Monday 31 December 2012

2012 - how was it for you?

Many of you will know that 2012 has been rather an up and down year for me. My mother has been in and out of hospital, which has meant being away from home looking after her several times, and with no computer or internet in her house (and of course no access to my Grape Vine PO Box) much of the time in between has been devoted to working on GV rather than to my own comping.

So it has come as rather a surprise to look back over the year and see just how much I have won.

Right at the beginning of the year, I won a really wonderful prize of a pop-up restaurant  in my own home, thanks to Peroni. That was a really amazing experience, one of the best prizes I have ever won.
In February, I won a three-month supply of weekly veg boxes from Abel and Cole -  a prize we enjoyed so much that we now have a veg box and a fruit box delivered every week. If the point of the promotion was to gain new customers, theirs was a tremendous success!
In April, despite  spending most of the week away from home, I had a real winning streak with an Oriental Banquet  from Blue Drsagon, which we took in October,  a Danube cruise from Waterstone's, which we are taking this coming summer, a pair of business class flights to Vienna which we used for a birthday trip for me back in August and a spa break at Lifehouse Spa - much needed after the stress of Mum's illness!

For a while things quietened down after that, although I won lots of  smaller prizes such as books, toiletries and wine glasses. Somewhere over the course of the year, I have managed to win THREE hampers, a HD camcorder and lots of gift vouchers too. But the real highlight of my comping year was when, thanks to Cadbury's, I won tickets to the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games. I took Claire, who blogs at Ninja Killer Cat  and we had a wonderful time - fantastic seats, a superb spectacle and a great time together (even if we DID try to get into the wrong hotel in the early hours of the morning..... but that's another story).

In October I won a "Grape Night In"  - a food and wine matching evening for ten people. We held the event in the flat of a London based friend, and the Grape Night In girls   came along and produced a delicious meal with wines to match every course.

November brought joy then disappointment. A winning email for a superb trip to Barcelona turned out to be a mistake - 9,000 other people had received the same email,  and in the end all we got was £10 worth of Boots Advantage Card points instead.

December ....... well.  what can I say? I've had an absolute deluge of prizes. None of them massive, but each and every one welcome, and as I've spent most of the month battling a  chest infection  they have really cheered me up and brightened up Christmas. With a few hours of the year left, so it may not be complete yet, here is my list of wins for the month:

a tripod from the My memory advent comp
a box of metallic pencils from Derwent Pencils monthly comp
a hand made vase worth £28 from a Facebook comp

2 x £50 See Tickets voucher and 4 x £5 gift voucher from the Republic crackers  game on Facebook
a silver and pearl necklace, a Christmas mug and a £5 voucher from M&S pass the parcel on Facebook
a year's supply of pens (120 pens) from Citrus Office on Twitter
a Lumie Bodyclock from Lumie's Facebook page
a £250 Co-op travel voucher from their Facebook page
a 32Gb Wi-fi drive for the iPad from Kingston Technology on Twitter
a satnav from TomTom on Twitter
a Christmas decoration from one of the crafters on Twitter
a bucket of lollies from a PR company on Twitter
an Indian tiffin tin from The Curry Guy's blog
an apron from Fish is the Dish on Twitter
a pack of biscuits from Fudge's bakery on Twitter
a concealer pen from Aldi on Twitter
an advent calendar from Party Pieces on Twitter
a box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates from Appleton's Rum on Facebook
a Mickey Mouse jigsaw from a blog
a Hotel Chocolat goody bag from a blog
3 different books all of which have turned up out of the blue with nothing
to say where they are from

