Thursday 31 May 2012

Win a £50 Bella Italia gift card

Bella Italia are about to introduce a new menu, and their chefs and restaurant managers have been designing their own pizzas. They would like US to help them choose which one will feature on the new menu by voting on their Facebook page and one lucky voter will win a £50 Bella Italia gift card so they can sample the new menu.

I'm having a hard time choosing my favourite - but I'll probably vote for the "Alternative Four Seasons".  I'm always undecided about pizza toppings and having four on one pizza helps me to make my mind up. And when I make home made pizza, I never go to the trouble of making four different toppings, which makes the Four Seasons one even more of a treat for me!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

It's going to be quiet for a while.

Regular visitors to this blog and my food and crafting blog, Onions and Paper, will know that my mother has been ill recently and has been in and out of hospital. This week she is due to come out again, and I am going away for a while to spend some time with her, getting her used to being back home and arranging the support services she will need help from. 

Mum doesn't have any internet access and getting any mobile signal involves dangling hopefully out of an upstairs window, so I'm afraid the blogs won't be updated for a week or so.

The June Grape Vine is almost ready to go to the printers, so when I get home all I'll need to do is squeeze in any new competitions I find while I'm away,  but as I warned you in the update, a combination of my absence and the extra long bank holiday weekend mean that it will inevitably be a little late.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Compers- it's time to show an interest in Pinterest!

What is Pinterest?
The best way I can think of to describe it is "a visual bookmarking system". You can "pin" pictures from websites or from other people onto your "boards" which you can divide into categories of your choice. Then when you go back to the board to look at your pins, you can use the picture to find your way back to the place you originally pinned it from, to see if there is anything new to interest you there.
Just like other social media sites, you can make friends with people,  like things, comments on them and, by repinning them,  share them with your friends.

How do I sign up and get started?
Register at   - it can take a few days for your application to be accepted. Once you are signed up, do feel free to follow me if you would like to.
When  you have your account, you will find several boards already provided for you. You can start pinning things to them straight away, or if you feel some of the boards on offer  are not for you,click "edit board" at the bottom of the board and either change the name to something you prefer or use the delete button to remove it completely - you can always add new boards whenever you need them.
If you are planning to enter competitions using Pinterest, you will find it handy to add a "Pin it" button to your toolbar. You can find out how to do this using the option in the "About" menu at the top ofthe page. Pinterest will recognise which browser you are using and give you instructions specific to it, along with a helpful video showing how it is done.

If you would like to see if you are repinning correctly, go to my Grape Vine board and repin any image (there are only three to choose from),  replacing the comment with "Hello Jane". if you've done it right, I'll get told by email and I'll pop over and say hello back.

Now you are ready to GET COMPING!

There are two main types of competition on Pinterest, Pin it to win it and Create a board.  (OK, OK, there are also "most likes" and "most repins" competitions but you probably all know my feelings about those on Facebook, I'm not going to even give them the dignity of being called competitions when it comes to Pinterest. If you don't know why, read Super Lucky Di's article about  cheating on Facebook)

Pin it to  win it
These are very simple to enter - a promoter will publish a picture and all you have to do is repin it to one of your own boards, by hovering the mouse at the top of a picture and clicking on  Repin. But do make sure you are repinning from the promoter's own Pinterest page and not that of another comper. Pinterest sends out a daily digest summary of activity, and the promoter will see from that who has entered as long as it is their own pin that you have repinned  If you've repinned it from somebody else, that other person is the one who gets the email. I  am already seeing this happen in my own daily emails, with compers repinning my entries - and I'm sorry folks but I'm not giving anything away on Pinterest...... YET. Think of it like Twitter, where you don't get entered into a competition by retweeting another comper's  tweet.
By going to the original board, as well as being able to enter the competition properly, you may well be able to see any terms and conditions relating to it - is it open to the UK?  When does it close? Not all businesses running Pinterest competitions have got the hang of including T&C yet but it's always best to have a look for them.

