Thursday 30 May 2013

Competitons - a promoter's eye view

I'm delighted today that we have a guest post from Sarah Burns, of Spark and Fuse, who is going to give us a view of what it's like to be representing the promoters on whom this wonderful hobby depends:

When people ask me what I do for a living, I flamboyantly state, ‘I give away amazing prizes’. Okay so I actually do a little more than this, yet I choose to describe my working day as such because it sums up neatly my very nice job.

As co-founder of Spark & Fuse Marketing, my world is immersed in prize promotions – not as a comper but from the other side as an administrator. Chances are if you’ve entered a draw in a magazine or online, we placed that prize; if you received a prize in the post, we mailed it to you; or if you submitted a competition entry, we managed the judging process. And maybe, just maybe you have received a call from an excited Spark & Fuser breaking the great news of a win. Without a doubt, prize notification is the most rewarding part of our work. I once called a lady to tell her she’d just won £10,000. I was possibly more delighted than her and shrieked down the phone. Only a few weeks ago, I contacted a mum who’d won a visit from Ashleigh & Pudsey to her daughter’s school – her ecstatic response could literally be heard by all across the office. My colleague recently notified five lucky winners that they’d won the chance to compete for place on a trip into space. Seriously, a trip into space! That really is something to jump up and down about.
We often meet sceptics that simply don’t believe anyone really wins prizes and that most prize promotions are in some way fake or there to deceive consumers. This is simply not true for any projects on which we work. We take immense pride in ensuring that everything we do is CAP code compliant; that every single draw is conducted fairly (we had a bespoke system built especially for this) and that every winner receives their prize. Much like you, we’re angered by stories of unscrupulous promoters and companies that take advantage of consumers – it’s something we tweet about quite regularly and we actively encourage everyone to report this sort of behaviour to the Advertising Standards Authority.

But bad behaviour can be seen on both sides and the greatest issue we currently face at Spark & Fuse HQ is that of cheating. Social media has allowed people to create multiple selves and enter prize draws fraudulently. We like to ensure that consumers win prizes fairly, it’s only right and it’s something we take very seriously.
One of the questions we’re often asked by interested individuals (our mums), is how do people win competitions anyway, what do they do right? Well as you know, you have to enter them in the first place. But crucially, you must follow the instructions and terms and conditions to the letter. We spend significant time crafting clear copy and precise judging criteria in order to help consumers understand exactly what the judging panel is looking for in a winning entry. However we still receive volumes of entries that totally ignore all this. We don’t change the way a competition is judged simply to suit the entries received, the criteria is there for a reason and that is so entrants and judges alike are all working to the same outline.

And what about us? Do we ever enter prize draws? Of course not. We’re too busy working on great prize promotions for the likes of you to win. @sparkandfuse

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Do you ever wonder whether you've entered a competition?

We all have our own ways of organising our comping, whether we use bookmarks, a spread sheet, the thanks button on a forum, a tracking system on a comping website or just memory, but whatever system we use, there comes a time when you look at a competition and can't for the life of you remember whether you've entered. And it must be somebody-or-other's law (if not, maybe it should become Willis's Law) that the ones you can't remember entering are the ones that strictly only allow one entry, and could disqualify you if you enter more than once, or let you fill in a lengthy and time consuming form before saying "Sorry, you've already entered."

However there's a handy new tool available for compers, called Diigo, that lets you put a tiny virtual post-it note onto a website. I'm sure it is intended for all sorts of uses, but I can see the value to compers right away. Registration with  Diigo is free, and you can pop a little button called a Diigolet on your favourites bar, then when you visit a site and enter the competition, click on your Diigolet button and fill in the date and time you entered in the note that appears.

When you visit a site and can't remember entering, click on your Diigolet and if you've made a note it will appear. If it a one off competition, you'll know you've entered. if it is a daily, monthly or weekly entry one, you can check whether you've entered the current one or not.

I've been playing with it for a few days and I'm finding it most useful for those competitions that insist on you leaving EXACTLY 24 hours between your entries for daily competitions or 7 days for weekly ones. By popping my entry date and time onto a note, I can be absolutely certain every entry I make is a valid one and none of my entries will be rejected or disqualified.

