Wednesday 25 April 2012

A quick post - then goodbye for a while

Well, I've finally had the great news that my Mum is coming out of hospital today. She's doing very well (for an arthritis-riddled 86 year old anyway) but needs the house adapted so that she can live downstairs, so I'm going there to oversee that and look after her while she gets used to being at home again  and to her new living arrangements. She doesn't have any internet connection, and I know from past experience that the phone signal isn't strong enough there for me to get online via my phone, so I'll probably be out of contact for a while. And yes, I have checked in the past...... none of the neighbours has unsecured wi-fi although in the circumstances I'm going to ask her lovely next door neighbours if they could possibly bear to share their password with me. After all, I need to let the rest of the family know how she's getting on!

I would normally have been sending the May issue of Grape Vine out next Tuesday, but it will be a few days late this month. I've got everything ready for a quick turn around when I get back,  including a promise of express service from the printers, so I'll have it with you as soon as possible!

Now I'll leave you with quick news of a competition being run by Chocolate Log Blog who are giving away a beautiful Tree Of Life Towel. To enter, you need to pop over to their blog and tell them, as a comment (on THEIR blog, not mine!) what your ideal tea towel design or colour would be. It closes on May 9th.

Just in case you are not used to entering competitions on blogs, I'll remind you that you need to leave a separate comment for each of the tasks on the list, each of which gets you an extra entry to the draw. BUT first you must leave a comment with your answer to the question, otherwise none of your other entries will count.

And if you choose to comment as "Anonymous" you MUST give them a way to contact you if you win. It isn't safe to use your email address in a blog comment, as there are spam-bots searching the internet for email addresses to deluge with their nasty stuff, so if you have a Twitter name use that instead. But if you don't have one, rewrite your email address in a way that a human could recognise but a computer couldn't, for instance the  Grape Vine address would be janesgrapevineATyahooDOTcoDOTuk

Hope you all have lots of lovely wins while I'm away! I'm looking forward to hearing about them when I get back.

Saturday 21 April 2012

A new competition from Brabantia

All right, own up - how often do you use your tumble drier? I know I use mine far too often. The weather can be too unpredictable, especially at the moment, to risk going out and leaving washing on the line, so it's easier to just stick it all in the drier. On top  of that, my husband has all his seedlings growing on shelves next to the rotary clothes line, and  I'd be worried that a trailing towel or dangling drawers might damage a precious plant. And to cap it all, I'm plain lazy......

But have you any idea how much electricity your tumble drier uses, and what an effect it is having on your carbon footprint? Maybe thinking about it for a moment might encourage you to cut down your use of it.

Brabantia would like us to  think about what an impact our tumble drier use is having on the environment in their latest Facebook competition which you can find here. The prize is a WallFix dryer with a metallic storage box, a stylish peg bag and a Titan Oval Black Ironing Table, all together worth 300 Euros. To enter, all you need to do is click the "like" button underneath  the answer that you think best represents the amount of CO2 you produce each year from using your tumble drier 2-3 times a week.

The competition closes on May 13th.

Friday 20 April 2012

CLOSED Win a £50 Amazon voucher with a Tweet!

Although this has been a busy week for me, I've not gone away yet. Thank you to everyone who has asked about my Mum - she is still in hospital, having tests and slowly regaining the use of her leg. I will be going to stay with her when she comes out, to help her out for a while until her house is adapted to suit her reduced mobility.

However today I have a treat for you - I have an exclusive competition! Here is a chance to win  £50 of Amazon vouchers to give away courtesy of bird proofing  provider NBC Bird and Pest. 

To enter, you need to tweet the phrase below and then comment on this post  with your Twitter name so that I can check that you tweeted. Don't worry when your comment doesn't appear right away - I have to moderate comments as an anti-spam measure and at the moment I'm spending a lot of time on the phone so can't always moderate them immediately.

One entry per person please, UK only, and the comp closes at 23.59 on Sunday 22nd April. Winner will be drawn using a random number generator and contacted via Twitter, so please follow me, @janesgrapevine so that I can send you a direct message.

Don't forget, you must Tweet AND comment for your entry to be valid - it means I can keep a track of entries even if I have to go away at short notice! Right, here's what you must Tweet

I've entered to win a £50 Amazon voucher with @janesgrapevine and NBC Bird and Pest #BirdProofing

The gardening season is getting into full swing and as usual my husband, who blogs over at Marks Veg Plot  is constantly trying to keep the pigeons from stealing his plants so I must make sure he reads this!