£10 Amazon voucher from  Lantmennan Unibake  on Twitter
bottle of whisky (Facebook)
Vine adoption (Amber wines, Twitter)
James Bond books and postcards (Curzon cinemas via Pinterest and Twitter)
lanyard, bag,  2 x t-shirt, flag and badge (Brothers cider)
Variety pack (Kelloggs)
bar of chocolate x 4 (Tesco/Twitter)
£12 gift token x 3 (quiz)
Waffle maker (Huffington post)
Set of 3 Nail Rocks sets from 44 Fashion Street  on Facebook
can speaker from Pringles facebook page
Two craft books from the National Trust advent calendar
travel shaving kit from the Wilkinsons advent calendar
Method cleaning kit from Method facebook page
bottle of Copella (Copella Facebook comp)
Calendar (Happy Egg company)
Disney Blu-Ray and  2 x game download from Wreck it Ralph on Facebook
Japanese Recipe book signed by the author, from the author’s own Twitter comp
Samsung Galaxy – Phones 4 U cracker game on FB
£25 iTunes  voucher – What I Got For Christmas

(apologies if the font appears to have changed in the middle of the list - Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, insists that it hasn't done!)


Sunday 30 December 2012

Do you tick all the boxes?

Something I'm often asked about is whether it is "safe" to opt out of further information when entering a competition. Although the law says that entrants who opt out, if given the option, should be treated equally with those who opt in, there is always a sneaky feeling in the back of your mind that maybe your entry will be ignored if you opt out. After all, one of the reasons a promoter may run a competition is to help them to build up a database of potential customers.

However any reputable promoter knows that, if challenged by an authority such as Trading Standards, the ASA or the IPM, they will need to be able to prove that the draw or judging was completely fair, so if you choose to opt out of further information it should have absolutely NO EFFECT on your chances of winning.

But before you go ahead and opt out, lets have a look at some of the pros and cons of doing so.

The obvious benefit of opting out is that it can reduce the amount of unwanted emails you get.  Advertising emails that you have opted in to are technically not spam, but when you log in and find a hundred of them lying in wait for you it can feel as if they are! The real spammers, though, get hold of your details by far less legitimate means, ones that you can't opt out of!

However there is also an advantage to receiving these advertising emails, a comper-specific one quite apart from the fact that you will be kept informed of sales and offers. Have you ever stopped to look closely at them and see how many of them include competitions, sometimes only open to members of the mailing list? If you tend to delete them all unread, try setting aside some time to open a batch of them and scroll right through. You may find some surprises, often lurking in the last few lines of the email. In fact you may find that you are included in a monthly draw simply by virtue of staying subscribed to the email list.

Once you have decided whether to opt in or out, read the entry form carefully. The boxes to tick or untick can be very misleading. It's quite common to see two boxes, one to opt in to further communications from the promoter and the other to opt in to them from "carefully selected third parties" (I always take that to mean the third parties are selected according to how much they are prepared to pay for the mailing list!). But BEWARE - sometimes you have to tick the box in order to opt OUT rather than in, and sometimes you even have to opt IN to one kind of communication and OUT of another.

Some promoters make opting in a condition of entering - this has been challenged and been found to be acceptable as long as you have the option of opting out after the competition has closed. In fact any mailing list should include opting out instructions somewhere in every email they send you.

And just a few promoters seem to try to confuse you by giving complicated instructions including double negatives and long winded terms - if I see something like this, my suspicions are raised and I don't enter the competition. I feel the promoter is just looking for an excuse to bombard me with emails from themselves and every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to buy their mailing list.

But on the whole, I opt IN to further emails from the promoter and OUT of further emails from other businesses. And by doing that, I've won lots, found lots of new competitions to enter (and sometimes win) and even, simply by being on a mailing list, won a VIP trip to Wimbledon!

Saturday 29 December 2012

Following a blog with Google Friends Connect

Several people have asked me questions about using Google Friends Connect in connection with comping. I'll try to answer the ones I've been asked here - please comment (with our without using Google Friends Connect!) with anything you would like to know that I haven't covered.

Note that anything I am saying here about following blogs and viewing them in Google reader ONLY applies to blogs hosted by the Blogger platform. Blogs using other platforms such as Wordpress are not able to offer the service.

How do I join?

