on them- saying something like, "The prize I won in your competition hasn't arrived yet and I am worried that it may have got lost in the post." It may, after all, have genuinely got lost in the post.



This is easy to do if you still have contact details -  for instance a letter or email to reply to - so never throw away winning letters or delete winning emails until you have your prize safely in your hands. If you don't have contact  details - for instance if you were notified by phone or text, you need to put your deerstalker on and do a bit of detective work.

If you are a Grape Vine  subscriber,   you may be able to save yourself a bit of effort - as far as possible,  I keep full entry details of  every competition I cover in the magazine for 12  months after the closing date. However if you are not a subscriber, or  the competition was not in Grape Vine, you will need to find out how to contact the company.

Every business is supposed to have contact details - either an address, email address or phone number or a "contact us" form, on their website. You may already have a note of the website address but if not, a search engine will make it easy to find. If the competition was on  Twitter, go to the promoter's own Twitter page where there should be a link to their website. Or if you won on Facebook, go to the promoter's Facebook page and click on the "info" tab. Don't complain in  public, by Tweeting or by posting to their Facebook wall- if something outside their control has happened, it's unfair at this stage to give them negative publicity  and may msake them less inclined to be helpful.

Depending on the contact details you have found, send a letter or email, or make a phone call  and - I can't stress this enough- send a pleasant request  about where your prize has got to. Keep a copy of your letter or email, or make a note of the name of the person you speak to on the phone.

Most times, this will  result in your prize arriving.  It may have been  lost, either in the post or at the office,  or the person dealing with it may have gone sick,or a crisis may have arisen and put the competition completely out of the person's mind. A gentle reminder will set things back on the right course.

Occasionally, though, your message will be ignored or you may even get  a reply trying to brush you off with something less  than you had expected. If you have heard nothing after a couple of weeks, or get an unsatisfactory reply, contact them again,  reminding them if necessary that a prize must be of equal  or higher value  to that originally offered,  and giving them a fixed date, for instance two weeks from the date of your letter or email, to provide your prize and saying that if it doesn't arrive you will contact the Institute of Promotional Marketing. Again, keep a copy of your correspondence.

You will very seldom have to take things any further than this, but if your prize still doesn't arrive, the IPM are there to give help and advice. Send as many details as you can about the competition, along with copies of your correspondence and any replies you have received, to complaints@theipm.org.uk  Inmost cases they will contact the promoter,but in a few cases they may feel that the ASA or your local  Trading Standards  office are better able to deal with your problem. If so,they will give you advice on who to contact and what information to send them.

Sadly there will be occasions when a promoter has gone out of business and you will have lost all chance of your prize  but in  just about every other situation where you are told that you have won, you should eventually get your prize.  I hope all this advice is something you will rarely or ever need!

Thank you to Valerie Dallimore for the photograph

Monday, 1 November 2010

My day with the One Show

Did you manage to catch the item about comping on the One Show in the middle of October? I told as many people as I could about it, but I was only given a couple of hours’ notice that it was going to be shown so some of you may have missed it. Lots of those who have seen it have asked me questions about how it was made and what it was like doing it, so I hope they are all answered here.

The clip was very short, only 4 or 5 minutes long, so you may be surprised that it took a whole day, back in early August, to film it.

The producer and a cameraman arrived at my home first thing in the morning. They were both very friendly, easy-going people so I soon relaxed and completely forgot about the camera. It was more like chatting to friends than being interviewed. They came around the house and garden with me, looking at prizes I have won over the years, they pored over my photos from prize holidays, and they filmed me at the computer working on the next issue of Grape Vine.

They collected together a huge stack of books I have won and piled them up in front of me, filming them being removed one at a time until I appeared from behind the pile. They even filmed me opening my post, just in case there was a prize among the letters. (There wasn’t.)

All this took the whole of the morning. Then we drove to the New Forest, about 50 miles away, where we were expected at a campsite (camping/comping – somebody at the BBC enjoys wordplay!). There we met up with Dominic Kennedy and one of the researchers from the programme and had a quick lunch in the campsite café. The staff and the customers were all delighted to see Dom and he was lovely with them, unlike some TV presenters I have met who become stand-offish as soon as the camera stops rolling.

