Wednesday 27 February 2013

Two new competitions for you

There are two new competitions at Your Holiday TV  - you'll find the link to them at the top of the page.

The first is to win a professional laptop backpack made by Peli and the second to win one of two sets of family tickets to Legoland, Windsor. For both of them, don't forget to include your answer AND address in the answer box!

You can enter each competition once and your entries need to be in by March 31st

Sunday 24 February 2013

Win some beautiful bakeware

Cakey Boi is giving away a beautiful set of Great British Bakeware - baking tins in a pretty floral design that would really add a touch of magic to your cooking.

Enter over at the Cakey Boi blog - you have until March 18th to enter, and can get extra entries for daily tweets

Win personalised wine for Mother's Day

Mother's day is coming soon - it's on March 10th in the UK - and Spotty Spoon, who specialise in creating personalised wine labels, are giving you the chance to win a personalised bottle of Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz or Brown Brothers Chenin Blanc for Mother's Day with your own worded label on the bottle, packed in a presentation tube and delivered in time for the big day.

All you need to do is to like their page and this post  on Facebook by the closing date of  March 4th

Saturday 23 February 2013

Have a blog? Win a Kindle Fire HD

Wooden Blinds Direct are looking for the worst window views in the world. And one lucky blogger can win a Kindle Fire HD by writing about their own worst view, It may be the view from a window at home now or one you've had to live with in the past.

To enter, write about it on your blog - a picture would be great, but a written description that sums it up would be just as good. Make sure you follow the instructions on their competition page and complete your entry by April 12th.

I have this lovely view so I won't be able to enter!

Why not go to a comping day?

Here is the information about the day. If you would like an application form, please email me with the subject "Penge Comping Day" and i will attach one to my reply.


12TH MAY 2013




10am – 5pm

Doors open 9.30am

Penge competitions day will cost £30 per person and be held at Penge East Community Centre, (Car park of Penge East Station) Station Road Penge London SE20 7BE.  Car parking is free on Sundays and there are lots of good and easy transport ways to get there.  There will be tea and coffee available throughout the day and a buffet lunch will be provided.
The nearest stations are Penge East and Penge West.  Buses are 75, 194, 176, 227  for better details go to
The day will start at 10am but doors will open at 9.30.  
There will be a range of competitions and quizzes and there will also be a charity raffle (all donations gratefully accepted) and a qualifier raffle as well.  Anyone bringing a qualifier will get a special raffle ticket (for that raffle only) for each pound or part thereof, of the cost of the qualifier.
There will also be a stamped postcard draw and an entry form swap.  Don’t forget to bring these with you. 
For anyone who wants to stay over there is a Travelodge in Penge (even if they do call it Travelodge Crystal Palace) with 89 rooms - or there are other hotels in Crystal Palace, Croydon and other places nearby.

On Saturday 11th May there  will be a treasure hunt that will start and finish at the Community Centre (12 to 5) (on foot).  This will be followed in the evening by a quiz.  The quiz will also be held at the Community Centre starting at 7.30.  It will include a fish and chip or chicken and chip supper - costs available once we know how much the fish and chips etc will be.


Friday 22 February 2013

Win a £49 experience voucher

Eclipse Leisure are stag & hen do organisers. They’re running a Twitter competition to give away five vouchers worth £49 towards a Celebrity Style Experience, such as a paparazzi service, boat cruise or spa session.

To enter, it’s just a case of tweeting Eclipse Leisure with the name of the celebrity you’d like to share your stag or hen party with.  Head over to the site where you can find some examples of what they are looking for and then use the Tweet button which will open a ready-prepared tweet for you to complete - the hashtag and URL are already in there so all you need to do is add your answer. Use your chosen celebrity's Twitter name in your answer - their definition of a celebrity is one with more than 500,000 followers (I don't quite qualify...... yet)

The competition ends at 10am on the 21st March 2013 and you can enter once.

More Comping Nostalgia

Last week's  post on my eighth Grape Vine birthday  had a quick look at some of the ways comping has changed over the last eight years and lots of you emailed with your own memories of how it had changed, so I thought a bit more nostalgia would be welcome.

When we're out hunting for competitions, the changes in the way we shop are very noticeable, as are the shops that are most likely to have competitions. Gone - or poised to go - are Kwik Save (altohugh it's starting to reappear as part of the Costcutter group), Ottakars, Somerfield, Safeway, JJB, Virgin Megastores, HMV, Going Places and Fopp, all of whom had competitions listed in the March 2005 issue. Gone too are the film processing envelopes, which used to often have entry forms printed on them. In their place, we often find them on ink cartridge and phone recycling envelopes.

Supermarkets often had display stands inside the door with entry forms for anything up to a dozen different competitions on them. In store magazines would contain yet more entry forms. Nowadays there are seldom any separate forms in supermarkets - most of the competitions are in the store's magazines, but very few of them ever use an entry form - entries are online or by text and just occasionally by postcard. Just think how much less we  spend on postage, and how much less waste paper our "comping corners" (You DO have a comping corner, don't you? Or is that just me?) fill up with!

There still ARE entry forms around - clothes shops and furniture stores are prime hunting grounds for them, and Morrisons  and Asda both still produce a few, but not in the huge numbers  of the "olden days". And don't forget that I'm only talking about eight years ago, not even the last century!

