Thursday 29 July 2010

Spice up your Text Life

Does your heart sink when your mobile rings, or when it beeps to tell you a text message has arrived, knowing it will either be a member of the family wanting to be collected from the station or an advert for this week’s dinner for £10 deal from your favourite supermarket?

Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. Calls and texts on my mobile have informed me of some wonderful prizes - holidays to Paris, New York and the Canaries, barbecues, hampers, gadgets, a barbecue party and, just a few days ago, a complete home entertainment system with 40” TV, Blu-Ray player, games console and surround sound system.

Text entry competitions are everywhere now and if you are not entering them because of the cost, the fear of junk messages, not understanding what to put or a worry that you aren’t very good at writing text messages, you are missing out on the chance of thousands of lovely prizes, so here are a few tips.

First of all the COST. Most text entries go to a short code number, typically 5 digits long, instead of to a full length one. Look carefully at the price of the message – most are charged at either your normal text message rate or at 25p, but some cost much more than that, sometimes as much as £2.50 per entry. And when the cost is given, anything more than a normal rate text is ON TOP OF your normal rate. So if you usually pay 12p per message, a 25p entry competition will cost you 37p. It sounds like a lot – but it’s less than the cost of a first class stamp!

However if you have a package that allows you a certain number of free texts a month, the bad news is that even standard rate texts to short codes don’t count as part of it. You have to pay for each and every text entry on top of what you pay for your package. So if you are thinking of buying a new mobile phone just to use for entering competitions, get a pay-as-you go one because the cost of the texts will just come from the credit you use. This will make it easy to monitor how much you are spending on entering competitions and you won’t get a nasty bill at the end of the month.

JUNK MESSAGES don’t seem to come as a result of entering the normal competitions you find on products, although sometimes you will get occasional messages from a promoter telling you when they have a new competition. The only time entering a comp correctly has caused me to get junk messages was when it was an expensive premium rate text entry one that I had decided to treat myself to, and I was then besieged with messages from the promoter wanting me to enter further expensive competitions. Fortunately simply replying to one of their messages with the word STOP meant I got no further problems.

However do make sure you enter the number to send your entry to correctly, as all sorts of services use short code numbers including some you may really NOT want to contact. I once sent an entry to a number just one digit from the correct one, and had a reply from a young lady who sounded as if she must be awfully cold if she was wearing as little as she said she was, and wanted me to make a £2 a minute call to her. Maybe the thought of all that money would have warmed her up……

WHAT DO I PUT? Your message should contain exactly what they ask you to send – no more and no less. Sometimes you need to send just a single word, or a word and a pack code, with no address details; in this case if you win, they will contact you for your address. The computer that registers your entry will only have been programmed to understand the message they have asked for. Try to tell it anything else and you will confuse it and get a reply saying your entry has not been understood. If you ARE asked for details like your name and address or email address, leave a space between the different parts of the message but don’t include any punctuation (apart from the normal symbols in your email address). Most of the time it doesn’t matter whether you write your message in UPPER CASE or lower case letters but I always play safe by copying whatever the promoter has used.

Are you a SLOW TEXTER? Well, so am I but mobile phones have a lot of time saving tricks. If you want to enter a comp more than once, maybe every day, you can save the message either into a folder, as a template or in your sent messages area, depending on your model of phone, then just open it and forward it to the correct number without having to type it out all over again.

Most phones have a selection of set messages or templates, saying things like “I am running late” that you can insert into a message. You can set up messages of your own to go in this area, so things that you use often like name and address, email address and phone number can be stored there ready to insert into your competition entries. Your phone's handbook will tell you how to do this.

Now, how about having a go at a few competitions? Here are some to try – do please let me know how you get on.

Relentless drinks are giving away 5 pairs of tickets to each of the Leeds and Reading Festivals. To enter, text (normal rate) LEEDS or READING to 87121. Max two entries per mobile per day. Closing 13 Aug.

Boots and Snack-a-Jacks are giving away a styling session with Gok Wan, with £1,000 to spend, and 50 x Gok Wan book. To enter, text (25p) GOKBOOTS to 81025. Max 10 entries per mobile per day.

McCain have 100 sets of garden games (cones, mega howlers and jumping sacks) to be won every day from 20 Jul to 13 Sep. To enter, in your details at or text (normal rate) MCCAIN followed by your name, postcode and house name/number to 86688. One entry per household per day

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Image: Filomena Scalise /

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