Create a board
These competitions  can be time consuming - and addictive - but fun. You are given a theme and asked to create a board relating to that theme. Make sure you read the instructions very carefully before you start your board. Some promoters will give you a specific name you must use for it, some may say you must follow them before you start to pin, and almost all will give you a way to contact them to tell  them you have entered. This may be
  • email them a link to your finished board
  • repin a particular pin from their board to yours
  • tag them with a special hashtag
  • tweet a link and hashtag to them via Twitter
  • post a link to your board on their Facebook wall
  • comment on one of their pins  with a link to your board
Some board-creating competitions running at the moment are listed below. Where possible, I have given you a link to the full instructions rather then the promoter's Pinterest page, to help you to see exactly what you need to do.

Super Lucky  win a £50 gift from Amazon. Closing 15 Jun.
Ocado win a tote bag of Orla Kiely goodies. Closing 31 May.
The Athaeneum win afternoon tea. Closing 10 Jun.
Harrods and Bikeminded win £150 worth of Harrods vouchers. Closing 27 May.
Atom Books win a cupcake decorating class for two. Closing 07 Jun.
Nixie Clothing win an item from their  Vintage Clothing collection. Closing 16 Jun.
I Love Gorgeous London children's books and dresses.  Closing date not given.
Festival Place a £100  gift card (note that this will have to be spent in Basingstoke, and Festival Place winners are usually required to collect their prizes in person). Closing date not given.
Tights Please a £100 hosiery gift bag. Closing date not given.
John Crane Toys £150 worth of toys. Closing 30 Jun.

A final note ...... TAKE CARE. Already the scammers are starting to try to pull the wool over compers' eyes. Luckily for us in the UK, they are still mostly confined to the USA but they appears as Pin-to-win comps with outrageously generous prizes to lure you into survey scams similar to the Facebook ones I blogged about recently. Always bear in mind - if something looks too good to be true it probably isn't true at all.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Do you love quizzes?

The BBC are looking for people to take part in a non-broadcast pilot for a new TV quiz show.

It is a quiz show based on answering multiple choice general knowledge questions; however there is also an element of tactics and quick-thinking. They are looking for people who are a good judge of character as well as being able to tell when another contestant might be bluffing.
Here is the full inforamtion I was sent, including how to apply to take part.


We are looking for confident, out-going individuals with a good level of general knowledge to take on the challenge of this exciting new

BBC quiz show pilot.

Can you balance good general knowledge with good judgement?

Do your bluffing skills match your powers of persuasion?

To request an application form please email us at, and include your name, age, telephone number and nearest city.

We will be holding London auditions in the next few weeks so get in touch today!

All applicants must be 18yrs or over and residents of the UK.

It’s the ultimate game of choosing the right question at the right time…!

Friday 18 May 2012

Win while you shop!

Shopping Prizes gives away £4000 in cash prizes to UK shoppers

Shopping Prizes (, the UK's newest incentives destination for internet shoppers, has given away £4000 in cash prizes in its first two months trading. Featuring 3,000 retailers, Shopping Prizes offers a brand new concept for internet shoppers looking to get value back from their internet shopping, offering monthly prize draw entries for shopping done via the website, and also allowing prize draw entries to be traded in for cashback if shoppers prefer.

Top prize winner for April Michelle Oom, who won £1000 in cash, said, “I was really surprised when I received an email from Shopping Prizes saying that I had won first prize. I plan to spend the money online using Shopping Prizes from where I have won this money. It is an amazingly good site!”

Isabel Mcdonald won £200 and said, “Can't believe I won on the monthly draw, THANKS!”

Graeme Glendinning was delighted to win a £50 cash prize and said, “I've never won anything ever and was told by a fortune teller I would never win money, so I was thrilled to receive this £50 prize. Quite apt as I'll be 50 in a few weeks time!”

Debi Gillard and Connie Fisher also each won £50 in the latest prize draw. Debi Gillard said, “I was amazed how quickly the £50 appeared in my Paypal account. Thank you – I shall be spreading the word.” Connie Fisher said, "Thank you! I am putting the money towards a new phone.”

Offering an extensive database of retailer voucher codes and offers Shopping Prizes also gives shoppers the information they need to make sales, clearances and special offers to grab themselves a bargain online. Web User magazine has awarded the site four out of five stars.