After lunch, the researcher set off around the campsite to find some participants. The idea was for us to “Turn campers into compers.” However there was a flaw in the plan. It was a cold, windy day and pouring with rain. So instead of relaxing around the campsite, nearly all the campers had headed off to nearby towns to seek out shops, cinemas and other indoor entertainment. The only people she could find were a family of two adults and two children, but as the site was so quiet a few of the staff decided they were free to join in to make up the numbers.

The filming was all done outside, under some VERY big umbrellas. First of all, Dom interviewed me about comping and asked for some tips for the “campers”. Then he gave them some comps to enter, in the hope that by the time the programme was aired there would be some winners. He and I were coaching the campers and giving them tips- but then the BBC called him and said they needed him to get back to London earlier than planned, so I finished the afternoon’s coaching session on my own.

Unsurprisingly, nobody won anything from the afternoon’s session – only a few competitions were attempted, all of them ones that would have had many thousands of entries. And three of the entrants were children who were too young to enter the competitions on offer. But everybody had a lot of fun and the constant supply of hot tea from the site café saved us from being made miserable by the weather.

By the time we had cleared up and driven home, the whole thing had taken 10 hours. And the producer, cameraman and researcher, as well as Dom, all had long journeys before and after. All that work for just a few minutes of television – is it any wonder the license fee is so high?

Finally to answer two questions I have been asked that didn’t really fit in with my account of the day:
• No, I wasn’t paid anything and neither were any of the participants at the campsite
• The dragonfly brooch I was wearing, which so many of you loved, was a competition prize from the daily draw on the JaneoJewels website.

A pinch and a punch.....

Welcome  to November - a perfect month to stay indoors and enter competitions! And to get you started, the monthly competition for a 6 months subscription to Grape Vine has just started over on the Grape Vine website . As usual, it closes on the last day of the month.

The November issue of Grape Vine is at the printers and should be landing on your doormats onWednesday.

And I'll be back later today to tell you all about the day I spent filming for the One Show.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Some very last-minute comps!

Today I spotted a couple of new  competitions but you're going to have to be really quick if you (or your children) want to enter them!

Clintons are giving out a scratchcard with any purchase until 31 Oct. They claim  that every one's a winner - but of course most are just small discounts on specific items. However there  are also an unspecified number of £200 New Look Shopping Sprees, 250 Days Out vouchers and  600 Virgin  Experience days. No more  info is given about the Days Out and Virgin prizes.  You can read more about the prizes on Clinton Cards  website.  Each scratchcard also has two 2-for-1  ticket vouchers for attractions such as  Legoland and Sea Life  Centres.

Thomson and First Choice travel  agents have  a large  (A3 sized) entry form for  a children's art competition with a chance to win a pair of Kickers "Lego" boots. Be quick with this one  - it closes on 30 Oct.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Have I missed any wins?

Sometimes it seems as if you enter competition  after  competition  online and don't win anything. But how  can you be certain that you haven't won? An email might bounce, be removed by your spam filter or just somehow not get sent at all, so  you could have won something you don't even know about.

From  time to time it is worth using a search engine to check whether you have  been listed as a winner on any websites. If you are listed,and it is a prize you knew nothing about, a quick  email to the site using their "Contact" page will often  produce a positive result.

I find  for this sort of search, Google is the best search engine to use as you can fine-tune your searches. So go to Google  and type in the following,  using your name and initial instead of  mine but otherwise exactly as below, with all the punctuation and capitals just the way I have done it

"winner OR winners" "(j OR jane) willis"

then run your search. I've just run it exactly as above and although it didn't show me any prizes  I didn't know about, it has just told me where the  unexplained picnic hamper  that turned up a couple of weeks ago came from!

However this can give you results from  a long time ago - I can see wins of mine listed from as long ago as 2000 - so you can bring  your search more up to date by looking at the left hand column,  and choosing a time scale. "Past year" is  a useful one to look at.

