Tuesday 30 October 2012

How to Win Competitons Part 4 - Speed Up Your Comping

By now you have probably realised that there are more competitions out there than you could ever enter, even if you stuck at it for 24 hours a day. And most of us have a limited amount of free time - so how can you use your time most efficiently?

I've already told you that the harder a competition is to enter, the easier it is to win, so if you want to have time to devote to those harder-to-enter ones, you really need to make sure that all the routine parts of your comping are as streamlined and turbo charged as possible.

One way you can do this is to get organised. If you like to use comping websites or forums, choose just one and stick to it, then you don't waste time checking between them to see if you have already entered a particular competition.

Or if you prefer to go it alone, or pick and choose between them, you can speed things up a lot by using your favourites or bookmarks. Make folders called "daily", "weekly" and "monthly" for those sites that have regular competitions, then work through the sites in that folder regularly. I always go through my "daily" folder with my morning cup of tea, it wakes me up and puts me in an optimistic mood for the day ahead.

You can also use bookmarks to track one-off comps, making it easy to check when you have  already entered them. When you enter a competition, bookmark the page into a folder labelled with the month it closes. Then if you see one you can't remember entering, check the folder to see if it is already in there. If you are a Grape Vine reader and ever email me for help with links, this is the system I use to b e able to find them quickly.

The other time saver is to use an automatic form filler. Most browsers have an autocomplete option - you will find it in the tools or Internet Options area. Even the iPad has one, although since the last update of iOS mine seems to just sit there and do nothing - if anyone has any tips on how to get it to play along again I would be most grateful.

But better still is to have one that will remember all your personal info, your passwords for certain sites and even regular answers that you use. And that is where Roboform comes into its own. You can download it from the Roboform website - the trial version is free and if all you want to do is save your personal details, that is all you need. But if you want to save different things for different sites, and be able to access that info on all your devices, then you will need to upgrade to the paid-for version. It only costs a few US dollars and can save you many hours. Being able to fill in a whole form with one click saves a lot of time - it also prevents typos creeping in. If you sleepily mistype a single character in your email address, a promoter's email announcing you as a winner will bounce, and they will have to choose somebody else!

I'm often asked if a form completed with autocomplete or Roboform will get you disqualified under the common rule "No automated entries". No, it won't. That rule is there to prevent promoters being spammed with mass entries from services that enter competitions on behalf of paying customers. The way they do those entries is to set up a programme that submits the information over and over again, and  a promoter can tell from the information they receive that this has been done. An individual using a form filling tool for a single entry is perfectly safe and their entry perfectly valid. I've been using Roboform for around 13 years, and the number of lovely prizes I have won testifies to that!

This is the final (planned) part of How to Win Competitions, but if you have any questions or anything else you would like me to write about, leave a comment below, or tweet me (@janesgrapevine) or email janesgrapevine@yahoo.co.uk and I will do my best to answer, possibly in a "sequel" to the series!

Monday 29 October 2012

Chance Your Luck with Jura Whisky to Win a Million Pennies

Jura Whisky is launching its biggest ever online competition, providing its legion of honorary Diurachs across the UK with chance to win £10,000.


 Jura Whisky’s Win a Million Pennies competition is inspired by the ancient superstition…See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck. The good luck in this instance is a chance to win a million pennies which amounts to a whopping £10,000! Entrants must visit the Jura Whisky website (www.jurawhisky.com) and answer a simple question. Thirteen entrants will also be blessed with some Jura good fortune by winning a bottle of island’s award-winning Superstition whisky. Closing date 23rd December.

Saturday 27 October 2012

An Oriental Banquet

Do you remember the instant win promotion  on Blue Dragon Oriental Foods a few months ago? I was amazed when, early on in the promotion, I popped in the code from my pack and instead of the expected "Sorry, you haven't won....." message the screen burst into the word "CONGRATULATIONS!" - I really never expect to win anything in instant win promotions.

The prize was a choice of an Oriental Cookery Masterclass with chef Jeremy Pang or to have Jeremy Pang come to your home and cook an Oriental Banquet for 8.