This competition is now closed and the winner has been selected by - congratulations to @Amanda30000 who has been contacted by direct message on Twitter

Thank you all for entering and look out for another competition coming soon.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

It's oh so quiet.....

If you've been wondering why nothing new has appeared on the blog for a few days, I've not really been able to concentrate on blogging. My 86 year old mother had a fall at the weekend and is in hospital, and I'm going to need to go and stay with her to take care of her for a while when she comes out of hospital. She has no computer or internet access, so all my time since then has been spent getting as much work as possible done on the May edition of  Grape Vine, so that even if I'm not here to get it out dead on time it will be ready to go as soon as I get home.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible - and there is lots for you to look forward to, including TWO exclusive competitions.

Why not save yourself having to check back every day to see if I'm home by subscribing to the blog by email - the sign up box is on the top right. That way, every time something new is posted it will arrive in your inbox first thing next morning.

Friday 13 April 2012

Catch the wind.......

I wonder how many of you are old enough to remember this? (I am)

Well, if you've always wanted to try and catch the wind, how about winning a storm chasing holiday? That exciting prospect is what Netweather is offering. The prize is a holiday for one, on a guided storm chasing holiday to the USA.  You need to follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to be eligible to enter, and then answer 4 questions based on videos on the site. And if they react 20,000 followers, they will give away TWO prizes.

You will need to be available at pretty short notice as the winner must go on tour 3, 4 or 5 - and there are only  4 places left on tour 3, which departs on 20 May, and one on each of the others, departing 31 May and 13 June.

And you'll need to be quick with your entry too as the competition closes on April 14th! I'd love to hear about it if one of you wins this amazing holiday.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Subject Matters - entering email competitions

Recently I have been in the position of collecting entries for a couple of competitions that were being run by email and I noticed an awful lot of people making mistakes which would have meant that,  if the competition had been being run by a big business, their entries wouldn't have made it into the draw.

So here are a few tips to help make sure YOU are in with a chance when you enter by email.

First of all, make sure you use the right email address. This might sound obvious, but apparently it isn't obvious to everybody! A computer isn't like a postman, who might look at your letter and say "This is addressed to Mrs Smith and number 35 but I know she lives at 34 so I'll take it there instead." A computer tries to do exactly what you've asked it to, and if it can't do it, it gives up.

Next, and this one is very VERY important - if there is a subject given for the email, USE IT. And use it EXACTLY. If it is all in capitals, use all capitals. If it is all in lower case, use lower case. Don't add or remove anything. Why? Because when your email reaches them, there will be a filter set up to collect all the entries to that competition into a folder, ready for the draw or judging. This filter may well be case sensitive, and  will certainly include any punctuation marks they have used, so don't risk missing out by being too lazy to use the Shift key or trying to cleverly correct their grammar by adding or removing an apostrophe. Some businesses get hundreds or even thousands of emails a day, so if your competition entry isn't picked up by the filter, it will almost certainly be deleted.

One possible exception is if the suggested subject includes a spelling mistake. Then you need to try to second guess whether the writer simply made a typo, and will have used the correct spelling for the filter, or whether they genuinely thought that was the correct spelling, in which case they will be looking for the same on in the filter. If  more than one entry is allowed, I usually send in one with each spelling. Otherwise, if the correct letter is next to the given one on the keyboard, I assume it is a typo and use the correct one, but if it is a commonly mis-spelled word I stick to the original version even though it is wrong.

But what if there is no subject suggested? Have a close look at the email address - they may have a different email address for each competition, which is another way of filtering entries. So for instance the weekly competition in the Radio Times has a number in the email address to show it is a particular week's competition.  A magazine giving away a blender, a scarf and a voucher might use the email addresses blender@..... , scarf@..... and voucher@....... In this case, you don't need a subject at all - the email address itself is sorting the entries. 

If  the email address is just something generic like competitions@......  look to see if there are other entry routes, for instance a postal one. If there is, and the address has a line in it specifying the competition, use that as your subject. If email is the only entry route AND it is the only competition that company has running at the time, you can safely enter without a subject, or just add  something like "Competition entry". But if they are running several competitions you will need to make something up. Usually just putting the prize as your subject will be perfect.