If you see a lot of foreign results - perhaps you have a namesake who is a keen athlete in the USA - you can use this left hand  column to select only results from UK pages, although for some reason some of the UK sites vanish when you do this!

When you are happy with your search, try doing it again with any usernames you regularly use on websites in  place of your own  name, and if you are on Twitter, search for your Twitter name both with and without the @.

Always follow the link from the Google page before starting to celebrate - some of the results you see may be lists of entries or of "near misses" - I have just searched on my Twitter name and found that I was on  a shortlist of five people to win an iPad, but wasn't picked as the overall winner.

Good luck- and please let me know if you find any prizes you didn't know about!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A week's worth of wins

This time last week I was busy trying to cram my wins from the Derby "Raising for Rainbows" comping day into the back of my car. As well as a massive hamper of baby and toddler goodies, a hand painted  silk tie and a Build a Bear workshop voucher, I had a gift bag crammed with cards and  gift wrap, a bottle of wine and my goody bag and Christmas pudding from the day. And on top of that, a quick bit of bartering had secured for me the gorgeous pink Trunki that a friend had won.

For me, the rest of the week has been a constant flow of small wins - some new wins, some deliveries of ones I already knew about. Altogether the week yielded:

  • two t-shirts
  • a pack of facial wipes
  • a £10 Tesco gift card
  • £10 of Love to Shop vouchers
  • a notebook (the good old fashioned pencil and paper kind, not the computer kind)
  • a bottle of milk
  • a bag of sweets
  • a copy of Whitaker's Alananck
  • a beer glass
  • a miniature torch
  • a cuddly panda
  • a bottle of beer
  • a paperback book
  • a £50 Pumpkin Patch voucher
  • a face cream
  • a travel game
  • a shaver
  • a bottle of nail varnish
  • a lip gloss
  • a pack of chocolate orange segments
OK, there's nothing life changing there but when little things arrive so fast they soon mount up. And maybe next week there'll be a biggie......

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Derby comping day on 18th October

On Monday morning the first thing I thought when I woke up was "Away down  south in Dixie".

Anybody who attended Sunday's comping day in Derby will know just what I am talking about.....

If you've never been to a comping day before, you may wonder what exactly goes on at one, so here is my own account of the day. I am hoping to have a guest post about the same day from an organiser's point of view soon.

After a MASSIVE amount of work behind the scenes, including months of pursuing businesses to donate  prizes, the doors opened at 9.30 am. Everyone was given a goodie  bag as  they arrived.  The bags  were crammed with gifts,samples, toiletries and leaflets from prize sponsors  and comping services. Stamped postcards were collected for a postcard  draw, where the winners would receive a huge bundle of the cards  ready for their own entry, and donations of books, CDs and DVDs to help raise funds for the Breath Easy charity were collected.

After collecting tea and coffee, the compers  - about 140 of us - found ourselves seats in the main hall. There was a special table set aside for those who had  arrived alone and knew nobody - and by the end of the day, they all had new friends. Others had arrived together or met up with old friends.  I  sat with my "Elves" - a team of great friends who help me to  find the competitions I bring to you in Grape Vine every month.


It was the first time we have all met up together and made the day extra special for us all.

Raffle tickets were on  sale, and to tempt us to spend, spend, spend, the fantastic  array of prizes was displayed  along one side of the room. The tickets were being  sold in aid of the Rainbows Children's Hospice and a speaker from the hospice told us about their work,  a very moving talk that made us dig even deeper into our pockets.

As well as the massive raffle, there were numerous quizzes to be entered as a group by the whole table, encouraging us to work together and get to know each other. From photos of celebrities to film music, song titles to general knowledge, there was something for everybody. Part of one of them involved naming as many songs as possible with something in the title connected with America, which explains my very first sentence today.....

Lunch was served at the tables, and in the afternoon there was an "Ask the experts" session, with yours truly on the panel. I was, unsurprisingly, answering questions about Facebook and Twitter.

The day finished with the biggest raffle prizes being handed out,  followed by the announcement of the total raised for Rainbows - a wonderful £3,800. Well done to all the organisers upraising such a brilliant amount.