Now I'm pretty good at Oriental Cooking,  in  fact I've taught evening classes and given demonstrations, so I didn't need a Masterclass, so we chose the Banquet. As all the family love Asian food of all kinds, we decided to make it a family occasion, which meant waiting until late October as it was the first time we could all get together at the same time.

The menu was:

Chicken Satay
Summer Vegetable Rolls
Spare Ribs
Beef with Black Bean Sauce
Sweet and Sour Pork
Singapore Noodles
Vegetable fried Rice

Jeremy arrived about an hour and a half before we ate, his car packed with crates and boxes. Everything was pre-prepped, ready for him to assemble and cook it before serving it to us. His advance planning meant that I didn't have to clear masses of kitchen space for him, which was a relief! He served each dish to us as it was ready, in classic Chinese style.

Every dish was delicious and there wasn't a scrap left. The next time we all sit down to eat together will be a very different meal - Christmas dinner!

We found out that Jeremy's father came from Fan Ling in Hong Kong, the same village we lived in almost 35 years ago, so we knew and remembered many of the same places. How about that for a coincidence?

Friday 26 October 2012

Ranty Friday - Hidden Rules

I often remind you to read the terms and conditions of a competition before entering, otherwise you may accidentally disqualify yourself or find yourself being told you are a winner, then having the prize withdrawn because you haven't been able to produce  the right qualifier.

I do my very best to check the terms and conditions for every competition I list in Grape Vine. This has led to some puzzled looks from passers by as I lie on the floor in supermarkets, trying to read small print around the base of a display stand. Only this week, I removed all the bottles of soft drink from a display to access the tiny print that was hidden behind them. (In ny defence, m'lud, I did put them back afterwards).

Very often a disply in a shop will say something like "WIN! Win free biscuits for life - just text CRUNCH to 12345" and in tiny print there will be a website to visit for the terms and conditions. How many people really DO read that small print, let alone visit the website? And yet 9 times out of 10, if you check the full rules, it will say that a winner must produce a till receipt for something - in this case perhaps for a packet of biscuits. I have heard of people having prizes withdrawn because they couldn't produce a receipt they never even realised they needed, simply because the promoter had covered themselves with a carefully hidden rule rather than making it clear to people before they entered.

Now a good fulfilment agency working with a good promoter will always make sure that a withdrawn prize is given to somebody who HAS complied with the rules. That is why nowadays so many compers are finding themselves with wins from competitions they had given up on. The prize was originally offered to somebody else and when that person couldn't produce a qualifier, there was a second draw. But it would be much fairer if an important rule like that was clearly laid out in the promotional material, and not hidden away in an obscure place. SAY NO TO HIDDEN RULES!

So here's my Friday Rant - it feels great to get it off my chest and I am linking up with Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow's blog. Have you got something you'd like to get on your soap box about? Why not join in too?

Thursday 25 October 2012

Two comps for you from Screen Street

Screen Street is a screen printing business which offers a hand-drawn silk screen printing service. To introduce you to their services they are running two competitions.

The first is open to any UK adult with a Twitter account. The prize is £50 worth of Amazon vouchers and it closes on November 10th, and couldn't be easier to enter. All you need to do is to hit the Retweet button on this tweet 

You can enter once a day, but as you can only use a Retweet button once, here's the message you will need to copy and paste for entries after your first:

RT @screenstreet Follow & RT for the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher! ScreenStreet.co.uk Ends 10th Nov. Terms http://on.fb.me/WJtzFU

Full terms and conditions can be read here


Their second competition is aimed at businesses and offers a prize of screen printing on 100 T-shirts (Note - the shirts themselves  are not provided, you supply the shirts and design and they provide all the printing, inks and labour. But bulk t-shirts are surprisingly cheap ..... I was only looking into prices for them a few days ago and was very pleasantly surprised)

The competition can be entered at http://screenstreet.co.uk/business/ abd closes on 30 November.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Win T Shirts on Twitter

Here's a very quick competition that closes at midnight tonight (October 24th)  - Clothes 2 Order  are giving you the chance to win 5 t-shirts, printed with your very own choice of message.