Thursday 21 February 2013

Win a £500 Pets At Home gift card

Go Compare are offering you the chance to win a year's supply of food for your pet, in the form of a £500 gift card for Pets at Home in their 6 Nations themed competition.

To enter, you need to follow them on Twitter then tweet a photo of your pet looking patriotic, and tweet it to them using the hashtag #PatrioticPets

You can read the full details of the competition, including the terms  and conditions, here. The closing date is March 15th and the judge will be looking for the most original, amusing and/or patriotic photo.

Another great giveaway from Chocolate Log Blog

The latest Chocolate Log Blog competition is now live, with a gorgeous  prize of a Pura Coffee hamper containing three packs  of coffee, a cafetiere and sachets of sugar and hot chocolate.

Enter on the competition page - you can get up to 8 entries using the Rafflecopter widget plus extra entries for daily tweets. The competition closes on March 17th.

Win a Samsung Galaxy camera with a photo of your city

A new photography competition is running featuring 12 of Britain's best loved cities. And the prize for each city is a Samsung Galaxy camera plus the opportunity for millions of commuters to see your photo on digital advertising screens. The task is to submit a photo that demonstrates  your love for the city, and your entry must reach them by March 29th. For full details and the entry page, see your chosen city's own site from this list:


The "heart chart" on the right of each home page gives you a rough idea of how many entries each city has had so far - looking at the Gallery of each city will show you exactly what you are up against.

I know that lots of you are very talented photographers, so get out there and show the rest of us what there is to love about your city!

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Why not have a "shot" at a photography competition?

Did you see what I did there? Shot? Photography? Oh....... never mind then. I must have spent too long reading Find-a-Line.

But getting back to the point, have you ever thought about entering a photography competition? I've seen the photos that some of you have shared on your blogs and on Facebook, and a lot of them are very, very good. And now Byrom & Steel are giving you a chance to win a place on a Beginner's Workshop to help you to hone those skills.

You can read all about the competition here - the theme is YELLOW and you can enter by email or post.

The competition closes on March 31st and is open to people from anywhere in the UK, although no travelling expenses are included with the prize so you will have to make your own way to Brigg in Lincolnshire (unless, like at least one person who will be reading this, you already live there!).

Text to win an iPod touch

Another great competition from the team at My Social Radio - here are the full details:

Answer this question for a chance to win an iPod Touch.

Which female singer was nominated for ‘Best Original Song’ at this year’s  Oscars for a Bond Theme?
A.     Adele
B.      Shirley Bassey
C.      Madonna

Grab you mobile and text the word MYSOCIALRADIO followed by a space… and YOUR CHOICE of A, B or C and your name.

 Send that to 60 999 (six, zero, nine, nine, nine).

Text cost £1 + your standard network rate

Lines will stay open until midday (GMT) on Friday February 22nd 2013,

You must get your entry in before the competition closes, as entries received after midday (GMT) on February 22nd 2013 will not be entered but may still be charged.

Stay listening as the winner will be announced on air and online at

Full terms and conditions are online at

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Win a £500 Kiddicare trolley dash!

Here's a quick competition for you if you live in or near Rotherhan and can be free next Wednesday evening

To celebrate the launch of the new Kiddicare store in Rotherham next week, Kiddicare is giving away the chance to win a one minute trolley dash around the store worth £500. They'd love to invite you to register for the chance to win this fantastic prize - all that you have to do is 'like' the Kiddicare Facebook page and fill out a short registration form.

The competition closes at midday on Thursday 21st of February so readers will need to hurry to be in with a chance of winning. They'll need to be available on the eve of Wednesday 27th February at 8pm to complete the trolley dash. Full terms and conditions can be found on the registration page.
This has set me wondering - have you ever won a trolley dash? In  all my years  of comping, I've only ever won one. Maybe I'll tell you about it some time - and I'd love to hear your experiences, especially if you win this one.

Getting a prize isn't always plain sailing!

I know I'm always nagging you to play fair with promoters and with fellow compers and not to cheat, but occasionally it looks as if a promoter isn't playing fair with anybody!

A case in point - for legal reasons I'm fuddling the details a bit - was a competition that was featured in Grape Vine last year. It was quite obscure and needed a fairly expensive purchase, and had lots of prizes, so I was surprised not to hear of any winners. But then a reader contacted me to say the closing date had been changed to a month later than originally advertised.

A promoter isn't supposed to change a closing date without good reason, but these things do happen sometimes, and if it was still running, that would explain  why I'd not heard of any winners, wouldn't it? Well, no, because even after the later closing date there were still no signs of any winners being announced.

Several people contacted them in various ways, and were constantly fobbed off with replies like "We'll be announcing them next week"  until eventually some of them contacted the Institute of Promotional Marketing who urged the company to get on with making the announcement.

A little while after that a winners list was produced - and yes, there were several Grape Vine readers  on there. Winners were emailed and asked to send in scans of their proof of purchase by email. One reader had an email thanking her for her scan - but then a few days later got a letter in the post saying she had not replied to their original email so would have to forfeit the prize. The letter was signed by the person who had acknowledged her reply.

Once that hiccup was sorted out, very ungraciously, a delivery date was set and winners were notified. But the prizes failed to turn up and the company had to be chased up yet again. When the prize eventually DID arrive, the reader mentioned above wrote to thank them for the prize but said because of the way she had been treated she would not be ordering from the company again.