When you enter a competition on a blog, very often one of the tasks, or even a condition of entering, is that you follow the blog using Google Friends Connect, or add the blog to Google Reader. To do this, you will need to be registered with Google. You probably already are, if you have ever wanted to refine a search, contribute to a newsgroup or use a Gmail email address, but if you aren't, simply go to any Google page such as  and register.

The blog will probably have a "Join this site" button in the left or right margin, with some photos of existing members below it, just like the one  in the right hand margin of this blog. To subscribe using GFC, simply click on the button,  log in to your Google account if necessary, choose whether to follow publicly or privately and then click "done".  The difference between following publicly and privately is that your photo may show in the "Join this site" area if you follow publicly but not if you follow privately. If you follow some blogs publicly and some privately, anyone who looks at your profile through following the link on a blog you follow publicly will only see those you follow publicly, not privately.

If the blog owner doesn't have a button showing,  their post asking you to join may include a link to a sign up page, which works in just the same way.

Why should I join?

Well, first of all, because you want to enter the competition! But there are lots of other reasons for following a blog:
  • When you comment on a post, your Google name shows next to it, so you don't need to give your name and email address or post anonymously. If you are entering a Rafflecopter competition, it makes it easier for the blog owner to check that you have actually commented when you say that you have.
  • If you win a competition and the blog owner hasn't used Rafflecopter, which collects your email address as part of the entry procedure, they will need a way to contact you. It isn't a good idea to EVER leave your email address in the text of a public comment on a blog, as there are "robots" out there combing millions of sites and blogs every day looking for email addresses to send their nasty spam to. But if you have commented using your Google profile, the blogger can contact you through that ans long as you have included your email address in your profile.
  • Once you have followed a blog, you can keep up with everything that happens on it without actually having to visit the blog! Every time a new post is made, it will appear in your Google Reader. You can visit it at and see every new post that has appeared since your last visit by selecting "All items" from the left hand menu. I love to sit down with a cup of tea in the morning and read through the latest posts on all the blogs I follow (about 300 of them!). The titles of the posts are listed, so it is easy to skip over one that looks as if it won't interest me and open and read the others without leaving Google Reader. Then if I see a post I would like to comment on, or one that contains a competition I would like to enter, I can just click on the title and it will take me to the actual blog post where I can interact with the blog owner.
There are lots of other ways to follow blogs, and lots of other ways to use GFC and Google Reader, but this is a basic introduction that should help you to get started. Why not give it a try by joining THIS blog?

Sunday 23 December 2012

Another lovely competition from Chocolate Log Blog

Hello again  everyone. Apologies for the recent blog silence - I've been suffering from a nasty chest infection as well as trying to get ahead of things for Christmas  and to get as much as possible of the January Grape Vine finished so I can take a few days' break.

But today I have dropped in to tell you about the latest lovely competition from Chocolate Log Blog. Don';t make any New Year's Resolutions about giving up chocolate, because if you win this you really won't be able to keep them!

The prize is a hamper of Guylian chocolates containing two chocolate bars, SEVEN boxes of chocolates (is that one for every day of the week?) and a chocolate fondue dip.

To enter, head over to the site and use the Rafflecopter widget to get up to eight entries - plus extra entries for daily tweets. The closing date is January 19th.
A merry Christmas to all of you and, if I don't blog again before then, a very happy and lucky New Year to all of you.

Saturday 15 December 2012

The best time to enter a competition

I've been a comper since the dark ages. The days when the only way of entering a competition was to send it by post. And in those days, you could pretty much rely on the fact that if you posted something first class, it would arrive the next working day, and second class a day later.

In those days, compers were divided into to two schools of thought when it came to posting entries for draws. They either entered right at the last minute, on the assumption that all the entries would go into a sack so those that arrived late would be nearest to the top and have a better chance of winning, or they entered right at the very beginning thinking that the same sack would be tipped out on to the floor to make the draw, so the very first entries would come to the top.

Neither method guaranteed a win, of course, but we all like to do what we can to help our chances!