All you need to do is follow them on Twitter  and then send them a tweet giving the phrase you would like on your prize shirts, including the hashtag #tweeshirt


Monday 22 October 2012

Find great gifts and win with Ask Her Friends

AskHerFriends is a new site that helps guys get better gifts for the women in their lives. They do this by scouring the internet to find the coolest and most unusual gift ideas, so guys don’t have to. They also help guys be confident in their choice, by giving a way to get feedback from the people who know best – her friends!

To help you to get to know them, they are running a competition and have teamed up with wish.co.uk to give away a voucher worth £50 to spend on any one of wish’s experience days, from relaxing at a spa day to battling zombies on zombie boot camp! It is simple to enter, through Rafflecopter here [http://www.askherfriends.com/blog.php?s=the-great-halloween-giveaway], and the competition closes at 5am on 1 November 2012 (good old Rafflecopter timings!).

They also have a competition being run on Superlucky where Di is giving away a voucher worth £50 to spend at any of their partner stores. And all you have to do to enter is let them know what the worst ever gift you got was – hopefully the voucher will manage to take away a bit of the pain from having to remember such a terrible gift… Go to Super Lucky [http://www.superlucky.co.uk/2012/10/win-50-to-spend-on-gifts-from.html] and enter through Rafflecopter, very easy to do! The competition closers on 10 November.

Looking around the site. it's made me wonder what my friends would tell my husband to buy me if he asked them. I think they would tell him I wanted
  • perfume
  • bracelets
  • postage stamps
  • a huge pile of card and paper for my crafting
  • a spa break
  • even more recipe books
... and of course, different friends would tell him different things so he really ought to get me the whole lot. I've just had a browse around  the site and spotted the perfect gift for me - Mark, if you are reading this, there is a Tatty Devine bracelet ..... a GRAPE VINE one. Could anything be more perfect for me?

What would YOUR  friends advise somebody to buy for you?

Sunday 21 October 2012

Win £20 of Wilkinsons Vouchers with Chocolate Log Blog

Chocolate Log Blog have £20 worth of Wilkinsons vouchers to be won in their latest competition. To enter, pop over there and fill in the simple Rafflecopter form  - if you are new to entering  with Rafflecopter, there is some advice about it here

You can spend your prize on bakeware, maybe to make some of the delicious muffins in the post, or on anything else in the store. My local Wilkinsons has recently started stocking craft supplies, so you can imagine what I'd spend the vouchers on if I won.

Although, do I really *need* any more craft stuff? Over on my other blog, Onions and Paper, I have publicly admitted that I have Too Much Stuff. So maybe I ought to stop daydreaming about getting hold of more!

Thursday 18 October 2012

Do you want to win a year's supply?

Have you ever won a year's supply of something? Or seen a year's supply offered as a prize and wondered how much it would be? Well, in theory a competition offering a year's supply of anything ought to tell us in the rules what we can expect if we win, but very often we are left guessing.

In America, claims of a year's supply have to pass a "reasonableness test" - it must be reasonable to assume a typical consumer might use that amount in a year. You can read about some of the quantities they consider reasonable here

Here are some of the year's supply prizes I have won over the years: would the same quantities have lasted YOU a year? Or  maybe longer or not so long?

A year's supply of tea. This came as 18 vouchers, each for an 80 bag pack, and lasted us a year to within the week.

A year's supply of wine. This was 144 bottles, all delivered at once, and was a huge surprise as I didn't know I had won.   With four adults in the house at the time, it didn't last the whole year but went a long way towards it. I recently saw a competition that defined a year's supply of wine as 6 bottles. Not in this house.......

A year's supply of gravy granules. 52 large jars! I think I used three of them - friends, family and neighbours were all kept supplied for the whole year.

A year's supply of chocolate bars. Two packs of 48 bars each. These  arrived while both daughters were students and home for the weekend with their boyfriends. I'm not sure the supply even lasted the whole weekend!