She was surprised to get an aggressive phone call from the mother of the owner of the company, saying "These prizes weren't cheap, the promotion has cost us a lot of money and you are getting it for free!"

Well.... not exactly free as the winner had bought an expensive qualifier - but what kind of a promoter offers a generous prize structure but then doesn't budget for giving away the prizes? One, it has to be suspected, that wanted to lure people into buying a product to enter but hadn't actually intended to give anything away.

Have you ever had a similar experience? If it ever happens to you, check out my post "When the pleasure of winning turns into a pain" which tells you how to contact the IPM and gives you some tips on helping things to go smoothly.

Monday 18 February 2013

New help with tackling those tricky tiebreakers

When I first started comping, so long ago that sabre-toothed tigers roamed the aisles of Kwik Save, tiebreaker competitions were everywhere. I used to aim to enter around 10 a week, and it was lack of time rather then lack of competitions that prevented me from entering more.

Because there were so many,  it was  relatively easy to find inspiration. Lists of winning tiebreakers were regularly published in Competitors Journal and small-press publications like Enter-Prize, and some enthusiastic compers collected them together and produced annual books of winning lines, or occasional themed collections on topics like holidays or celebrities. And some produced booklets of useful phrases, arranged by theme, to help us to build our own tiebreakers.

Even just a few years  ago, the Winning Lines section of Grape Vine was two or three pages long every month.

Seeing other winning lines gave us lots of ideas for rhymes, word play and different ways of looking at products and prizes, as well as showing us the kind of things that judges looked out for.

Then the number of tiebreaker competitions slumped to almost zero, especially when the law preventing promoters from requiring a purchase for a straightforward draw was dropped. A draw, after all, is much easier to run. But now tiebreakers are creeping back in, as promoters are realising that the act of writing about a product engages the consumer and makes them think hard about their product - making them more likely to remember it when they next need to make a purchase.

Tiebreaker competitions seldom appear on leaflets in your supermarket any more - you are more likely to find them on Facebook pages, on Twitter and on blogs. And if you can produce a decent entry, you have a very good chance of winning as they generally get only a fraction of the number of entries that a simple draw would. Many of them run for a very short time too, so you need to  be able to come  up with that magic phrase very quickly.

But without collections of useful phrases and past tiebreakers, where can you get inspiration? I often go to my collection of old books, but find  all the phrases are hopelessly out of date. The celebrities mentioned in them are retired or even long-buried,  being technically savvy meant choosing a VHS video recorder rather than a Betamax one and twitter was something only birds and Mah-Jongg tiles did.

Worse still, the old books aren't searchable in the way that we are used to now. Although they are usually indexed, it can still be extremely difficult to find the inspiration you are looking for.

But now help is at hand. Radio presenter Peter Stewart has published Find-a-Line, a bang up to date collection of useful phrases, alliterations, wordplays and rhymes, indexed according to ideas. Aimed not just at compers but at journalists, copywriters, comedians and everyone who wants to keep their writing witty, topical and fresh, the book of around 15,000 phrases is available as a pdf download  in Adobe Digital Editions format for just £5.99 plus VAT, which comes to £7.19.

I've been playing around with it for the last week and I'm very impressed. Not only are the phrases in it much more topical than anything in my old books, but being a pdf it is searchable, so you can go straight to the topic you are interested in. Some of the phrases are VERY witty and I can't wait to give them an airing  in my own entries.

Peter sent me a free copy of the download to review, but not only are all the opinions here my own - now I've seen it, if I didn't already have a copy I would definitely be buying one. It has brought my collection of  comping tools bang into the 21st century at last!

Sunday 17 February 2013

Check out your local takeaway and win cash!

Take-a-way  is looking for your takeway menus! And they are offering prizes of £75, £50 and £25 to the three people who send them the most menus by March 22nd, with 5 runners up prizes of £10 each to be drawn randomly from everyone who enters.

To enter, simply collect together as many different takeaway menus as you can and send them in by post or as emailed scans. You can read full entry details on their competition page. And don't worry about finding more after you've sent in your entry - they've thought of that. You can send your entries in as many batches as you like, and they will add them all together to get your total.

Saturday 16 February 2013

How to get more followers on Twitter

I can already feel the pain from the amount of time I'm going to have to devote to removing spam comments from this post. But so many people have asked me for ideas about how to boost their followers, I felt I really HAD to write it. So all of you, you owe me a large glass of Merlot. Yes, each and every one of you! I'll need it to keep me hydrated while  weeding out the spammy comments.

The problem with being a comper on Twitter is that you need to follow the promoters running the competitions. But that means you will soon find you can't follow anybody else. Twitter allows you to follow 2,000 people or 10% more than follow you, whichever is the higher figure. You can soon find your head bumping against that 2,000 ceiling.

When you reach a point where you are not allowed to follow any more people, the first thing to do is see how many you can reasonably unfollow. I  gave lots of tips about this in my article "Getting round Twitter's following limit"  As well as Twit Cleaner, mentioned in that article and  still my favourite, a newer service called Manage Flitter will also help you to identify who to unfollow.