Now on to the body of your email.  It is important to bear in mind the fact that your email will almost certainly only be opened if it is a potential winner. You may be used to postal competitions, where a bright coloured envelope  or a pretty postcard might attract the eye of the judges, but a computer won't be drawn to  such things. In fact if you use a decorated or animated email, your entry might never even reach them - as an anti spam and anti virus measure, many companies have systems in place that delete incoming emails that include any pictures and especially animations. So always use plain text  and because not all emails are opened, don't include any other correspondence with your entry. But DO include all the information asked for - double check to see whether they want your address, your phone number, a statement to say you are aged over 18 or a note to say how often you read their magazine - give them exactly what they ask for, no more and no less.

Because so many places only open potentially winning emails don't ask for a read receipt. You'll just be worried that your entry hasn't arrived, when in fact it is sitting in a folder waiting to be either read or deleted. Or conversely you might get your receipt and feel excited, thinking that if it has been opened you must have won, when actually they are just capturing your details so they can send you a newsletter.

If you are asked to complete a tiebreaker or answer a question, don't try to be too clever. Just because technology is being used to collect the entries, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is being used to judge  them. In a recent tiebreaker competition run by the London Competitors Club, one entrant included a cartoon in their entry, which had been copied from a website. When the entries were printed out for judging,  only the link to the website showed up. And when the judges were sitting in a draughty hall in Pimlico, miles from their computers, the probably-very-clever tiebreaker fell completely flat!

Bloggs email separately from the same account, but the computer will simply see two emails from the same address, and if it is programmed to only accept one entry per email address it will delete the second. it's no use using different names in the body of the email - by the time you get to the body, it's too late!

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Urgent - help needed!

Does anyone know a Miss J E Davis?

 I have just received a cheque for £45.00 with no covering letter. £45 is the price of a Grape Vine subscription, but the letter was sent to my home address rather than my GV one. I have checked the database of request and sample copies I have sent out and there isn't a single J Davis among all the ones I have ever sent. I can't work out where they come from as the postmark is indecipherable.

If the cheque is for a GV sub, I can only think it is from somebody who has had Grape Vine recommended to them through an LCC member or somebody else who has access to my home address. Do any of you know a comper called J Davis that you might have passed my details on to?

If it's for a GV sub, I obviously need her address in order to send her magazines - she's going to get very upset if she doesn't get them! And i'd really rather not wait until she writes to complain - I like keeping people happy not making them stroppy!!!

If it's NOT for a GV sub, the only think I can think of is that I won a prize of about that value just before Christmas, which never turned up, and it's possible the promoter gave up and decided to send the value of it, but I don't think it would have been in a hand written, folded over because it was too big, envelope if it was.

Please help if you have any idea at all who it might be. And if any of you are members of other comping groups, online or real life, can you ask around as well? Thanks for any help you can give.


Saturday 7 April 2012

Wishing you a very happy Easter

Since so many of you subscribe by email now this should land in your inboxes on the morning of Easter Sunday, so it is my chance to wish you all a happy Easter. The weather forecast for the next few days is pretty gloomy, so perhaps you will be using your bank holiday to catch up on some comping. I hope it is lucky for you!

This will be my first Easter without chocolate (Boo! Hiss!) since being diagnosed as diabetic last May,  but I've been able to  provide chocolate for the rest of the family without going through the pain of buying it, thanks to a run of lovely prizes.

For my granddaughter I have won this:

and for her parents this:

for my husband I have won this:
and I've not left myself out - for ME I have won this!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Win £1,000 for your photographs

The Dead Art? Then and Now competition is back, with a prize of £1,000 for the winner.

Last year was the second success of the Memorial Awareness Board’s (MAB) “Dead Art? Then and Now” photographic competition. MAB, the organisation that works to promote and raise awareness of memorialisation issues in the United Kingdom, have now launched the competition for a third  year and is sponsored by StoneGuard Memorial Stone Insurance. It encourages photographers of all abilities to submit their images of memorials both “then” and “now” and the winner will receive £1000 from the sponsor.

This year there is an added twist to the rules. The public will be able to vote from the 10 short listed entries, on the MAB website, to choose the ultimate winner and runner up.