A year's supply of squeezy jam. Two packs of 24 sachets each. It was apricot flavour and had the strangest, most unappetising texture I have ever seen. I used one sachet to stick the marzipan to the Christmas cake, the rest was lugged off to university with the girls and never seen again.

A year's supply of shower gel. 12 bottles - nowhere near enough!

A year's supply of muesli bars. 432 bars. There was a disaster appeal asking for donations of  non-perishable food at the time so I donated them and "made do"  with the remainder of the prize ...... a trip round the world!

A year's supply of condoms. 72 condoms. I am not going to tell you whether these were enough or too many!

If you fancy trying to win a year's supply of something, I've tracked down a few current competitions for you

A year's supply of.....

Dry Shampoo closing 30 Oct
Fabric conditioner  an ongoing monthly competition
Fruit juice a quarterly competition - the next closing date is 17 Jan
Nappies an ongoing monthly competition
Ice Cream closing 24 Oct
Soup closing 23 Oct
Butter closing 28 Oct
Tequila closing 22 Oct

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Win an Italian cookery course!

Strada have a lovely new  competition.

To celebrate the launch of their new menu they have teamed up with the Parma Ham Consortium to give their fans the chance to win a cookery course for 2 with Enrica Rocca at the Borough Market in London, plus 100 Parma Ham recipe booklets!

 To enter participants simply need to upload their favourite recipe using Parma Ham on their book's page app www.facebook.com/#!/strada.co.uk/app_414191451977983

The most creative, individual and popular entry received by the 1st November will be the winner of the first prize!
I'm going to have a go at this one - but I'm going to have to hide the Parma Ham because I know my husband will snaffle it as soon as he sees it. Or maybe I'll get in there first and snaffle some of his Cavolo Nero because I have a couple of ideas  forming that would combine the two.....

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Two new competitions for you

Frugaller Forum and Win Prizes are giving away an £80 Amazon gift voucher. To enter, join Frugaller Forum then simply click the "thanks" button on the competition post  or join WinPrizes  and click the "thanks" button on their competition post or both - once you've done that, you will have several chances to get extra entries by commenting, tweeting and sharing. The competition closes on October 31st.
The next competition needs you to have a interest account. if you are new to it, you can read about comping on Pinterest here  - pay extra attention to the "Create a board" section, because that's what you have to do for this competition.
Claim are giving away a Nexus 7 8GB tablet. To enter, you will  need to follow the instructions here  and submit the form once you have created your board. The board theme is to be "Funny pet pictures" and a clever pop up picture on the site shows you exactly how to add them as a pinner to your board. Don't forget to add “Win Nexus 7 Tablet Contest www.thankyou.gb.com/WinNexus/ ”  to the description of every pin on your board. If you are as crazy about pinning animal pictures as I am (check out my "cuteness overload" board!) you are going to get seriously addicted to this one! The closing date is December 12th.

Sunday 14 October 2012

How to Win Competitions part 3 - Don't Miss the Deadline!

“You’ve got to be in it to win it”. How often have you heard that? And when it comes to competitions, that means you have to do your very best to make sure the promoter actually receives your entry – before the competition closes!

 Lots of competitions appear  in stores and supermarkets that have to be  actually handed in there and then – either literally handed over to a member of staff or posted into an instore posting box. But unfortunately sometimes those entries you hand over are tucked away into a drawer and forgotten about, and the posting boxes  are still lingering there days or weeks after the closing date, and sometimes filled up with sticky sweet wrappers and scraps of waste paper.

So if you have a choice between entering in store or by post, it’s often safer to splash out on a stamp. But if there is no postal option, choose the store where you   enter very carefully. Look out for a clean, tidy, lively one without any out of date offers on display. And if handing over to a member of staff, try to identify the most senior person you can, and engage them in conversation about the competition as you hand it in  to help them to remember to deal with it. You might joke “I’ll be back with a bottle of wine for you WHEN I win” (always a nice thing to do anyway) or ask them if they have had many entries so far.