But if the pruning is all complete, you have streamlined your life with lists and  you STILL can't follow any more people, your only option is to get more followers. At this point you may be tempted by the "Get more followers" ads you see, or even have tweeted to you. DON'T DO IT! The followers you will get if you join one of these schemes will be bot accounts, created solely for the purpose of boosting follower numbers. They can  be suspended or deleted by Twitter at any time, or worse still used for sending you copious amounts of spam, advertising other dubious services. And if your account has large numbers of fake followers, you may find Twitter flags it up as a poor quality account, which in turn means your tweets won't show up in Twitter search, reducing your chance of winning competitions.

So how DO you get more followers?

First of all, make yourself human. People want to know who they are talking to, so make sure your name shows on your Twitter account, fill in your bio - a few words will do, but make them something about YOU - and have a recognisable avatar. Your own face is ideal, but if you are shy, a pet or a photo of the thing you currently most want to win  will help to personalise your profile.

Next, talk to people. Don't use your Twitter account just for entering competitions - chat to other compers or to anyone else you notice on Twitter. If you see a conversation between other people, it's fine to join in. Twitter etiquette doesn't demand that you keep quiet until it's your turn to speak. If you engage somebody in conversation and they like what you say, they are likely to follow you.

However don't get drawn into arguments. In arguments, people take sides, and if people perceive you to be on the "wrong" side they won't follow you.

Say interesting things. Not necessarily directly to anyone, just as general tweets. If there's a trending topic or hashtag, make an insightful and/or witty comment about it. people may pick up on it and follow you. You'd be surprised what interests people. My follower count jumps every time I mention my "ear worms" - the tunes that get stuck in my head. (In case  you were wondering, right now it's the old Morecambe and Wise theme song "Bring me Sunshine")

A really great way for a  comper to boost their followers is to run a competition. You don't need to fork out for a big prize - how about that unopened  DVD that you won last week but don't really fancy watching? Or if you don't have an unused and unwanted prize to hand, what about a £10 Amazon gift voucher? Make following you a condition of the competition, and ask a few compers with lots of followers to give your competition a shout out, and watch your follower numbers soar! I'm always happy to help out with a retweet if you tweet to me.

Now here's a really sneaky way to boost your follower count. A real nuisance on Twitter is the number of spam tweets you receive, and we all have different ways of dealing with them (those of you who follow me and have seen my current way might be chuckling now). The majority of the spammers who tweet you or follow you are bots, fake accounts set up just for that purpose. However if you look at their profiles, you will almost certainly see that they have some followers. A typical spam-bot may be following 1,999 people and yet have 15 or 20 followers. Who on earth would want to follow a spam bot? Well, some people have set up their accounts to automatically follow back everyone who follows them. The people following the spam bots must have systems like that - so if you work your way through the spa bot's list of followers and follow them all, there's a strong chance that most of them will follow you back! Then all you need to do is unfollow them which they probably won't notice and you have your extra followers. It's one of the ways spammers work - why not get your own back by making it work for you too?

Finally, once you've got those new followers, you want to keep them. Have a look at this great April Fool prank article about how to get more Twitter followers  and check your own behaviour on Twitter to make sure you don't do any of the things on the list!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Would you like to be on a quiz show?

BBC Entertainment  are currently looking for contestants for an exciting new (non-broadcast) quiz show pilot. Here's what they have to say about it:

We are looking for confident, out-going individuals with a good level of general knowledge to take part. The show is based around contestants answering a mixture of general knowledge Q&A and multiple choice questions.
 Are you good at general knowledge? Are you good at knowing when you’re right… but also when you’re wrong? And most importantly … can you keep track of how you’ve done?
We are looking for confident, out-going individuals with a good level of general knowledge, to take part in this exciting new BBC quiz show pilot. In this game you can know the answer or not know the answer. What’s important is knowing the difference.
To express an interest and an application form please email us at, and include your name, age, telephone number and nearest city.
We will be holding auditions at the beginning of March in London!
All applicants must be 18 years or over and a resident of the UK

Win a beautiful woodburning stove

Hot Price are giving away a woodburning stove worth over £600. For a chance to win. pop over to their Facebook page and like it, and then scroll down to the competition post (it was originally posted on 25 January, to help you to find it) and share it. The competition closes on March 1st.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Win a video for your business

Black Sheep Marketing are giving business owners a chance to win a video for their business, which they can use on their website or on You Tube to help attract customers and tell them what the business does.

All you need to do to enter is to visit their Facebook page, like the page and like and share the post.
The competition closes on February 24th.

I know that lots of you have small businesses and would never be able to afford  something like your own video, so this is a fantastic opportunity.

I wonder if I dare to enter this? Would a video showing me lying on the floor of  Tesco trying to copy down the terms and conditions of a competition that are written in tiny print around the bottom of the stand encourage more people to subscribe to Grape Vine? Or would you all write me off as an idiot? (The first person to comment or tweet that you already have done will be severely frowned at!)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Happy Birthday Grape Vine!

Eight years ago today I officially took over Grape Vine from John Lock, who was retiring after producing it for 12 years. In fact the changeover was spread over several weeks, with both February and March issues worked on by both of us, but we needed an official changeover date for the tax people so February 12th it was.

I've just been looking  back through my first issue, from March 2005, and am amazed  at just how much comping has changed in a relatively short time.