There is a lot more to Diigo than just post-it notes. It can be used on iOS or Android and can import your bookmarks so you can access them from all your devices. I can see I'm going to have a lot of learning to do, but I can see already what a handy tool it is, so I thought I'd share it with you right away.

By the way, I've not been asked to post this - I stumbled on an American comper's blog last week and saw them recommending it, and thought I'd give it a whirl.

More great competitions to enter

New competitions seem to be appearing thick and fast at the moment - squeezing everything into the June Grape vine is proving to be a real challenge and subscribers are in for a busy time when the next issue lands on their doorstep in the middle of next week.

One of the busiest places for competitions right now is Facebook, and thanks fully more and more of them are being run through apps or online entry forms,  so that neither the promoters nor the compers who enter their promotions are risking their accounts. Two new ones for you to enter are:

Win a £20 Amazon voucher and 1 Hour photoshoot with RinquecheManilalPhotography in the city of your choice the page and fill in the form. Ends 27th June

Win mobile digipad pro worth £150 from e-pens
Like the page and fill in the form. Ends 28th June

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Lots of new competitions to enter

I'm going to start off with one you'll need to enter right away as is closes TOMORROW, May 29th.  It's a Twitter competition and you can win a two night stay at the Cavendish Hotel in London - simply follow @londonhoteltips and retweet this tweet:

Next one for the small business owners among you - you can win a video shoot for your business worth £500 from Caterpillar Studios. Enter  before June 10th, by liking their Facebook page and filling in the form or  following @caterpillarvidz on Twitter and retweeting this:

Now one for your pet - Snugglezz are giving away an electric heated pet bed. I think on a cold wet day like it is here any pet would be delighted to have one of these! Enter through their Facebook page by June 17th.

Finally, a chance to win one of 50 two month trial memberships of the Bon Appetit Card club - a discount dining club. Like their Facebook page and fill in your details on this form. Closing June 8th.

Sunday 26 May 2013

What do you do with unwanted prizes?

Unwanted prizes? Surely that's a joke? Every prize is loved and wanted!

Yet even the most careful comper, who never enters for anything they don't want, can find themselves with things turning up that they have no use for. I'm not talking here about those compers who enter for anything saleable, in order to earn themselves some money - they already know what they are going to do with everything that turns up. I'm talking about those of us for whom prizes are much-appreciated treats for ourselves, our friends and our families.

How come we win things that we don't want? How about these scenarios......
  • You misread the prize description. You were so excited when you read that you could win shoes, you didn't notice they were horse shoes or brake shoes.
  • You'd been trying ever-so hard to win the item. There was something you really needed, so you went all-out to win it, entering every competition you could find. And then won more than one. In one such episode, I won FOUR microwave ovens in the space of a few weeks.
  • Your situation has changed since you entered the competition. You really wanted to win tickets to the show, but  between entering the competition and being told you had won, you've booked a holiday or a family member has gone into hospital.
  • You didn't enter THAT competition. It occasionally happens, for instance when a magazine is running several competitions at once, that some entries go into the wrong "hat" so yours is pulled out of one it should never have been in. I've just received some running kit (OK, you can stop laughing now.....) and I'm pretty certain that what I entered for was a bottle of perfume.
  • There were several different prizes and although you fancied some of them, they didn't all appeal to you.
  • It wasn't clear what the prize was. This is often the case with the daily Advent competitions at Christmas time. Often you aren't told what the prize for that day is until after you've entered,  by which time it's too late to decide you don't want it.
  • You hadn't realised the prize had to be collected from somewhere too far from you to be worth the journey or had to be taken on a certain date. It's always worth checking the terms and conditions because any restrictions like that should be made clear in them.
So you don't to be an over-enthusiastic novice, entering for everything in sight, to find yourself with the occasional unwanted prize. Here are some suggestions for getting rid of them:
  • Refuse the prize. That's not as hard as it sounds, especially if the prize is tickets to an event, as long as you are contacted by the promoter first and the prize doesn't just turn up out of the blue. Reply to them saying "I'm dreadfully sorry but something's come up and I can't make it - could you draw another winner instead please?" Most promoters will be impressed by how generous you are being!
  • Give it away. I'm sure we all give prizes to friends and family, but how about making a donation to charity - your local charity shop, or better still a charity that is having a raffle or auction where they will be able to get much more for the prize than the shop would. If you are planning to give things to a charity shop, remember they are not allowed to take electrical goods - not even if they are still sealed in the original packaging. Depending on the prize, a local school, hospital, care home or animal home might be grateful for it. If nobody else wants it, you could try your local Freecycle or Freegle group, although they are more usually used for second hand goods.
  • Sell it or swap it. For most of us, eBay is the first place that springs to mind when selling stuff. But listing fees, selling fees, PayPal fees and the cost of postage soon mount up, and there is always a risk that you might not get many bids on your item. Also eBay has very strict rules about the sale of tickets. There are other places you can sell online, such as Amazon Marketplace and, for tickets, Viagogo. But I've found that better than any of these is the display stand in my local supermarket, where you can advertise unwanted goods free of charge. Almost every time I've advertised there, my phone has been ringing before I even got home from placing my card, and of course there are no postage charges and no selling fees. Search Facebook to see if your town or area has a dedicated sell-or-swap group that you can join.  Some online comping forums, too, have their own dedicated sell-and-swap boards where you can advertise. Swapping websites are springing up all over the internet, just try searching Google for "swap your unwanted goods" - but if you know nothing about the site you are using, don't make your first swap something really valuable!
  • Get cheeky. Don't try this too often, but just occasionally when you take an unwanted prize into a shop that stocks the item, they will swap it for something else. Obviously you have no receipt, and there is nothing wrong with the goods so you can't insist on them swapping it, but if the item is in perfect, saleable condition they just might be generous enough to help you out, especially if you are wanting to swap for something very similar, for instance a garment or accessory in a different style or colour. I've only ever done this with computer games, where I have won one format and successfully swapped for the same game in a different format.  But as long as you are prepared to accept a definite "No!", there's no harm in asking!
Ideally, everything we won would be loved by us, but I hope I've given you some ideas about how every prize can be loved by somebody.