 When it comes to postal entries, don’t forget that next day delivery for first class mail and the day after for second class is simply a target, not a guarantee. In fact first class mail sometimes takes up to a week to arrive. Add to that the fact that some PO Boxes are not checked at weekends, and if a closing date is on a Saturday or even a Monday  only post that has arrived by the preceding Friday might safely go into the hat, and you can see that you need to allow LOTS of time for your entries to get there.

 At least when entering online you’ll never be affected by postal delays, but don’t assume that every competition is open until midnight on the closing date. Very often they close earlier, and if it just closes “at the end of the working day” may not be mentioned in the rules. But do check the rules, as unusual closing times (like the surprisingly common one of 8 am!) are generally mentioned there.

However I would never advise entering online competitions at the last minute – websites can and do get technical problems and these can sometimes result in competitions failing to accept entries or even having to be removed completely, so when you spot a competition on a website, get your entry in quickly while you know it is working.  If a site you visit DOES have a technical problem, use the “contact us” link you will find  somewhere on the site to let them know – they may be wondering why they weren’t getting many entries, or even not planning to check the entries until after the closing date. But if the fault is over a weekend, don’t expect it to be fixed until during the working week. Many places don’t have any tech support over the weekend.

Email entry competitions can be subject to the same problems as online ones, with the extra complication that if they get a higher than expected entry, their mailbox may overfill, especially at weekends, so if your entry is returned with an error message, try again a few days  later.

You can never guarantee that an entry will never be lost, damaged or dealyed but following these tips will mean you have done your very best to get your entry there in time.

Thursday 11 October 2012

A Grape Night In

I was recently lucky enough to win a "Grape Night In" - a wine and food evening for 10 people. The idea was supposed to be that it would be held in my home, but as Laura and Kiki, who run the business, are based in London we decided that instead of dragging them and all the guests out to Hampshire, we would hold the event in the flat of my friend Andrew, who lives not far from Waterloo station - very convenient for everyone - and invite a selection of mutual friends.

Laura and Kiki  have only been running the business for a few months, both already well experienced in the wine trade. Their events are fun and relaxed - not evenings for wine snobs, but lively evenings where some unusual and interesting wines are paired with delicious dishes in a fun and informal atmosphere. Relaxed and informal it may be - but the girls are extremely knowledgable. They just aren't pompous about it!

The Grape Night In Girls

As well as the food and wine, there was a fun quiz that ran throughout the evening. You can imagine how competitive a room full of compers was about that! And at the end of it, there was no clearing up and no washing up. They brought all the glasses and dishes with them and even cleared away the empty bottles and dropped them off for recycling.

The theme of our evening was "London Calling"  and  here is the menu. No, I'm not going to explain where the place names come in to it,  just in case you are ever lucky enough to attend one of their events yourself.

Seilos Pinot Grigio/Riesling (Brazil) - NOTTING HILL
The Paddler Gruner Veltliner 2010 (Marlborough, NZ) - PUTNEY
Charles Melton 'Rose of Virginia' 2011 (Barossa Valley, AUS) - CAMDEN
Gran Cerdo Tempranillo 2010 (Spain) - BANK
Vino Hormigos Malbec Classico 2010 (Mendoza, ARG) - OXFORD STREET
Plantain Chips
Edaname Bean & Peashoot Salad
Anchovies & Peperonata
Chorizo &  Black Pudding Stew (or vegetarian alternative)
Bermondsey Spa cheese
The wines and food were all delicious, and the pairings of the wines and dishes worked extremely well.
As well as private events like this, which make  a great change from a traditional dinner party or formal wine tasting, Laura and Kiki run frequent public events such as dinners and wine tastings - you can see what's coming up on their events page. I see they have some Christmas packages lined up which I'm sure will be brilliant.
I was really delighted to win this prize, and would like to use this post to say a HUGE thank you to Laura and Kiki and to wish them well with the business. I'm sure we will be seeing you again soon!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

How to Win Competitions Part 2- Make Your Entry Count

So you've found a competition and decided to give it a go? Great - good luck! But  before you enter, you need to check that you actually CAN enter.