As people were leaving, some  were having a real struggle to cram all their  raffle prizes into their cars! And the superb goody bags  and free Christmas puddings made sure nobody left empty handed.

If you have never been to a comping day before,do look out for future  days. I am happy to announce them on here and in Grape Vine if the organisers contact me. Comping days are a great way to meet other compers and very often a chance to win some  lovely prizes while making a donation  to a worthy charity.  

Friday, 15 October 2010

Two great new comps for you

Much as I love running my own competitions, I can't afford to give away the wonderful prizes that bigger businesses can offer. Here is news from two companies that have contacted me about their latest promotions.

Del Monte have a new game that  can be played at www.delmontejuice.com/80sips

You play the game as the man from Del Monte's apprentice, and you travel the world trying to collect the best juice. Its a time based game and so the aim is to collect as much juice as you can within the allotted time. A new country is unlocked every 1 or 2 weeks, with 8 countries in total. Fruit falls from the trees (fruit varies by country) and you, as the apprentice, have to catch the fruit in your panama hat (but only the good fruit), the more fruit you collect the fuller your glass of juice becomes. Bad fruit will deplete your juice levels and there are power fruits which slow down the timer so you can collect more fruit. Logs roll across the floor which you have to jump and sporadically cheeky kids will come in and drink some of your juice.


At the end of the game players will be asked to register their details to be entered into both the country prize draw, and the main prize draw. There are a few prizes for each country (a year's supply of Del Monte, panama hats) and then one main prize (an entertainment package including; a Black Nintendo Wii, a Nintendo Will Console Bundle including: Wii Sports + Wii Sports Resort (with Wii MotionPlus) + Wii Fit Plus (with Wii Balance Board), a Black Nintendo DSi Console, a 32gb WIFI iPad, and a 16gb iPod Nano).

The competition closes on 31 January.

Comparedownload have 3 iPod Nanos to be won.


Full details of the competition can be found  on their website  You need to "Like" their Facebook page and then suggest it to your friends. The three people with the most mutual friends to the page at the end of the competition will win, and to double check this, entrants are asked to email them a  list of all their friends who have signed up. To make sure your list is as long as possible, they suggest you do this as close as possible to the final deadline of 15 December. You will find full instructions about how to send your list at the bottom of their competition page.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Win a weekend in the Lake District

Win a Luxury Weekend Break in the Lake District with John Frieda


To celebrate the new Root Awakening Collection from John Frieda, facebook fans can enter a competition for the chance to win a luxury weekend break for two in the Lake District by telling them which of their friends have good hair. Plus they are giving away 100 sets of Root Awakening Shampoo and Conditioner to the first 100 people who enter the competition.

To enter head to:

http://www.facebook.com/JohnFriedaUK?v=app_101508449911608&ref=ts

Open to UK residents aged 18+, ends 15th October 2010.

Win a comping pack!

PLEASE NOTE - THIS COMPETITION CLOSED ON 20 OCTOBER 2010


At last I have reached 2,000 followers on Twitter  - and if you want  to know why that is important to me, read  this

So I thought I would celebrate with a competition. I have put together a bundle of comping  goodies worth around £50, containing