For a start, almost every competition in that issue had to be entered by post. Online comping was already well established, but it was a completely separate hobby from postal comping and the two seldom overlapped. If a competition was on a pack label, there was never a "go to the website and enter these details" option - the label, lid or bottle top needed to be posted, often causing difficulties with items such as greasy butter wrappers and sharp bottle tops, not to mention those entry forms on plastic bread wrappers which were always so hard to write on! Only a small handful of the competitions listed could be entered by text message; even one for mobile top ups had to be entered by post. Facebook comping was unheard of, and instant wins always involved opening a pack to see if there was a winning message inside. And unless there was a tiebreaker, every competition had to provide a "No Purchase Necessary" entry route. When it comes to Twitter, Blippar, Pinterest, Instagram.... these simply hadn't been dreamed of, at least not by compers.

Because of the prevalence of postal entries, the index of entry forms to look out for ran to three pages - and this was in the spring, when traditionally there weren't many forms around. From early summer to Christmas, the list would have been four pages long. And the number of tiebreaker competitions! There were 15 closing that month alone, plus three pages of winning tiebreakers from previous competitions. So far for the March 2013 issue I have just ONE tiebreaker competition listed, and with tiebreaker competitions so few and far between there are seldom any winning tiebreakers published.

Some things haven't changed though. It's great to see that many of the comping clubs listed, as usual, inside the back cover, are still going strong and that Winn Sommor is still producing her fiendish annual booklet. And it's interesting to see that in that first issue I included a rant about automated entry services.....  only last week I posted something very similar.

Nostalgic compers often say that there aren't as many competitions about these days - well, there were just over 50 listed in the March 2005 Grape Vine. In the February 2013 issue (I'm still writing the March one of course so can't use it for comparison) there are over 150. The reduction in the number of entry form competitions  and tiebreaker results has left lots of space to fill with competitions, and I seldom find myself needing to fill that space with chatter!

The big changes to Grape Vine itself have been the update and the blog. On handing over to me, John suggested that I should discontinue it as only about 15 people took it. They had to send in stamped, addressed envelopes and received it by post. I set up an email list so that people could receive it free by email, and now just about every Grape Vine subscriber takes it. It is crammed with new, short notice and potentially low entry competitions and every month I hear of readers winning lovely prizes from it. I know that for many of you, the update is now the most important feature of the magazine. And it keeps getting bigger and better too - often now it contains more competitions than the whole of one of my early issues of the magazine did!

As for the blog, it is here for everyone and not just Grape Vine subscribers. Compers, promoters or people looking for help with Twitter and other apps are all welcome here. I don't make any money at all from the blog - I don't charge promoters to list their competitions and I don't accept any advertising. But I hope that reading my blog will be a great help to my existing and future subscribers. If you don't already subscribe, why not give it a try? You can get the magazine and the famous update for only £13.50 for three months. Just one very small win in that time would mean it had paid for itself! See the "How to subscribe" page for more details.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

Saturday 9 February 2013

Pinterest for compers

Last week I gave some ideas for things to do when you lose your comping mojo and one of my suggestions was that you should try different types of comping, for instance Pinterest.

Since than I've had lots of questions about Pinterest, and have been frantically pinning away myself - all in the interest of research, of course. Although I'll be delighted if I happen to have pinned my way to any prizes along the way.

If you've not used Pinterest before, the first step you should take is to read my post "It's time to take an interest in Pinterest" which I wrote last May. The competitions listed in it have long since closed but the rest of it is still relevant.

Once you have set up your account, your main question will be

How do I find competitions to enter on Pinterest?

The best way of all is to find and follow other compers. Like other social media, news of what's happening spreads from user to user, so the more compers you follow the better your chance of spotting competitions.

You are welcome to follow me - here is a link to my profile page Now, you will find that I use Pinterest a lot for craft, so if you aren't interested in seeing my craft pins, I suggest you follow me then go to the boards  "Craft" and "Craft 2" and unfollow those. If you really only want to see my competition pins, the board you need is "The Best of the Web"     NOT my Grape Vine board. On The Best of the Web you will find my pin-to-win entries, if the competition instructions don't say they have to be pinned to a specific board, pins from competitions on websites and blogs where pinning a picture of the prize is one of the entry routes and instruction  pins from competitions I have found, whether I've entered them or not, even if the entry has to be made via a different board.  The Grape Vine board has just a few pins on it - feel free to use these to practise repinning and commenting on pins. That's what they are there for!

Unfortunately you can't organise the people you follow into groups, like you can on Facebook and Twitter, so if you want to see what your friends are entering you need to either check regularly or save their profile pages in your own bookmarks.

If you want to try searching for new competitions, your first move might be to try Pinterest search - that's the search box on the top left of the page. However that will bring up all sorts of results that don't help you - out of date competitions, foreign competitions, sandcastle building competitions, infographics about competition between different businesses  - you're likely to be exhausted before you find anything to enter!

Rather more useful is Twitter search -  search for "Pinterest competition". It is  a bit unpredictable - I tried it twice while writing this and once I found several current competitions, the second time the most recent result was six months old!

So for me it is back to good old Google, where you can search for "Pinterest competition" or "pin to win" and then use the Search Tools menu to narrow it down to UK only sites and results from the last week or month, so you will see the most current competitions.