The very first thing to look at is the closing date. Shops often have leaflets and packs on the shelves long after a competition has closed. In fact just today I was in a shop that had out-of-date leaflets for at least half a dozen competitions on display. And   websites very often leave the entry page showing after a competition has closed. Don't be fooled into thinking that because the form submits for you, you've still  managed to enter - your entry will just land in an abandoned inbox somewhere and be wasted.

Now check where the competition is based.  If you are looking for competitions online, especially on  Facebook, you may bump into competitions run by companies in the USA or the Republic of Ireland. Some clues that a site is based outside the UK are prices quoted in any currency other than £, and times given in any form other than GMT and BST.  For legal reasons,  these, and ones run in other non-UK companies, are often not open to UK residents. Look at the terms and conditions - it may specify the country(-ies) it is open to. And if it doesn't, and you really fancy entering,  check with the promoter. On Facebook, you can just write on their wall, on a website you will need to find the "contact us" page. But remember, if you win something from outside the EU, you may have to pay duty on it when it arrives in the UK!

One more thing to check is any age restrictions. These will always be stated in the rules, if they exist. For instance, in alcohol related competitions you will need to be over 18 to enter, or over 21 if the competition is also open in the USA. Some holidays will be provided by companies that specialise in holidays for certain age groups, like 18-30 or over 55,  and if a holiday prize includes car hire, you will need to be over 21, 25 or even 30 depending on the type of car on offer and the country where the holiday is to be taken.

Once you are sure you are entitled to enter,  make absolutely sure that you read the instructions. Around 1 in 5 of the entries to every competition get discarded for some reason - maybe the person has entered twice when only one entry is allowed, or they have been asked "what is your favourite colour" and they have replied "I would love to win this prize". Remember, if your entry follows the instructions it WILL end up in the hat, so with 1 in 5 of your rivals' entries likely to be discarded, your chance of winning has already gone up by 20%!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Blog your way to a brand new bed!

Warren Evans are giving away a brand new bed to the owner of Britain's Bravest Bedtime Toy. Whether you've shared your bed with the same teddy bear for 30 years, or your child has to have their army of toys tucked in with them at night, tell them about it on your blog with a link back to the competition page. The best story wins a new bed, and runner up gets a Warren Evans Perfect Memory Pillow. Email the URL of  your entry to competition@warrenevans.com. Competition ends 24 October 2012. Full details can be found here: http://www.warrenevans.com/blog/who-fights-the-monster-under-your-bed/?id=10

I hope the monsters under YOUR bed are less scary than the emus who used to live underneath mine. I just KNEW that as soon as I went to sleep, they would slither their long necks up the gap between the bed and the wall and peck me. Even now, if I have to sleep in a bed that is next to a wall, I make sure it is jammed really tightly against the wall to keep those pesky emus away!

Monday 8 October 2012

It's National Grapevine Week - join in and win!

This morning I was watching announcements about it being National weeks for this and that (and probably The Other, but I don't follow that kind of Twitter feed). There are such a lot this week! it is

National Baking Week (compers! There are some lovely competitions on the site!)
National Chocolate Week
National Curry Week
National Pyjama Week
National Cocktail Week
National Hospice Care Week

and, if a week isn't long enough

National Pizza Month (OK, that's in the USA, but they celebrate Guy Fawkes Night so I reckon we're entitled to a slice of the pizza  action.)

So I started to feel a bit left out. I want a National Week! Therefore I have declared this
And to celebrate, I'm giving you a chance to win a 3 month subscription to The Competition Grape Vine, the postal magazine for compers.  To enter, you need to be following me on Twitter and complete the steps in the Rafflecopter form below. Don't forget to paste in the URL of your tweet as your entry won't count without it!
The competition closes on October 14th (well, it will be at silly o'clock in the morning on the 15th as Rafflecopter works to an American time zone) and is open to UK residents aged 18 and over only.  The winner will be drawn using Rafflecopter's randomiser and contacted on October 15th. I'll be contacting the winner by DM, so don't say you've followed me if you haven't because I won't be able to DM you!