  • An Adidas gift set
  • Plenty Kitchen roll
  • Galaxy chocolate
  • Asda Shades loo roll * NOTE* I have just realised that the TR for this has to be dated in the same week as your entry, and as the box is so heavy it will  have to be sent by Parcelforce it might reach the winner too late to enter. So I have replaced this item with a box of Mornflake Chcolatey Squares which has a comp on it to win a theatrebreak in London.
  • Trident gum
  • Super Max 3 razors
  • Zip firelighters
  • The DVLA Bike book
  • Mission Deli Wraps
As the response to the competition is so good, I have added
  • a Glade Christmas Candle
  • a pack of Sharpie pens
  • two bars of Kinder Bueno chocolate
All the above have competitions on them. The bundle will also contain
  • a 3 months subscription to Grape Vine (or an extension to your existing subscription if you already subscribe)
  • as  many new entry forms as I can find
  • some colourful envelopes to make your entries stand out
  • two books of  12 first class stamps
To enter, you must do ALL of the following
  1. Follow me on Twitter, if you are not already doing so. The Twitter button on the page isn't working at the moment (I'm trying to fix it)  but you can follow me here  or search for @compergrapevine If you have never used Twitter, I have a  guide to getting started on my website
  2. Tweet the following message EXACTLY: I have entered to win a #compingpack from @compergrapevine at http://bit.ly/9bwWwU
  3. Comment on this post, putting just your Twitter username in the box, so that I can find you to let you know if you win. Please note that comments are moderated and as I am going to be  away at the Raising for Rainbows comping day this weekend your comment may take up to 48 hours to appear.
You may only enter once but please spread the word among friends, forums, Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you can think of - if I get a really good response I will add even more goodies to the box.
The competition closes at 11.59 pm on Wednesday 20th October.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Totally Terrific Turkey

Over the years I have entered the Sunday Times Where Was I? competition almost every week. I used to rush out to the post to make sure my card  arrived by Wednesday, then moved on to entering by email (hands up all those who can  still remember the email address off  by heart? Just me? Oh dear, maybe I'm sadder than I thought I was) and  eventually moved on to entering on the web site.  Although the Times website is  now subscriber-only, the page with the Where Was I? competition on it is still free to access.

The holidays always look as if they are the best of their kind, and for years I have dreamed  of winning one of them. Early this  year the prize was a trip to the Bordubet Hotel in Turkey, given  in conjunction with the travel company Exclusive Escapes. I was  trying to win a holiday to go on  with a friend who has been living overseas for some years and was about to return to the UK, so that we could have a break together to catch up on each other's news, and this looked perfect. So I was absolutely delighted to receive a phone call one Friday afternoon telling me that I had won and my name would be in that Sunday's paper!

We took the holiday last week, a perfect time of year  as the summer sun can get far too hot for me - in August it got up to 45 degrees Centigrade. Last week it was a much pleasanter 28 degrees during the daytime, although the evenings and early mornings were a little chilly.

The hotel info said it was "isolated" - what an understatement! It's a good thing neither of us ran out of  sun cream because the nearest shop was about 25 km away, mostly along an un-made-up road. Popping out to  the corner shop was NOT an option. This meant there was practically no passing traffic, adding to the calm, peace and tranquility of this beautiful relaxing  hotel.

This was the view from our  balcony: ducks, swans, fish and turtles basked lazily in the river outside our room and one duck had a clutch of eggs in the reeds just below the balcony. 




We soon slipped into the glorious laziness of the place, where the  most strenuous activity of the day was deciding whether to relax by the pool or take a boat trip (or even  WALK!!!) to the hotel's beach club, about 2.5  km away on a private peninsula.


Or  simply to wander around the beautiful grounds.


The  food was delicious, and the staff - both hotel staff and Exclusive Escapes reps- were excellent.

The only time we left the hotel  was for  an  outing to an essential oils factory and a Turkish carpet collective,which was followed by a wonderful lunch in a harbour side restaurant and a boat trip back along the coast. A brilliant day out which was all  part of the prize.

Thank you to the Sunday Times and Exclusive Escapes for a wonderful prize  and for introducing me to Bordubet - I'll be back!

The One Show, Wednesday October 13th

I've just heard that the slot I recorded for the One Show about comping is to be shown tonight on BBC1 at 7.00 pm.

Update: if you missed the show you  can see it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00v9rhy/The_One_Show_13_10_2010/?t=23m59s until 20 Oct.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting round Twitter's following limit

Twitter  is a great - if rather addictive - way to comp and to get to know and chat to other compers. We follow other compers, then we follow their friends and friends of their friends. We follow sites that run competitions on Twitter and we  follow  sites that tweet about competitions  they are running on websites,  blogs or Facebook. Many of us add to the list of people we follow  almost every day until we reach 2,000 followers. And then we try to follow  our 2001st  person and Twitter  says "NO!!!!"