MAB’s Campaign Director Mike Dewar says, “Memorials and cemeteries have long been a favourite subject for photographers. There certainly is no shortage of unusual and interesting memorials throughout UK burial grounds and this competition focuses on capturing and showcasing their unsung beauty”.

Annette Etchells, Head of StoneGuard Memorial Stone Insurance says, “We are delighted to sponsor this unique photographic competition. We work to ensure the safety of memorials. This competition highlights the importance of beauty in our society as a focus for grief throughout our island history. It also emphasises the importance of StoneGuard’s role in preserving and perpetuating our memorials.”
MAB are calling photographers of all abilities. All entrants must submit two images of stone memorials one of then and one of now in order to be valid. The “Then” photograph should represent memorials as history, and the “Now” photos must be a modern headstone. Photographs can be either black and white or colour. To enter, email your photographs to . Entries must be received by midnight on July 2nd. For full information, see 

Photo courtesy of Julian Gothard, in memory of his brother and my friend, Adrian who is remembered in the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden, Grasmere.

Monday 2 April 2012

Winning Dishes

My entry for the Bosch Dishwasher link up read more about it on Scottish Mum Blog 

  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll probably already know how much I love food and recipe competitions and last summer I gave you some tips for entering recipe competitions (ignore the competitions at the end of the article, they closed ages ago now but the tips are still valid) that you may find useful while entering recipe competitons.

I thought you might be able to draw some inspiration from some photos of my own winning recipes.

Roast rack of lamb with tomato and raisin relish, soufflĂ©ed potato patties and a warm green bean vinaigrette.  This won me a day at the Waitrose cookery school - and one of the other winners was Superlucky Di herself. The competition was run by Casillero Del Diablo wines.

Spiced lamb with Pastawheat. This won me a wonderful cookery course in Italy, from Merchant Gourmet foods - and my recipe was published as a recipe card and sent out to all their mailing list.

"Jamie salad"- we  call  it this because it was inspired by a peach, mozzarella, rocket and Parma ham salad in one of Jamie Oliver's  books, but I have taken his idea and run so far with it that this version is all my own. It won me a beautiful salad bowl from a weekly competition that was run on the Lurpak Facebook page.

Finally, another competition that only asked for a photograph, the "Star Salads" competition from Apetina . I  entered this twice - and won a hamper of salad making equipment both times. There were seven prizes a week to be won. Here are my winning photos - the first is a salad of Apetina, beetroot, broad beans and mint and  the second a variation of a classic Greek salad,  but with watermelon added to give it a sweet, tangy kick.

The lovely photos I used today were taken by my husband, a very talented gardener who grows much of the veg and salad that we eat. If you would like to see more of his photos, including lots of stunning ones of the garden, have a look at his blog, Mark's Veg Plot   where you will often see posts about what we have been cooking and eating.

Now I must dash...... somebody tweeted a link to a blog post about Pesto Bread this morning and it sounded so scrummy that I had to make some right away. And from the smell of things, it's just about ready to come out of the oven!

When the pleasure of winning turns into a pain

Most of us compers know the pleasure of winning something. It doesn't have to be a huge prize - a book, a DVD or some other small treat can brighten up the dullest of days. But what happens when a promised prize doesn't arrive, or turns out not to be what you expected?

If a prize doesn't arrive, the first thing you need to do is WAIT. Guidelines for promoters suggest that they should send out prizes  within 28 days of contacting the winners, so don't start to get anxious after a week, unless the prize includes tickets to an event coming up very soon. Most of the time, the person or business running the competition doesn't physically have the prize there to send out - they need to send your details to a PR who then has to send them to the people providing the prize who then have to contact their suppliers..... all these things take time and if one person somewhere along the chain is off sick or on holiday the whole system is thrown into chaos.

After 28 days, send a polite letter or email to the person who originally contacted you, saying  the prize hasn't arrived and asking when you can expect it. It may be that it has already been sent and gone astray on the way, in which case they can follow it up with the carrier or Post Office, or there may have been a hold up which they can explain to you. Or even - and this does happen - somebody along the line may have completely forgotten and needs to have a  reminder. At this stage, don't phone unless the only contact you have with them is a phone number. It's better  to put everything in writing and make sure you save copies.

If you were notified by phone or text and don't have the contact details, try looking at the promoter's website - there should be a  way of contacting them in the "About us" or "Contact us" section of the site.