Friday 24 May 2013

A comper goes to Chelsea

About ten years ago, I took a friend to the Chelsea Flower Show using tickets that I had won, and  we enjoyed the day out so much that every year I've tried to win tickets to take her again - but until this year, I'd not been lucky. However my luck changed and this year I won a pair of all-day tickets for the Thursday.

We had a lovely time there, and despite the weather we didn't get wet at all, and I managed to restrain my friend from blowing her life savings on a robotic lawn mower (she now wants me to win her one) but I know you don't want to hear about  the plants and the flowers, do you? You want to hear about the competitions!

One of the first stalls we passed  had a competition to win £100 worth of tools. I immediately started to fill in a form, but my friend said "I haven't brought a pen." I'd been prepared for that - she isn't a comper, after all - and silently handed her my spare one. After that we both scoured the stalls for competitions, but the only other one we could find to be entered there and then was on the Spear & Jackson stall, with a prize of a pair of tickets to Kew Gardens. The leaflet said it could be sent in by post, so I looked around for a handful to grab for my friends,  but they were being closely guarded by the young ladies on the stall who were handing each visitor a clipboard with just ONE form clipped to it.

There were very few competitions there, but I did bring home a (very) few that could be entered online, so here is a round up:

Trailfinders at their brilliant, Best in Show winning,  Australian garden, leaflets were being handed out with an ef for a draw to win a trip to the Australian rainforest. However you can also enter at and it closes on June 30th.

The Telegraph  were giving out a leaflet directing you to where you can win a trip to the Tatton Park Flower Show with three nights in Cheshire. an iPad mini and 5 x £25 iTunes voucher. This closes on June 9th.

Hillier Garden Centres  gave out a free magazine offering a prize of a pair of tickets to the Coronation Festival. Enter at - they don't give a closing date but say the winner will be chosen on June 10th.

And just to prove that we DID look at  the amazing plants and flowers on display, here is a little montage of some of my photos, put together with a piece of software called CollageIt that I won earlier this week.

Thursday 23 May 2013

A Moo-vellous giveaway from Chocolate Log Blog

There's no chocolate involved in the latest competition over at Chocolate Log Blog -  this time the prize it totally non-fattening! It's a set of Moo business cards. Not the long thin ones that many of us associate with Moo, but classic, standard sized ones.