Shopping Prizes is set to pay out again in two weeks time on the 31st May 2012 with ten lucky members due to win the current prize pot of £2,000.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Are you sure you are getting all your wins?

Do you sometimes think wonder if you are really getting everything you win? Have you ever thought you might be missing out on wins simply because you don't know about them?

Here are some ideas for checking to see if you have missed out on anything you need to claim. It's not unusual for businesses to have to redraw a comp because the original winner didn't claim. You don't want to be that original winner, losing out on a prize, do you?

First of all, make sure you get all your emails. Don't just rely on what comes into your inbox. Most email providers have some sort of junk or spam removal system. Sometimes it is forwarded to your account but marked as spam, sometimes put into a separate folder and stored in the online version of your email account, and sometimes it is deleted before it ever reaches you. The snag is, that because of the number of  fraudulent emails around - for instance those telling you that you have won a massive prize in a lottery you didn't enter - sometimes a spam filter will pick up phrases like "Congratulations you have won" and think the message is a  fake one, even when it is real. 

So check your spam or junk folder, if you have one, every day. Why every day? Because a few prizes, like tickets to events, are announced with such short notice that winners only have a day or two to claim.  If your email provider deletes spam before it reaches you, look at the "settings" area of the web version of your account to see if you can change that. If you can't, or if your email account is provided by your workplace where the settings will be controlled centrally, consider using a web based account such as Yahoo mail for comping, so you can check without downloading anything into your inbox.

But what if the email was never sent in the first place, or you emptied your spam folder without spotting it? Well, you can try doing what is sometimes called an "Ego search" - looking for yourself on Google.  To make your search as accurate as possible, you need to use the term OR, which looks for alternatives so, for instance, if  an announcement uses either your first initial or all of your first name,  you will still see it. And you need to enclose your first and last name in inverted commas, so Google knows it has to find places where both appear together and not a different winner who happens to share a surname with you.

So try this. Go to Google and type in the line below. Replace my name with yours (unless you want to see what I have won!)  but copy everything else exactly as I have done with the punctuation, spacing and capitalisation.

 (winner OR winners) "(j OR jane) willis"

If you've been comping online for a long time, you might get results going back for years. If so, go to "more search tools" at the bottom of the left hand menu and click on it, then you will be able to choose how far back in time your search goes. If you do this once a week, or once a month, you don't need to see older results.

If you enter competitions on Facebook that are run through an app, winners will normally be contacted by email, but if you have entered one that involves commenting on a wall or sharing a post, it can be almost impossible to keep a track of which pages you have visited and go back and check them all. You can try searching for your name using the search box at the top of the Facebook page,  scrolling down to the "posts by friends" section but it doesn't give you many results. A better way to search is to use Google and search exactly as above, but then click on "Advanced Search" in the drop down menu from the cog wheel on the top right  and then typing into the box next to "site or domain"

Another great tool for checking for Facebook wins is a group called The Winners Circle. You can find it by searching Facebook, or if you can't find it that way, friend me on Facebook and ask me to add you to the group.  Anyone can join, and members post any lists of winners that they see posted on walls  and pages. If one of your friends spots your name, they will tag you and hope that you would do the same for them, or by using the little magnifying glass at the top right of the page, you can search for mentions of your name. And of course, if you spot a winners list yourself, you can help out by posting it to the group too.

Finally on to Twitter. Most winners on Twitter are contacted by either an @ mention or a direct message, so make sure you check those regularly. I often see pleas from promoters asking people to check their DMs as they haven't replied to winning notifications! If you use the main Twitter web  page, you may not have noticed it but when you have any new @ messages  there will be a very faint blue line underneath the @ connect heading at the top of the page, and if you have any new DMs the faint blue line will be under the little head and shoulders silhouette on the top right. If you still think you may have missed something, try using the search box at the top of the page and putting your username, complete with @ eg @janesgrapevine  in it, or even use Google

And if you DO find a mention of a prize that you hadn't heard of? I've nearly always found that a polite note, by email, Facebook or Twitter, to the person running the competition will bring results. Don't be confrontational and say "You never told me!" - try to make it sound more like "Silly me, I must have missed it!" I've actually been sent prizes up to a year late after doing this.