As usual, if the winner already subscribes, their subs will be extended.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday 7 October 2012

Vigilantes v. Cheats

This morning I got a text telling me I had £2,013 of  PPI to reclaim. The person who sent it was trying to cheat me in some way (No, I'm not going to reply to it to find out how). When I logged into my email account, I found half a dozen emails telling me I had won millions of dollars in foreign lotteries, or asking me to help transfer funds out of Nigeria. Yet again, somebody was trying to cheat me.

The world is full of cheats, and because of the attraction of getting something for nothing, comping attracts cheats like flies to a jam pot. There are people who set up multiple accounts in order to enter competitions dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times. This week a promoter told me of someone in the Ukraine who has thousands of fake IDs and has their computer programmed to constantly enter every competition they can find in each of the IDs.

Armed with such alarming statistics, it is very tempting to point and shout "CHEAT!" when we suspect that somebody isn't playing by the rules. But wait a minute..... this is Britain, and at the very heart of British law is the idea that a person is innocent until they are proved to be guilty. And this is a principle that we should all bear in mind before being the first to lay blame on somebody. Who are we to know what the facts are if a person appears ot have several Facebook accounts or is winning more than we think they statistically should? You might suspect them of cheating - but that is very, very different from having concrete proof.

Publicly "naming and shaming" and outing of suspected cheats can have a devastating effect on the life of somebody who is wrongly accused - just read the moving accounts of some of the victims quoted on Kelly Martin's blog .

So what CAN you do if you think somebody is cheating? Well, first of all, think about whether it affects you. If that person has gained an unfair advantage over you, and you think it genuinely IS unfair, then rather than confronting them, contact the promoter with your suspicions. And do present them as suspicions, not as facts. The promoter will have far more access to evidence that will prove or disprove your suspicion, for instance even a small blog running a competition through Rafflecopter will be able to check the IP address of all entrants. A bigger business with their own website will be able to check far more, even the version of browser software used by the entrant, so will soon be able to identify any genuine cheating. If a promoter can prove that there has been any element of cheating, it's up to them to decide what to do. Most of them will quietly disqualify the cheat, without making any kind of song and dance about it, sparing the feelings  of all concerned. Compers, whether honest ones or cheats, are human beings with real feelings. (Well apart from the occasional comping bot on Twitter - but more about those some other time)

And if you personally aren't affected? Maybe somebody else has told you about a cheat they have heard of, or you have seen somebody "named and shamed" on Facebook? Well, don't join a gang of vigilantes, looking to stir up trouble. Just shrug your shoulders, ask yourself "Am I having fun yet?" and move on to a  different competition.

By all means unfriend somebody if you don't feel happy about the way they enter competitions on Facebook, or unfollow or block them  on Twitter, but just do it quietly with no fuss and then forget all about them. Comping is a hobby, and something we do for pleasure. If somebody's behaviour is making it less of a pleasure for you, simply shut them out of your life!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Win a £100 Zulily voucher and a car seat using Instagram

One of the newest ways to enter competitions is Instagram. If you've ever felt you'd like to enter your photos into competitions but were put off by the thought that other entrants might be professional photographers with expensive equipment, Instagram is the answer, because every entrant is armed just with their phone and their imagination.

Zulily is a great site where you can snap up some real bargains in stylish childrenswear, and they are running an Instagram competition during October, with a prize of £100 to spend on the site and a super car seat suitable for ages 9 months to 12 years.

Before you enter, you will need to make sure you have Instagram on your phone or tablet - you can download it from the App store or Google Play. Then dress your child up in their warmest winter clothes, take them out to enjoy the autumn days and get snapping!

Full entry details are here http://zulilyuk.tumblr.com/post/32661119321/zulily-cuties-out-n-about-instagram-competition but this is what you need to do- make sure you complete all the steps and include ALL the hashtags to make sure they see your entry:

  1. Upload an Instagram snap of your little one showing your cutie Out n’About in October.
  2. Make sure your profile is public, so that they can see your photo.
  3. You need to follow zulilyUK on Instagram (@zulilyUK) and tag your picture with three things:
  • #zulilyUKOctoberCutiesCompetition
  • @zulilyUK
  • and either: #zulilynewbie (if you’re new to zulily) or #zulilian (if you’ve already joined zulily). 
The competition closes on October 31st - and don't forget to check the comments you receive on Instagram, because that is how they will be notifying the winner.