Now you've found some competitions to enter, here are some tips on entering, compiled  with the help of @_NaomiK_  from Twitter,  who has won THREE creative competitions on Pinterest recently, so she knows what she's talking about!
  • Read the instructions! If you are asked to use a specific board title and/or hashtag, make sure you DO use them and that you spell them correctly. If you don't follow those important instructions, your entry won't be  counted.
  • Don't pin rival products. If a brand has asked you to create a board for your competition entry, it's good manners not to pin other brands' products on to your entry. (Goodness, the number of times I must have fallen foul of that one!)
  • Concentrate on brands you really love. When you create your board, your passion will show.
  • Check that it really IS a current competition.  Closing dates are not always given, but if you go to the original pin on the promoter's board and click on it, right at the top of the pin it will tell you how long ago it was uploaded. If it is more then a month or so ago, the competition is likely to have closed.  You can get a general idea of the age of a pin or board by noting that on a person's profile page, the newer boards are added at the bottom, but on a board the newer pins are added at the top.
  • Repin the right pin. In Repin-to-win competitions, make sure you don't repin another comper's pin. You need to work your way back through the Pinterest trail, clicking on the pin or links above and below it, until you find your way to the promoter's original board. If the pin has been repinned several times, it can be a meandering trail but it's the only way of being sure you have entered.
  • Favour competitions where the promoter has some way of contacting you. If you just repin a pin, the only way they can really tell you who has won is to comment on their own pin, so you have to keep going back to check it. The best ones have a link to a form for you to fill in with a link to your board and your contact details, or ask you to tweet or email them a link to your board. If they've not thought out a straightforward way to contact you, they could end up having problems getting hold of the winners, as this lady found out after running her first Pinterest competition.
  • If you are creating a board but are worried other people may copy it or repin your pins you can use one of your "secret" boards at the bottom of your profile page to create the board, changing it to a public one when you are ready to enter the competition and submit the URL. Don't forget to make it public before submitting it though!
Over the few days I've been researching this, I've pinned at least a dozen competitions to my board The Best of the Web so why not pop over there and see if anything takes your fancy? And don't forget to check out my instructions for how to use Pinterest if this is all mew or mystifying to you,

Friday 8 February 2013

A new Chocolate Log Blog competition

The latest competition from Chocolate Log Blog  gives you the chance to win seven jars of really luxurious chocolate spreads and dips.

To read about these luscious treats and enter the competition, pop over to their competition page now  and use the Rafflecopter widget to submit your entries.

The competition closes on March 6th.

Friday Rant - Automated entry services

Last night I was watching TV (OK, shopping telly, I'm not proud) and saw an advert for a service that enters competitions on behalf of their subscribers. The subscribers pay £12.95 a month to be entered into around 180 competitions a month. They claimed to have over 140,000 subscribers.

Oh goodness the memories it brought back to me. Soon after the Grape Vine website started (and don't panic if your link to it isn't working at the moment, the site has closed and your link will soon bring you to this blog) I woke up one morning to find that the monthly competition, which usually had around 300 entries a month, had received 20,000 entries overnight with more arriving thick and fast. My email account got locked up for being overloaded before I could stop the entries from flooding in.

And luckily I COULD stop them, because although every entry came from a different email address, only a handful of domain names were being used. Once I blocked those, the entries stopped.

Automated entry services look like a dream come true for somebody who simply wants something for nothing. Just pay your money , sit back and do nothing and win prizes. But 180 entries a month is an average of just 6 entries a day. How many online compers would expect to win regularly with an output like that? And on top of that, just how many of those entries are actually valid? I certainly didn't contact the 20,000 people I disqualified and I'm sure none of the other businesses who find mass entries like this breaking their "no bulk or third party entries" rules do either. So the gullible punters are paying a lot of money to probably get most of their entries disqualified.

Just a few promoters welcome automated entry services because the huge entry numbers make their promotions look successful. But how successful is a promotion where not one of the entrants has ever visited your site, and many don't even know you exist? It's actually possible for a major prize to be won by somebody who has never heard of the promoter. Now a competition is a promotion, that is, it is designed to promote your business in some way, by getting people to buy your product, interact with your site, think about your service in some way which will make then think of it first when they DO need to buy. It isn't just a way of giving something away for no return. So what is the point of a promotion where many thousands of participants don't even know they have participated?

So we compers, who visit websites in order to enter the competitions and, if they merit it, go on to become customers, are fulfilling the aim of the competition, to bring in potential customers, but could well be being outnumbered by tens of thousands of entrants who will never interact with the site.

However there are ways sites can avoid being targeted by these services, and ways compers can avoid wasting time entering competitions that could be targeted by them.

What can you do to avoid them?

As a comper you want to maximise your chances to win and avoid competitions that make it easy for bulk entries to reduce them.

Don't ever be tempted to think "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and sign up to one. Promoters are getting wise to them so you will be wasting your money. Also if you sign up to one, you won't know for certain which competitions you have been entered for so you will have to avoid all "one entry per person" ones. That will probably leave an awful lot of competitions that you would have loved to have entered without an entry from you at all, when the entry service misses them.

Don't complain about Captchas. They can't prevent bulk entries but they slow them down, and cracking Captchas costs money, so while scammers in Eastern Europe with code cracking software and scores of fake IDs will still enter, the legitimate competition entry services based in the UK who want to make as many entries as possible in as short a time as possible won't devote time and money to trying to get round them.

Welcome sites that get you to register and log in before you enter. That all takes too long for a bulk entry service.

