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.








my Thursday list is empty - is yours?


TheLondonEye (not every week)

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
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,


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......


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.