Good luck with your ego-searching!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

How many words?

Nowadays tiebreaker competitions are few and far between, so when one DOES come along it can be all too easy to forget important things like making sure your tiebreaker is the right length!

If you are limited to a  certain number of characters,  don't forget that every punctuation mark and even every space counts as a character. A quick way to count your characters is to copy your intended tiebreaker into a Word document, highlight it and then  click on "Tools" at the top  and select Word Count - as well as the number of words, it will tell  you the number of characters, with and without spaces.

When it comes to words, for longer entries such as a nomination in 100 words, the word count tool is useful too, but for shorter tiebreakers of the traditional 10, 12 or 15 words it is better to count  the words yourself - and be aware of the following possible pitfalls

  • Abbreviations are almost always counted as if all the words had been written out in full. For instance in a recent in-house competition  run by the London Competitors Club, LCC was counted as three words,  and even abbreviations treated as single words in everyday use might have this applied. So BBC could count as 3  words, British Broadcasting Corporation while ITV, standing for Independent Television,  could count as two.
  • Numbers can be a very controversial issue. Is 1,234  counted as  one word? Or is it counted as one thousand two hundred and thirty four - seven words? Or maybe as one-two-three-four - four words?
  • Contractions such as won't and don't are almost always counted as two words as they stand for "will not" and "do not". In fact many judges would count can't as two words, too, even though is is a contraction of "cannot" - either because they don't realise that it only represents one word, or because they are reading so quickly they forget!
A rather confusing post-script to contractions counting as two words is the matter of possessives. For instance, if we say "John's bike" we  would normally consider John's as being a single word. A purist might say it is a contraction of "belonging to John" and therefore three words,  but I can't imagine that ever happening in a competition. However I have seen lists of winning tiebreakers that have been typed out to simplify word counting, and where  a gap has been left to replace an apostrophe in contractions, to signify two words, one has also been left in possessives, so they would count as two too!

The safest thing to do in any case of doubt is to avoid abbreviations, contractions and even possessives if you can, and to work on the assumption  that they will be counted as the longer version if you can't.  Using "don't" in a tiebreaker that is only 8 words long when you are allowed 12 is safe - using it in one that is right on the 12 word limit isn't. You may be lucky - the judges  may have decided to count them as single words, or may think your entry is so stunning they will give you the benefit of the doubt - but your entry may equally well find its way on to the reject pile.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Avoiding the scammers on Facebook

If you are a comper who uses Facebook, it won't be very long before one of your friends invites you to an "event" where there are a massive number of prizes to be won, or maybe even a prize for every one accepting the invitation. There doesn't appear to be any catch - everyone accepting will get a £250 voucher for Tesco or Asda, a pair of expensive shoes or, in the latest incarnation, tickets to Alton Towers.

Before you think "I'll give this a go, after all, I have nothing to lose" just stop and think for a moment. Often these events claim to be giving away millions of pounds worth of freebies - how could any business afford to do that? A genuine competition is more likely to be giving a single large prizes, a number of smaller prizes or a mixture of both. A huge gift to every entrant is just beyond the budget of even the biggest companies.  Check on the timeline of the company alleged to be providing the giveaway - buy going to it directly, not through any link in the giveaway. If they really ARE being so generous, they'll be shouting about it from the treetops!

One big clue that it is a scam is that the scammers often use the term "Inc." as part of the company name - Tesco Inc., Alton Towers Inc., and so on, even when they are claiming to be a British company. British companies don't use the term Inc, so that should get your scam-detectors buzzing before you read any further. 

So what do the scammers get from it, and can it do you any harm to accept? Well,  scams  like this are called "Survey scams" because if you accept the event, the next step is that you will be told that before you can have your gift or prize, you need to complete one or more surveys. While completing them, you will be asked for your mobile phone number - and this is where it turns nasty. Because  once they have your mobile number, the scammers will start to send you expensive-to-receive premium rate texts, and once you start getting them they can  be very difficult to stop.

In some cases, when you "Like" the scammer's page, you will also find yourself authorising a Facebook app which can spam all your friends and send them yet more fake offers and events, in the hope that they too will sign up to be scammed.