Most of the time this will be all you need to do - any problems in the supply chain will be cleared up and your prize  will arrive.  Unfortunately in  the current economic climate, it could be that a company somewhere along the chain has gone out of business - if that has happened, you will probably lose the prize. As far as creditors go, prize winners are at the very bottom of the heap.

If you don't get any help - or maybe even any response  - from the promoter, I'll tell you how to take things further, but first let's look at what to do if you receive your prize but aren't satisfied with it.

If your prize arrives damaged or broken then contact the promoters as above. If it was damaged before leaving them, they should repair or replace it just as if you had bought it in a shop - you don't forfeit any rights just because you didn't pay for it! And if it was damaged in transit they need to claim  against the carrier and organise a replacement for you.

If your  prize is not as described - first of all, check that it really IS not as described. Get hold of the original entry details and terms and conditions if you can. As a special service to Grape Vine subscribers, I keep a copy of the full terms and conditions of every competition  I cover in the magazine, where practicable, until 12 months after the closing date, and current subscribers are always welcome to contact me for a copy. You may find that the description in the small print doesn't tally with that on the picture  - the description in the terms and conditions is the one you should be guided by. If the promoter has been unable to get hold of the prize described, they should replace it with one of AT LEAST the same value as that originally advertised.

Be careful when deciding whether your prize is worth as much as they said it would be - the price they quote to attract entries is usually the highest you could ever expect to pay. Shopping around for goods will almost always yield lower prices, an any savvy shopper knows, so you may find major chains and websites selling the same product for anything up to a third less than the quoted value.

It's particularly difficult when it comes to holiday competitions. Imagine you have won a holiday prize that you are told is worth £5,000 but you look in the brochure and find you could have bought the same length of time at the same hotel and travelling on the same flight for £3,000. You may feel cheated. But your prize will have been costed out as if you had booked the room directly with the hotel and the flight separately with the airline, in both cases not taking advantage of any special offers. In a brochure, massive economies of scale will have been made by block booking both flights and hotel rooms, which can easily explain a difference of 30-40% in the price.

If you are still certain the prize is not as described, contact the person who first told you about your prize, as described above. Be polite and friendly - if you are at all aggressive or officious they are less likely to try to help - and act as if you are assuming a genuine mistake has been   made rather than implying you think they are trying to cheat you out of something. Niceness generally works a lot better than nastiness!

If you need to take things furtherInstitute of  Promotional Marketing  giving them a brief outline of your problem, and what steps you have taken so far, and telling them, if appropriate, that you have letters/emails to back up your claim.  The online form to start your complaint process can be found here.

The IPM may be able to investigate on your behalf, or they may direct you to contact your local Trading Standards Office   or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Hopefully one of them will be able to sort out the problem for you, but sometimes you need to decide when to give up. Only a few weeks ago, I finally gave up on a prize.  Back in December, I won £100 to spend on a website. I was a little bit dubious as it was a site I had never heard of - the competition had been on a "sister" site with a different name, and I had thought I was entering for a prize to spend on that site. When I visited the site my voucher was for, they only had two items under £100, a t-shirt and a bottle of perfume, both at around £90. I presume the "prize" was really intended as a discount voucher and they had hoped I would buy a £599 bracelet or a £1,249 handbag. My suspicion grew when I was asked to pay £7.50 postage, even though the perfume I ordered came to less  than the value of the voucher.

Then I waited for my perfume to arrive. And I waited, and waited, and waited. Christmas came and went,  the 28 days came and went, and still no perfume. So I emailed them. The reply was "Oh, it was despatched, but we are based overseas and your parcel was refused by customs and returned to us."
Me: "Why didn't you tell me? Why wasn't I contacted?"
Them: "Well you hadn't paid for it so we didn't think it was necessary."
Me: "That's a pretty shabby way to treat a prizewinner. And anyway, I paid the postage."
I got no further reply, just a £7.50 refund on my credit card.
And it was no use complaining to the IPM or any other organisation, because the company providing the prize was based overseas and outside their jurisdiction. Sadly if you win a prize from somewhere based outside the UK, even if you weren't aware at the time that they aren't in the UK (in this case, all the prices on the site were quoted in £ and the competition had only been open to UK residents), if things go wrong you have no rights at all!

I think I'd better write about something more cheerful next time!