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.


  1. Never laughed so much in ages, Jane.

    I hadn't realised that there was so much work involved with running Grape Vine. It must take up so much of your time.

    I love reading your blog, and have subscribed (I think!)

    Best wishes


  2. this made me giggle. I am sure once a comper always a comper. shopping certainly takes on more of a fact finding mission. my kids laugh at me when I see a competition.
    they will :) if it was to win a trip to Florida


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