And  at the end  of it all - nobody gets the vouchers, the shoes or the tickets!

You can read more about these scams in the Survey Scams section of Hoax Slayer - a very useful site to check if you are ever unsure about whether anything online is genuine. And do feel free to contact me on Facebook if you would like me to check whether a competition or offer looks genuine.  I can't promise to always have the answer, but I'll do my best to help.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Win a £20 Budgens voucher

If you have only ever done online comping, you may not be aware of entry form suppliers, but for those of us who have been comping since before the internet (or even, in some cases, since before the invention of the wheel) they are a familiar idea. They collect together all those hard-to-find forms and leaflets, and send you a monthly package that saves you from hours of trailing around shops and department stores.

Jenni Bower Tebbs is one such supplier. Recently she won a £20 Budgens voucher in the Walkers Crisps competition, and to introduce her service she is offering it as a competition prize.

To enter, write down what YOU would spend the voucher on if you won. Add your name and address and enclose a loose, unused first or second class postage stamp, then send your entry to

In To Win
Jennifer Bower Tebbs
5 Hawkstone Close

The competition closes on June 30th.

If you would like to try her entry form service, the prices are: 1 month £5, 3 months £13.50, 6 months £25, 12 months £40. Cheques should be made payable to Mrs J Bower Tebbs. The service includes free in-store posting of all returned post-in-store forms that are sent out in her packs.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Two new competitons that close on May 14th

Hurry up and enter these - you've not got much time!

New competition from Holiday Autos: To celebrate their 25th birthday this month, they are knocking 25% off the price of car hire and giving their fans the chance to win some great gear to take on the road with you – from Kindles to iTunes vouchers. 
To enter this week’s prize draw – for a £50 iTunes voucher– simply enter your details. Good luck!

Competition closes on Monday 14th May. are offering a one night stay and spa access for two people, at one of London’s top hotel and spa destinations. To enter, just answer the question on ther Facebook page.!/

Competition closes on Monday 14th May.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

I'm tweeting - can you see me?

Do you sometimes feel as if you are talking to yourself on Twitter? Nobody's responding to you, nobody's retweeting you and if you are a comper, you simply can't win a thing?

Have you ever felt invisible?

Well, you may be exactly that!

First of all, is your account protected? If it is, ONLY people you have approved can see your tweets.  If you RT a tweet from somebody you haven't approved, or send them an @ message, they simply won't see it.  So if you are a comper, you won't win anything if your account is protected, because few or no promoters will have applied for permission to follow you.

But what about if it isn't protected? Well, you can be filtered out of Twitter search for several reasons, and if you don't show up in search then promoters won't see  the tweets you have sent for entering their competitions with. So here are some tips to make sure you show up.

First of all, make sure your name is on your profile. Your Twitter name can be something crazy, if you like, but if  your profile doesn't include a real name and a potted biography, Twitter automatically gives your tweets a lower priority than if your profile is complete. This is one of their ways of making sure you are a human. (Human? I follow several goats, a van and a pigeon. And I think I'm fairly sane.)

Next, USE Twitter. Use it regularly. If you have a day or two of frantic tweeting and then don't bother for a few months, once again you will get a low priority. Try to say something now and then even if you have nothing to say.

Don't break any Twitter rules. As a comper, you probably don't think you are doing anything wrong, and I'm sure you aren't issuing threats or impersonating anybody, but just take a look at  the rules, especially the definition  of spam, because if Twitter thinks you are a spammer, your tweets won't show up to promoters:
      If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following
      If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates
      If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account
      If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #
      If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions
All those are pretty standard comper behaviour! In fact, Twitter has issued a special warning for compers:
      If you repeatedly post near-duplicate updates or duplicate links in order to enter contests, you may be filtered from search.

So, to sum up, the best way to make sure your tweets show up is MAKE IT CLEAR YOU ARE A HUMAN. Don't use Twitter just for comping, stop and say hello to people, join in with some chat, respond to the other tweets businesses post as well as their competition  tweets, or just tell the world how you feel today. If you are shy, or can't think of anything to say, come and say hello to me!