Look out for competitions that require some kind of individual interaction, from liking a Facebook page to writing a tiebreaker. The more individual the response needs to be, the harder it is to automate.

As a promoter, if you want your prize to go to a genuine, happy customer or potential customer, take note of all the advice I've given to compers above. The more people have to interact with you in order to enter your competition, the better your site will lodge itself in their subconscious, ready to pop to the surface when they need your product. Yes, making the competition slightly harder to enter will reduce the number of entries you get, but when it comes to promotions leading to future business, quality is better than quantity!

As well as encouraging some kind of interaction, make sure your terms and conditions include the words "No bulk, automated or third party entries"  so that if you ARE mail-bombed by one of these services you can legitimately delete all the entries.  AND ENFORCE IT. If you have the facility to check IP addresses, look out for large numbers of entries coming from the same one.

Look out for unusual patterns among the email addresses of entrants.  The automated entry services work by allocating an email address to each subscriber rather than using that person's own email address. These  may take the form 

so it could be

.. . and so  on. The one that hit me had used about half a dozen different domain names, so you will see thousands of entries with the same one, easily identified (and deleted) from among the genuine entries.

As long as there are sites that don't make it impossible for these bulk entry services to operate, they will continue to do so, often flooding small businesses with entries  it takes them days of work and worry to deal with. They are not illegal - but how moral can it be to flood a website with entries to a competition the entrants  aren't even aware exists?
I'm linking up to Ranty Friday over at Mummy Barrow

Thursday 7 February 2013

Win a romantic London Eye experience with London City Airport

London City Airport are giving away a romantic Private Capsule experience on the London Eye to one lucky couple. The experience includes

Priority boarding
30 minutes on the London Eye
One bottle of Pommery Brut Royal Champagne/Pommery Rose Champagne per couple
Luxury box of Hotel Chocolat Pink Champagne Truffles per person
Dedicated London Eye Host
Complimentary 360 guide per person
Entry to the London Eye 4D Experience

This amazing experience can be taken at one of the following times:
Wednesday 13th February, Friday 15th February and Saturday 16th February from 11.00am – 20.30pm every half hour. On Thursday 14th February cupid’s capsules are available from 11.00am – 22.00pm every half hour.

All you need to do to enter is pop over to their competition page and tell them how many times you've flown through London City Airport.

The competition closes at midnight on February 11th, and because of the dates the prize can be taken, the winner will need to reply by 4pm on the 12th or they will need to pick a new winner, so keep your eye on your inbox!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Win Dr Dre Beats Solo headphones

My Social Radio have a new competition for you - this time you could win a pair of  Dr Dre Beats Solo headphones.

All you need to do is head over to their Facebook page and choose which colour you would like if you win.

You can enter once per household and the competition closes at 12 noon on February 22nd.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

zulily's February Cuties competition

zulily's February competition is now live! Here's what you need to do:

We’ve been in a bit of a silly mood over at zulily London HQ recently, so we decided the next theme for the Cuties Competition should be “pull a funny face”.
We’d like to see your little ones, best funny faces on Instagram. If they ever pull a face that makes you go “hee, hee”, that’s what we want to see!

Our favourite photo wins a £100 zulily voucher to spend on, a Quax Leo Cow Pillow friend and a Juicy Couture clutch for Mum.

How to enter:

  1. Upload an Instagram snap of your little cutie in February pulling a funny face.
  2. Make sure your profile is public, so that we can see your photo.
  3. You need to follow zulilyUK on Instagram (@zulilyUK) and tag your picture with three things:
  • #zulilyUKFebruaryCutiesCompetition
  • @zulilyUK
  • and either: #zulilynewbie (if you’re new to zulily) or #zulilian (if you’ve already joined zulily)

The competition closes on Thursday 28th of February. We’ll be shortlisting on Friday 1st of March and if you win we’ll contact you via Instagram comments to let you know. The winner will be announced on our blog no later than Tuesday 5th March. The Ts&Cs are here. If you haven’t already joined zulily, do come on over!

Monday 4 February 2013

Relieve the comping boredom and win a mini Ipad

Only this morning I mentioned that entering boring, repetitive competitions could make you lose all enthusiasm for comping. So the timing of this competition is perfect - there's nothing dull or repetitive about it at all, and there's a mini iPad for the winner!

Scribbler are crowd-sourcing an e-book of answers to the eternal question "what is love", gathering responses via our website, and via Twitter, using the hashtag #loveis

Some of the initial answers they've had are pretty funny, other are quite sweet - it's entirely dependent on how people define their feelings! 

They'll be compiling all of the best (and worst) 'Love is' answers into an e-book, and giving out an iPad mini to the person with the best/most amusing answer.

You can read more about the competition on the Scribbler blog, where you can also submit your entry, or you can follow the instructions there to submit it via Twitter.

The competition closes on February 15th and you can enter once per person.

Now I'm off to think up my own entry. My husband has just spent half an hour photographing some of my hand made cards for me to put on my other blog...... do you think that might be the inspiration I need?

When you lose your comping mojo

You may be a really keen comper, you may devote all your spare time to it, or you may dip in and out and just enter one or two competitions a week. Whatever type of comper you are, there may come a day when you settle down to enter some competitions and think "I really can't be bothered". And when that happens, how do you get your mojo back?

