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.

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