So what we usually do  is go away in a panic and frantically cull people from  our list, worrying about hurting or offending people or about missing  out on news, chat and competitions. But it doesn't have to be like that.

You CAN follow more than 2,000 people.  The 2,000 rule only applies if you are following more people than are following you. Once you have more than 2,000 followers, you can  keep on following new people until you  reach the same number as are following you. Once you have more than 2,000 followers you can follow 10% more than are following you. If you have 2010 followers you can follow 2211 people. If you have 20,000 followers you  can follow 22,000 people (and good luck with it!). Getting your friends to suggest you to THEIR friends, for instance on Fridays with the #ff or #FollowFriday hashtags can help you to get your follower  count up, but don't be tempted by the spam messages you get that offer to increase your follower count. You could find your account being compromised.

So maybe you can't get your follower count up to 2,000- or don't want to - in  that case you DO need to cull followers. But make sure you do it sensibly.

Cull the people you don't need any more. You are following around  2,000 people. It would take days to   check each and every account to see whether they are still tweeting, and yet if they have stopped for some reason, maybe having lost interest in Twitter,  started a new improved Twitter account or even gone out of business, you are  wasting good "following space" on them. Luckily there are some excellent applications which will look through your list and tell  you who to unfollow!

Both the apps I recommended when I first wrote this page have now closed, but you  can see some suggestions for alternatives that help you to find obsolete or dodgy accounts to unfollow in my Goodbye Twit Cleaner post.


If somebody's on one of your lists you don't need to follow them to  see their tweets.  Did you know that? I only found it out by accident but now I use it all the time. In fact if you are a comper you will probably find that unless you are somebody I talk to by Direct Message a lot, I am not following you - yet  I still see  your tweets and chat and interact with you all the time.  Sorting my comper friends into lists  (there are so many of you that I have TWO lists just for compers) then unfollowing them has freed up several hundred  spaces for me to follow other people. There doesn't seem to be any limit to the number of lists you can have, and the new Twitter interface makes it easy for you to look at your lists. It's always been easy on Tweet Deck and some of the other applications you can use for viewing Twitter.
Don't forget, though, that most promoters  running competitions  on Twitter insist that winners must be followers. Not only do they want to keep their follower  count up  but they want to be  able to DM the winner to  ask for their details.

A final note - don't unfollow too many people in one  day, or  Twitter may view it as "dodgy behaviour" and suspend your account. You will  all have had strange looking new followers  who unfollow you as soon  as they realise you are not going to follow them back, these are spammers and Twitter is doing what it can to protect us from them. Don't let it think you are one! Plan your unfollowing campaign over the space of  a few days to keep your account safe.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What's your winning wishlist?

A standing joke in our family is that if somebody asks me to win something I do - it has happened many times over the years, with prizes as diverse as a bundle of Homebase vouchers, tickets to Reading Festival and a holiday to New Zealand.

So I wonder if asking MYSELF to win things would have the same effect? I have made a  "wishlist" of the things I would especially like to win. Here's mine - what's on yours?

  • A car. I've been a comper for over 25 years, and a very successful one too - and yet I've never won a car. I know people who have won several cars, so why has this eluded me?
  • A relaxing, all inclusive Caribbean holiday for 2011
  • A city break to Seville
  • A trip to Morocco, ideally a cookery holiday in Marrakech (I'm thinking the comping fairy might like requests to be very specific!)
  • A laptop. I've been on the point of buying one for several years but I can never quite believe that I'm not about to win one.
  • An iPad. The latest must-have gadget: I have absolutely no need for one at all but the geek in me feels that life is incomplete without one.
  • A spa break, or even a single spa day at somewhere not too far away like Nirvana Spa or Forest Mere.
  • £50 worth of Hobbycraft vouchers to help  me top up my craft stash
  • a diamond and yellow gold tennis bracelet (well,  there's no harm in asking! And I'm addicted to bracelets)
and last but not least
  • an extra day in every week!
Finally to help us all with our winning wishes, here is a lucky black cat, with many thanks to Valerie Dallimore.