First of all, take a break. Go out and get some fresh air, have a cup of tea, phone a friend or read a book for a while. It may be a passing phase, and clearing your head and not thinking about competitions might have you back in the mood in as little as a few minutes.

But if it goes on for longer than that, ask yourself  WHY you don't feel like comping. Until you know why, you won't know what to do about it. If you really can't work out why, try all of these ideas one at a time until you find one that works for you.

I've not won anything for ages so it seems pointless

A losing streak can be very disheartening, but don't forget the laws  of chance and randomness are very strange thing, and your next win may be just around the corner. And this time it could be a biggie! You may feel as if you'll never win anything again, but in fact the only way you can make sure that happens is to give up. There are lots of ideas for ways to start winning again in my post How To Bring The Comping Fairy Back.

It's all so boooooooring

Some kinds of comping can be pretty boring. Different things appeal to different people, of course, but a lot of it is very mechanical and repetitive - "liking and sharing" on Facebook, Retweeting on Twitter, filling in web forms with just your name and email address, writing your name and address on postcards and texting almost anything!

Set those comps aside to do at times when you are in the mood for a mindless task. Maybe when you first wake up in the morning, when you are curled up on the sofa half-watching an undemanding TV programme or when you're not feeling well.

Instead look around for something more interactive to stimulate your mind - creative competitions such  as tiebreakers, photography competitions and video competitions spring to mind, but also how about looking around some blogs and entering the competitions on them? Many of them use  a Rafflecopter widget which often requires a bit more interaction from you, asking you to comment on a blog or look around a promoter's website, and the blogs will usually have interesting articles to read too. If blogs aren't for you, what about popping over to Pinterest to see what takes your fancy? I've got a new post about Pinterest in the pipeline, but in the meantime here's my original post about comping on Pinterest

It's all too difficult

Just the opposite of the one above! Are you trying TOO hard to be creative or to find more challenging competitions to enter? Perhaps going through the list of "boring" ways to comp, above, but replacing the word "boring" in your mind with the word "simple" would make a refreshing change?

I haven't got time, I can't keep up!

Get off that hamster wheel! Comping is a hobby, it should never be a duty, and trying to enter everything, to keep up with everything posted on your favourite site or forum, everything you see shared on Twitter or Facebook, can be time consuming and even stressful. Don't let it stress you, simply STOP! Let some of the competitions go unentered - calm down, take a  few deep breaths and start again at your own pace, without trying to compare your comping output to anyone else's. I know many of you find my mantra "Enter less, win more" hard to believe, but it works for me. I think it's because silly little mistakes can creep in when you are rushed or overtired. Comping calmly at your own speed may mean you don't have time to enter as many competitions, but your entries are more likely to be correct - and only correct ones make it into the hat!

If you really don't have any time at all, maybe because of work or family pressures, the beauty of comping is that you can take a few days, weeks or even years off and still easily come back to it.

I need inspiration

Now this is where I need to bring in a huge plug for Grape Vine. Every month the magazine contains a Winners List  - readers who have won prizes worth £500 or more write in and are listed in the magazine, usually on the front cover (and have an entry into a draw for every time they are listed). I am told over and over again how motivating people find that list, either spurring them on to try to get on the list themselves, or just feeling happy for the winners and reminding them that even in a lean spell there are lovely prizes out there waiting to be won.

As well as the winners list, of course, Grape Vine brings you lot of new competitions of all types to enter. And having the magazine pop through your letterbox at the start of the month and the update into your inbox in the middle of the month can in itself be inspiring.

Details of how to subscribe can be found at the top of the blog.

It's such a solitary hobby

It really doesn't need to be. In fact it can be a wonderfully friendly hobby. I've been a comper for *gulp* 28 years now, and almost all of my real life friends are people I first met through comping, even if these days we chat about almost everything else under the sun when we meet up. Try joining a comping forum - almost all of them have off-topic chatter threads - or introducing yourself to some of the compers on Facebook and Twitter. Or go to a club - you'll find a list of about a dozen comping clubs in places all over the UK on the inside back cover of almost every issue of Grape Vine.

Finally, if it is still no fun, maybe it isn't the right hobby for you, either just not suiting you at the moment or really not for you at all. Not everyone enjoys it, even though some of us love it passionately. Try doing something else and see if you miss it. If you do, then it will be simple enough to come back and take it up again.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Why not go to a comping day?

If you'd like to go to a comping day, meet up with other compers, win prizes AND have a day at the seaside, why not go along to the Compers Mentis comping day?

It's going to be held on Saturday October 5th at The Campus,  Highlands Lane, BS24 7DX Weston-super-Mare from 10.30 am to 16.30 pm

Here is what they say about it

"We are very pleased to announce the "Compers Mentis Competition Day 2013". A day of puzzles, quizzes, laughter and prizes!

Cost of the day is £30 which will cover lunch, 2 coffee breaks, goodie bag and entry to all the competitions throughout the day with the exception of the charity raffle at the end.

If you'd like to join us, please fill out the application form, available via PM and send it to Karen with payment.

We will have tables of six and this will be strictly adhered to.
If you would like to ensure that you sit with your friends, please send in your cheque/cheques together.
We will have a table plan this year and whilst we will try to accommodate those that want to sit together, we cannot guarantee it.
Having said that, a lot of the fun on these days is meeting and chatting to new people!"

To get full details of the day and request an application form, join their Facebook group