Sunday 6 May 2012

Welcome to the world Holly Louise Button

May Day will alwways be a special day in our family now - not because of Morris dancing or singing from the top of Magdalen Tower at dawn, but because it is now the birthday of our second grandchild. Holly Louise Button was born at 11.41 on Tuesday night, weighing 7lb 13oz and mother and baby are doing very well indeed. I know, I know, you don't want waffle, you want photos, so here they are!

Saturday 5 May 2012

Save money, be green and win a prize with EcoForce

How green are you in the home? Do you realise that by taking a few steps to  help save the environment you can also save money? EcoForce are trying to encourage us to think more about the planet and our own purse strings, and have provided us with  some helpful tips in the article below. And to help us make a start, they have offered us a chance to win a year's supply of eco-friendly cleaning products. To enter, pop over to where you have three chances to enter, once each with Twitter (look at my Twitter tips if you are not sure how to do this), Facebook and an online entry form.  The competition closes on June 30th.

Now here are some money saving and earth-saving tips!

Everyday laundry and cleaning tasks are some of the worst offenders when it comes to ‘greening’ your home.   We all know what the main culprits are, but there are plenty of little things you can do to make a difference and save money too......

Tumble Driers v Recycled Pegs
The Number 1, energy-guzzling baddie in the home - tumble driers, particularly older, inefficient machines, can cost as much to run per year as an appliance costs to buy!  Any item that generates heat uses more electricity to operate, a definite no-no!   Instead hang your laundry outside to dry in the sun or, if not convenient, use shower rods in the bathroom.  On cooler days your clothes may take longer to dry but you’ll save money on your energy bill and help the environment too.

To be really green, use clothes pegs made from recycled materials.  There’s no point buying products made from precious resources such as wood, when recycled versions do the job just as well, if not better, and cost the same.  Recycled plastic uses 70% less energy than that needed for virgin plastic, helping to reduce landfill, conserve precious fossil fuels and reduce emissions.  Nowadays you can get pegs, peg baskets and clothes lines all of which are made from recycled plastic.   Pegs contain no metal parts to rust and stain your clothes or fly off and hit you in the face!   Plastic takes over 400 years to breakdown in landfill but can be recycled many times over thus reducing the need to use precious oil to create new plastic.

Washing Machines
Always fill your washing machine before starting the cycle and wash at 30°C rather than 40°C to cut electricity usage and save money on your energy bills.

Ditch the Dishwasher
We all need to reduce water consumption and dishwashers have an unhealthy appetite for this most basic natural resource.  Using the dishwasher less, or not at all, will save money on your energy bill and help preserve water.  Instead, invest in a good quality washing up device made from recycled components that will last for years and is much cheaper than a dishwasher! (Dishmatic do a good one).

Green Cleaning with Meaning!
While it’s easy to rip up old shirts and sheets for use as dusters, some tasks require a tougher, more abrasive approach, such as tackling baked on debris, burnt saucepans, and heavily soiled barbecues.  If you do need to purchase task-specific cleaning products such as sponges or scourers ensure you buy recycled varieties.  Recycling is crucial because it reduces the demand for raw materials and keeps waste out of landfill.   As a nation we are creating more waste because we are consuming more.    We are more affluent and are lifestyles are changing to reflect a more ‘ready-made’ society.     

Thursday 3 May 2012

Win an iPad3 with Libon

I'm back! Thank you for all your kind comments and emails about my Mum. She is back in hospital at the moment, so I've come home to catch up with things here and to welcome my gorgeous new granddaughter to the world! While I was away, several people asked me to share their competitions with you and here is the first of them.

Libon Voicefeed is an iPhone or Android phone App which lets you customise your voice mail. They have just released Libon Voicefeed 1.9, which has been updated with even more exciting new features. It’s everything you want and need from your voicemail: custom greetings, one simplified screen for all of your conversations with one contact, voicetags to tailor your messages and text-to-speech transcription.

To celebrate the launch, they are giving away free premium accounts and an iPad 3. To enter, all you need to do is head over to their Facebook app and click the "Like" button by your chosen answer.

The competition is open worldwide, and closes on May 24th.