Are you thinking "But I don't have a business"? Well, if you are a blogger, how about getting some cards made up for  your blog? Or if you are a comper, getting some personal ones made up? You've probably been into restaurants and bars where there is a bowl on the counter with a sign saying "Drop your business card in here to be entered into our monthly draw", and often at big shows like the Ideal Home show you can use them for entering competitions too.

For your chance to win. head over to the competition page and follow the steps in the Rafflecopter widget. The competition closes on June 19th. 

Wednesday 22 May 2013

You are now entering a restricted zone.....

Recently several people have asked me if it is legal for a promoter to say they will only accept competition entries from a certain region. For instance, some competitions are only open to Scottish residents, and others to the circulation area of a local newspaper (if you do competitions on radio station websites, check the rules very carefully - it is quite common for them to say the competition is only open to listeners living in the BROADCAST area of the station - the fact that you can live in Cornwall and listen to a radio station based in Glasgow is beside the point!).

Well, yes, it IS legal. In fact it is legal to specify not just the geographical location, but the age and gender of entrants - it's as if the age of equal opportunities had never dawned! Why is this? Well, there are lots of reasons:
  • The law. For instance in Scotland, the law about marketing alcohol is different from that in the rest of the UK. And there are laws about marketing certain items to minors which mean they can't enter most adult competitions.
  • The prize. If the prize is a Club 18-30 holiday, or a Saga holiday, then only the age groups those holidays are sold to will be able to enter. If the prize is a day at a women-only spa, men may not be allowed to enter, unless the promoter intends a male winner giving it as a gift. I once saw a competition for a breast enlargement operation. Unsurprisingly, only women were allowed to enter (although I've met a few men who could usefully win a reduction....)
  • The sponsor. Even if the prize isn't something that would affect whether there were any restrictions on who can enter, if the sponsor is, for instance, an alcohol company or one that sells insurance to over 50s, they may want or need to specify who can enter.
  • The location. If the prize is to be collected locally, from a newspaper office or a farm shop, or if the promoter is one like a local newspaper, radio station, salon or delivery service then it is reasonable for them to only accept entries from their area.
  • The  target audience. For instance, magazines such as Loaded,  People's Friend, Gay Times and Mother and Baby would have very different target audiences, and while competitions in such specific publications are usually open to all, they would be within their rights to restrict the entrants.
So all these restrictions are fine - on one condition. They must be made clear before you enter. This normally means they have to be in the terms and conditions, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking them. You soon get tuned in to the old familiar phrases so that anything a little out of the ordinary leaps out as you speed-read through them. If nothing is mentioned in the entry details or rules, and then after winning something you are told, "I'm sorry, we can't award you the prize because you are female and over 50" then you have valid grounds for complaint.

Just asking your sex and age group on the entry form isn't enough - that is usually done just to help them get feedback and target future promotions, or to sort your data for selling on if you haven't opted out of that. Giving your real (ish) age won't - or at least SHOULD'T - affect your chance of winning unless an age group for entrants has been clearly stated, in which case  your entry won't be accepted.

Are all these restrictions a bad thing then? Not necessarily. Why? Because the more restrictions there are, the fewer people are able to enter. And the fewer people who enter, the better YOUR chances are, as long as you fit the entry criteria. Just by specifying men only or women only, half of your potential opposition has been wiped out at a stroke!

The moral of all this is to check for restrictions - if you don't qualify to enter, then it isn't worth trying, but if you DO qualify, then enter that restricted zone, it could give you a great chance of a win.

Another chance to win cupcakes and cookies for a Rockin' Dad

Mama Jewels are looking for the Dad of the Month. And to encourage you to nominate a Dad, they are giving you a chance to win a box of hand made cupcakes and cookies.

Enter through their Facebook page, using the Rafflecopter form to tell them why your man rocks and to email them a photo of him with the kids. You have until June 15th to submit your entry.

Monday 20 May 2013

Win a Tablet!

The lovely blog A Slice of Lemon's Cake and DGM have got together to give you a chance to win a DGM T-909 Android Tablet. For your chance to win, head over to the competition page and follow the steps, leaving a comment for each one as you complete it. You can get extra entries for daily tweets, too.

The competition will close when DGM reaches 2,200 followers on Twitter, so hurry, as when word gets out about this super prize they'll soon reach that figure!