Times have changed,  but postal competitions still exist. Is it still worth adopting an early or late posting policy? Well, the majority of postal entries are now logged on a computer as they arrive, and chosen using a ramdomiser. Piles of postcards tipped out on to office floors, like hands plunged into sacks, are largely a thing of the past. But competitions with a  lower profile, like those in local newspapers or small circulation specialist hobby magazines, might be drawn by hand so early or late entries to those might just give you an edge.

But remember, post these days is often slower than it used to be, especially if you are sending it to a PO Box. My own PO Box  seldom receives a delivery on a Saturday or a Monday, followed by a deluge on Tuesdays, so even if there is somebody working at the promoter's premises to handle a last minute entry for a competition closing at the weekend, last minute posting could let you down. I try to allow a clear week for postal entries to arrive these days.

However far more competitions are entered electronically that by post these days - online, email. text. phone, and by various new apps that are appearing. Are there any timing tactics you can use with these?

If the competition is a straightforward draw, forget any ideas about the timing of your entry. A randomiser will be used to pick the winner, and the timing of your entry will have no effect on it. BUT if you enter right at the beginning, you might experience teething troubles with the system, so you may be left unsure as to whether your entry has actually gone through. And if you leave it too late, you may find that due to technical issues or a deluge of spam entries from an automated entry service, the competition page has had to be removed and you've missed your chance.

So I recommend entering fairly early in the comp, but if it runs for more than a few days, leave it a day or two for teething problems to be ironed out.

For many people, weekends are the most convenient times to comp, but if a site develops a technical problem there may not be anyone around to fix it, or even to notice the problem exists, so if you do experience a hitch, wait until Monday evening before trying again. Why evening? Because even for UK based sites, the techies might be in America and start work a few hours later in "our" day...... and then they will need time to sort the problem out.

Some competitions give out a prize every hour, at other fixed periods. In this case a dose of insomnia can pay off - the quietest times are usually from around 3.30am to 5.30 am. If you are entering an "instant win" promotion where the prize goes to the first entry after a randomly pre-selected time, you also have a better chance in the silly hours of the morning,  because even if you miss the exact moment, fewer entries can mean that nobody has entered between the critical moment and your entry, whereas at a busy time if you miss the moment by the same amount, dozens of others could have entered before you. But for hourly draws or winning moment promotions, do check the rules carefully! Some promoters are now only picking winning moments between certain hours, like 10am to 10pm. If they are doing that, they will say  so in the instructions, so don't be caught out and waste a code by entering at a time when you have no chance of winning!

Finally a word about a group of competitions that are probably taking up a lot of your time at the moment - all the daily Christmas ones, whether they call themselves Advents, 12 Days of Christmas or whatever. Those of you who chat to me on Twitter and Facebook probably know that I am at my comping best at around 5am. This is NOT the best time of day to enter these daily competitions!
Many of them still show the previous day's one, and it is impossible to tell whether an entry made at that time will count as valid for the previous day, or whether all entries received after midnight will be deleted before conducting the draw.

Some run just during the working day, some open at 10am or noon, some close at 3pm, 10pm or midnight - anyone entering at the extremes of the day could fin

If I had unlimited free time (what a dream!) I would do these competitions in the early afternoon every day, and if you are lucky enough to be free at that sort of time, I suggest that’s when you enter.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Deck the....BEDROOM....with boughs of holly!

Warren Evans are looking for Britain’s most festive bedroom. If you have donned Christmas decorations around your bedroom, all you need to do is tell them about it on your blog for your chance to win a Riverford Christmas Hamper.
Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here: Closing 17th December

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Win a radio controlled Rattle Snake

I am an ophidiophobe. I am absolutely terrified of snakes. So terrified, that I can't even look at a picture of one without feeling ill.

So if you are lucky enough to win this competition from Deviltronics, please don't bring your prize anywhere near me! The prize is a radio controlled Rattle Snake, and it looks realistic enough to give me a very nasty fright. The designers have enlisted the help of the Natural History Museum to make sure it moves realistically....... just the thought of it is making me shudder.

