Friday 10 June 2011

British is Best!

...well, it is when you are a comper! Why? Because the laws about competitions are different in different countries, which means that most competitions are only open to people living in the country where the competition is run.  There ARE a few competitions that are open internationally, or in several countries, especially within Europe, but they are very few.

If you enter a competition that is only open to, say, Americans, and you are picked as a winner, you will have the disappointment of being told that you have won and asked for your address, and then having the prize snatched away from you.

But even if an overseas competition IS open to entrants from the UK, there can be disadvantages to winning. One is the cost of sending the prize - airmail carriage can be very expensive so the promoter may decide to send it by surface mail instead, which can take several weeks. And when it reaches the UK, if it is worth more than around £25,  the customs people may charge you duty on it. They seem to pick packages at random to check, and from my experience of buying craft goods from the USA it seems to happen to about 1 package in 3, so you MIGHT be lucky. But if you are not, you will have to pay not only 20% of the value of the prize, but a handling fee of around £8 which could make your prize a very costly one indeed. And it will also delay your prize for even longer.

So how do you check that a competition is based in Great Britain? (I'm using  the terms Great Britain and the UK interchangeably here - if you live anywhere outside mainland England, Scotland and Wales some competitions may have special terms that apply to or exclude you.)

If you have a leaflet, magazine or package in front of you, the promoter's address in the terms and conditions will tell you, but with comps on websites, Twitter and Facebook  it gets much more obscure. There should always be a link to the terms and conditions, so check them and if the rules include "open only to legal residents of the United States....." move straight on to another competition.  But not all promoters give terms and conditions, so here are some more tips for spotting the "foreigners"

On Twitter

Go to their Twitter page and look at the location underneath their user name. If it is a place in the UK, you are fine to enter (although don't forget that a lot of places in the USA and  Australia  are named after places in the UK) but if it says something like GA, WC, UT, CA or FL, or one of about 45 other two letter combinations, it means they are in an American state.

If there is nothing to say where they are, click on the link to their website. If it isn't immediately clear where they are based, look at the "about us" or "contact us" pages for their address. And if there is no website link, the competition may well be a scam anyway - see 

On Facebook

Go to the Info page (in the left hand menu) where you can read about the business. Their address or location may be there or once again you may need to follow a link to a website to find it.

Wherever you are

Look for clues! The most obvious one is prices. If the prices are quoted in £  then it is a British competition. If they are quoted in Euros, it COULD still be British, if it is a business that sells a lot of goods to Europe,  but it could be based in the Republic of Ireland and although some Irish competitions are open to entrants from the UK, you'd still have possible issues with duty. But if the prices are given in $, RND  or ¥ it's definitely foreign.

Next up is the closing time, if it is stated. Is the time followed by letters like PST, CST or CET?  If so, it is an overseas competition. Many closing times in the UK are stated without any letters, but if they do appear, they will be GMT, BST or very occasionally UTC.

If you are asked for your address, what information do they want? Do they ask for a town,  county and postcode or a city, state and zip code? Some British websites use forms created by American designers so this isn't an infallible test.

And finally, look at the language they use. 99% of the time, a UK based competition will be called a competition and an American one will be called a contest, and the word draw is used in the UK while drawing is used in the USA. Sweepstakes is a term far more commonly used in American competitions than British ones  - to us, a sweepstake is usually something organised in the office when there is a big horse race like the Grand National.

Completely changing the subject, as I've not got any suitable pictures for this post I'll leave you with my current favourite photo of my granddaughter who has just harvested her very own potatoes.

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