Monday 1 October 2012

How to win competitions - part 1. Finding competitions

When I write on this blog, I often assume the people reading are already compers. But recently there have been several newspaper articles and at least two radio interviews (I know there have been at least two, because two of them featured me!) about the hobby, so you may be reading the blog for the very first time after hearing about successful winners. From now on, I will include regular articles for absolute beginners too, Do feel free to ask questions, either as a blog post comment or by email to my Grape Vine address.

So, how do you go about joining those successful winners. "I never win anything" - I hear that time and time again from non-compers - but how often do you actually enter anything? The most important rule of comping is


Another thing I hear over and over again is "How do you find so many competitions to enter?" Well, I only enter a tiny fraction of the competitions there are out there. There are tens of thousands of competitions on the go at any one time - here are some of the places you will find then
  • on product packs
  • on leaflets, posters and display stands in supermarkets, car sales rooms, small shops, banks, garden centres, DIY shops, craft superstores, pet stores, fashion stores, pubs, restaurants, works canteens - almost any retail, catering or banking outlet
  • on book jackets
  • in local and  national newspapers
  • in magazines, whether big glossy ones or small circulation specialist ones
  • on websites
  • on Facebook
  • on Twitter
  • on Pinterest
  • on your TV screen
  • on apps such as Instagram, Foursquare and Blippar
Once you start to look out for them, you will soon realise they are everywhere - you just need to tune your eyes into spotting the word "WIN" (and I don't mean when it appears in tWIN pack or WINdow cleaner)

But what if you don't have time to search the High Street and the Internet for competitions? Well, luckily there are lots of services that will do it for you, telling you which products, shops and websites are currently running competitions and, if you need to buy something, telling you exactly what you need so that you don't waste money on buying the wrong thing.

For the competitions you might look for away from the Internet, why not try my very own comping magazine, The Competition Grape Vine ? It is a handy pocket sized magazine packed with news, views, tips and clues - I spend many hours each month searching for competitions so that you will know exactly where to find them, and I go to a lot of trouble to find unusual and hard-to-find ones that will potentially have fewer entries and give you a better chance. The website will tell you how to apply for a free sample copy.

If you prefer a more traditional style of magazine with features and  photos, you might prefer Compers News. Although I have no connection with the production of this magazine, I write a monthly column giving advice and help, along with my great friend and fellow comper Pam Crampton.

Both the above magazines have a subscription charge, as they don't carry lots of advertising and need to pay for the costs of research and production time, postage and printing, as well as being a full time job for the people who produce them. (I'd love to be able to offer my services for free, but until I hit the lottery jackpot that won't be possible!) However if you follow the advice in them, you should recoup your subscription many times over. In fact you may save more than the price of the magazine in petrol and parking charges, as it saves you from visiting so many different shops!

However if you are really short of cash, or want to stick to online comping, you can get lots of information for free. Online comping sites and forums are free for various reasons. Some have their costs covered by income from the adverts they show and affiliate links that take you to some of the competitions you enter, others are hosted on free sites such as forums and all the listings are added by the users, people like you who have found a competition and are happy to share it. Here are some you might like to try. My advice is to try several, then find the one you like best and  stick to it. Trying to work through them all and  remember what you have entered to avoid duplication would be very confusing - as well  as taking far more hours  than there are in a day!

The Prize Finder
UK Competitions
UK Wins
Competitions List
Competition Hunter  
Moneysaving Expert
Hot UK Deals
Frugaller Forum

There are many more out there - dozens of them, but there are plenty here for you to find one you are comfortable with and enjoy using.

Have fun and good luck! Oh, and do come along and say hello to me on Facebook  and Twitter 
 where I share (and enter!) lots of competitions