But if you are less of a wuss  than I am,  head on over to their competition page where you can  enter up to four times, using Facebook and/or Twitter. The competition closes on December 14th.  

Win Brabantia's top ten Christmas Gifts

Brabantia have created a list of their  top ten gifts for Christmas and want you to vote for your favourite. One lucky voter will win all ten gifts while ten more will win one product, the one they have voted for. The gifts are

  • Digital Kitchen Scales in Matt Steel
  • Get Together T4ONE Set
  • Salt & Pepper Crusher Set in Matt Steel
  • Wine Cooler in Matt Steel & Black
  • Quickpull Corkscrew
  • Garlic Press in Stainless Steel
  • Dip Server - White, Grey & Lavender with Party Plate Dip Server
  • Egg Cup with Dish in Matt Steel & Grey
  • Kitchen Organizer (S)
  • Lavender Napkins & Napkin Rings in Matt Steel

  • and all you need to do is pop over to their Facebook page  and pick the one you'd most like to find in your stocking. But hurry, your entry needs to be in by noon on December 17th so that if you win you will get your prize in time for Christmas.

    Monday 10 December 2012

    Deck the hearth to win an iPad mini

    Gr8 Fires  have a "Gr8" new competition with an iPad mini to be won. You can read all about it, including the full terms and condiions, here but in a nutshell, all you need to do is to post a photo of your festive fireplace on their Facebook page. Your entry needs to be in by 11.59 pm on Friday December 14th.

    Friday 7 December 2012

    Win an iPad mini with Recipe Mash

    Most of you probably already know that as well as a comper, I'm a keen cook - and maybe you sometimes look at my food and craft blog, Onions and Paper.

    So you won't be surprised to hear that I was very pleased to read about a new site called Recipe Mash that is building up a searchable collection of recipes from all over the world.  And even more pleased to see that to introduce themselves, they are running a competition to win an iPad mini. To enter, just pop over to their competition page and complete the tasks on the Rafflecopter widget. You have until December 31st to enter, but you can get extra entries by tweeting every day so it's worth entering sooner.

    And because they have nothing in their "Indonesian" category yet, here are a couple of my own Indonesian creations for you to drool over!

    Friday rant - Congratulations, you haven't won!

    If you have ever entered a competition,  you have probably held out hope of winning right up until the moment you know it couldn't possibly be you because it was somebody else. So it is good to be notified of who has won, because you can give up hope (or maybe if you are really lucky, celebrate) then move on to the next one.

    So why do so many promoters raise our hopes then dash them again with their emails to entrants? They send them out with subject lines like

    • Congratulations winner!
    • Winner announced!
    • Winner's news!
    • Competition Winner!
    Once you open the email, you probably need to visit the website to see that you are NOT the winner, you are just being told who has won. And at the same time, are being offered, as a special privilege for having lost, a 5% discount on something you could have had a 10% discount on if you'd gone through a voucher codes website.

    The danger is that we will get so used to receiving emails like this that we will delete, unread, all emails suggesting in the title that we have won something.......even when we HAVE. 

    Why can' t promoters be less misleading and use subjects like
    • Competition results
    • Non-winners discount
    • Sorry you didn't win but....
    I'm linking this up to Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow

    Thursday 6 December 2012

    Another chance to win with zulily

    There's another Instagram based competition running at zulily this month.

    At zulily, they love, love, LOVE, Christmas and as it’s time for another Cuties competition.  They'd like to see your little ones get festive! Whether they’re sporting Christmas jumpers, tinseling up the tree, helping (or hindering) you wrap prezzies or covering themselves in Christmas pud, they want to see your Instagram snaps!

    Their favourite photo wins a £100 zulily voucher, a Big Furguson bear from Melissa and Doug and a First Balance Bike from Big Jig toys (for ages 3+). That’s one festive toy package!

