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  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


  1. Thank you, Jane. Following that is the nasty situation for compers where we suspect some or all of the prizes haven't been awarded and the company concerned simply ignore polite requests for winners' lists. When it deteriorates into the situation where they then try delaying tactics on the Head of Compliance at IPM you strongly suspect they have something to hide. Those who attended the recent Derby Comp Day will know of the current promtion where "Every Little" ISN'T helping; no news as yet on that one.

  2. Very good advice.

    If I receive a phone call advising of a win I take a note of the telephone number.

    I found that the ASA were very helpful when The Sun were very slow sending out a prize.

    On the other hand, was advised last week that I had won a men's Harris Tweed jacket. Information from Harris Tweed arrived by letter on the same day, and the men's jacket was delivered within a couple of days. Brilliant service.

  3. i won a fishing rod with an online fishing mag comp back in May. A month later nothing arrived so I contacted the original site promoter about it and he has failed to respond. I then got a letter from someone saying the prize was out of stock and I should get it 3 months later in August. Its now August and still haven't heard anything. Not sure why they run comps if the prize isn't even in stock.

  4. I'm chasing a prize from November 2011. I'd already sent two reminders about them a few months ago, but have used the useful advice above and set a two week deadline for it to be resolved, otherwise off to the IPM

  5. Have had a couple of prizes not received this year, and chased them a couple of times. I have written them off now, as they are relatively small and not from large companies. I also feel too embarrassed to chase them again as they're 'free'.

  6. hey won a prize off told to wait six weeks for the item to be made.. after six weeks tried to email but the email address i had didn't work anymore so private message their Facebook page and told to email them the details but they never replied the prize i was ment to have was fearne cotton chair worth £500 so annoyed i didn't get it tbh

  7. thank you for this information, i've contacted the complaints email as I've had a terrible time with a local magazine. I won a competition which meant I had to provide a lot of publicity for them and I've had no prize. They've been very rude to me and I've been tempted to contact the press. I'll see what the IPM advise first. Thanks!

  8. Now that Edwin's retired the IPM don't seem so willing to put out feelers for you when a prize is late so it's more difficult to keep it informal.

    I just referred a cut and dried non receipt of prize to them and got a reply telling me to complain to the ASA.

    In the past Edwin would have contacted the sponsor with your concern or referred it to the ASA for you.

    And of course when you go to the ASA if it's a blog comp you're chasing, the blogger gets it in the neck rather than the sponsor and so the ill feeling escalates. Not good.

    1. I'm attending a Q&A with Edwin in a couple of weeks and I've submitted a question about why bloggers are being treated this way when big businesses are allowed to have a "no responsibility for XYZ's failure to supply" clause. Sadly his reply will now be personal opinion rather than the official line. I think his leaving is a great loss to the comping world.


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