    How to enter:

    1. Upload an Instagram snap of your little cutie in December getting into the Festive spirit.
    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:

    • #zulilyUKFestiveCutiesCompetition
    • @zulilyUK
    • and either: #zulilynewbie (if you’re new to zulily) or #zulilian (if you’ve already joined zulily)

    The competition closes on Monday 31st of December. They’ll be shortlisting on Wednesday 2nd January and if you win they’ll contact you via Instagram comments to let you know. The winner will be announced on their blog no later than Friday 4th January. The Ts&Cs are here.
    You can see the November winner's lovely photograph here

    Wednesday 5 December 2012

    The Twitter Unfollow Bug Strikes Again!

    Have you ever  suddenly found that you weren't following somebody on Twitter who you just KNEW you were following? Or maybe discovered, to your dismay, that one of your friends appeared to have unfollowed you?

    Perhaps you have noticed a sudden drop in the number of people you follow, or your own follower count?

    Well, you are not alone  - it appears that the Twitter unfollow bug has reappeared. Raising its head from time to time, this bug means that Twitter occasionally unfollows people from your account at random, without you being aware of it. And just to make it more complicated, sometimes you just appear  to have unfollowed them when you are really still following!

    How can you tell whether you have unfollowed somebody? Well, if you notice they are missing from your timeline at times when they are usually around, that's a possible clue. Or if the person is involved in a competition that uses Rafflecopter, when you get to the "follow on Twitter" task the follow button will have the Twitter bird in blue rather than grey. But the only way to be certain is to go to their own  Twitter profile page and see whether the button on the top right says "Follow" or "Following". If it says "Follow" then the Twitter bug has struck and you will need  to follow them again.

    On the same page, if they are following you it will say "Follows you" next to their user name, so you will be able to see if they have unfollowed you. But often the first news we have that somebody has unfollowed us is when we try to send them a direct message, as it isn't possible to send one to somebody who doesn't follow you.

    So if you find that a friend has unfollowed you, or that you have unfollowed them, or you notice a sudden drop in the number of your followers. don't be alarmed or hurt - it's just the Twitter unfollow bug striking again!

    Accident Advice Helpline bring you two new competitions

    Accident Advice Helpline are giving you two chances to win great prizes, in competitions that close on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

    First of all, head over to their Facebook Page where you need to answer the question in oder to enter the draw to win £2,000. Once you have entered, you can invite friends and each one that accepts will give you a chance to win an iPad.

    Secondly, retweet this tweet about the competition - and be entered into a draw to win a £100 Love to Shop voucher.

    Now, if I get this right (I'm making no promises!) you should  be able to see the tweet below, along with a follow button (if you aren't already following them) and the retweet button..... lets see if it works.....

    Monday 3 December 2012

    Win £100 to spend with Ella Georgia

    The Christmas Shopping frenzy has started in earnest today, but those lovely people at Ask Her Friends are giving you a chance to win £100 to spend with Ella Georgia, who have a gorgous range of jewellery and accessories. If you win this, it could solve some of your Christmas shopping problems - or better still be a great reward to yourself for having shopped so much for everyone else!

    To enter, pop over to their competition page and complete any or all of the tasks in the Rafflecopter widget - the more you do, the more entries you have into the draw. The competition runs until midnight on Thursday 13th December (ooh posh! They've upgraded their Rafflecopter account so that they can choose the finishing time instead of having to close it at silly o'clock in the morning!)

    I've been having a look around the Ella Georgia site and if you know me well, you won't be surprised to learn that my favourite item is a bracelet - this bracelet in fact, Isn't it gorgeous?

    Saturday 1 December 2012

    Win a Hotel Chocolat Christmas Cracker

    Another gorgeous competition from Chocolate Log Blog - they are certainly keeping us busy with competitions at the moment! This time the prize is a cracker full of truffles - and to make it into a proper Christmas cracker, there are hats and jokes too.

    Entry is over at Chocolate Log Blog and the competition closes on 11th December