My TV appearances - postponed

A short while ago, I told you that I was going to be featured, talking about comping, on two episodes of the TV series "Something for Nothing", scheduled to be shown this Wednesday, May 22nd, and next. However there was no sign of them in any of the online and printed TV guides this week so I contacted the production company, who say they have been put back to a yet-to-be-specified date in July. I will let you all know as soon as I have any further info - in the meantime, cancel any recordings you have set!

Win a desk fan worth over £250!

Is it going to be a long hot summer? I think after this miserable spring (it's nearly the end of May and feels more like March) we all deserve one! But because hot weather seems to appear out of the blue, we never seem to be prepared for it. We just don't get enough hot days for us to have air-conditioned homes, so when it's lovely and hot  and sunny, being indoors whether to work or to sleep can be sticky and uncomfortable.

But Your Holiday TV have the answer - they are giving away a super-stylish Hunter desk fan worth over £250. The classic retro styling and super-quiet performance mean you can use it anywhere in the home. To enter the competition, go to their home page and follow the Competition link at the top of the page. Answer the question - you'll find the answer in the text - and add your name and address in the answer box  too.

You can enter once per person and the competition closes on June 14th.

Competition: Three pairs of Cheeky Shoes to be won

Have you heard of Cheeky Shoes yet? They are incredibly comfortable shoes in fun, zingy colours

They sent me a pair to try and they are wonderfully comfortable - just like wearing slippers, only with soles that work outdoors. Great for shopping, for sightseeing, for family days out, for any time when you want your feet to be as comfortable as possible yet not look frumpy.

Now I've tried them and loved them, they've given me THREE pairs to give away. There are lots of ways to enter - just follow any or all of the steps in the simple Rafflecopter form below. If you are not familiar with Rafflecopter, take a look at my step-by-step guide to using it (but don't forget the competitions I mentioned in it are now closed)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The competition closes at midnight on Sunday May 19th and I will contact the winners the next day, so be ready with your choice of size and colour in case the winner is YOU!

Friday 17 May 2013

Pruning the Pages on Facebook

Some time ago, I wrote about how to prune the pages you like on Facebook, but the method has completely changed now so here's the new way to do it.

Why would you want to reduce the number of pages you follow? Well, if you keep on liking new pages in order to enter competitions, you can end up following several thousand  pages - and that means you hardly ever see anything that any of them says. So it's a good idea to go through them from time to time and unlike the ones you are no longer interested in. Then when you look at your  Pages Feed, it won't take you too long to scroll through all the updates from the pages you follow, and you won't miss news, great offers, new competitions or even an announcement that YOU have won one of their competitions!

However visiting each page individually to unlike it could take a VERY long time, so here is a quicker way to do it.

To start unliking pages, go to your home page - the one with your cover photo on it - and underneath the cover photo you will see the words

Timeline       About      Friends     Photos     More

Hover the cursor over "More" and a menu will drop down - choose "Likes" from this and all the pages you like will be listed, each as a separate square. For each one, hover the cursor over the top right hand corner of the square and the "Liked" button appears. Hovering over this will bring up a menu with "unlike" at the bottom. Click on that and you've unliked the page - job done. It can take a long time to go through all the pages you've liked, but you don't need to do it all in one go. And don't worry about unliking too many pages - if you realise that you've unliked one you didn't want to, it's easy enough just to go back to the page and like them again.

To help you to choose which pages to unlike, it's worth remembering that the ones you've liked most recently appear at the top, so the further down the list you go, the more likely you are to have lost interest in the page. Some of the oldest pages, at the bottom of the list, may not even be active any more. While sorting out my own likes, I found a whole cluster of them that had been set up for a particular competition, three years ago! If you are unsure about a page, and want to check whether you still want to like it or not, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on the name. That way it will open up in a new tab and you don't need  to worry about losing your place on your Likes list when you go to take a look at it.

This same little menu on each page's square gives you other options too - you can select "show in news feed" if you want to see that page's updates in your own news feed rather than just your pages feed, and you can select "Add to interest lists" if that page is one connected, for instance, to one of your hobbies, or one that sells a particular kind of product. If you want to keep an eye on the updates from a particular page, yet don't them appearing in your news or pages feeds, adding them to a list and then unliking them means that you just need to look at your list to see what's going on there.

However there's one page I hope you WON'T unlike, and that's Grape Vine's very own brand new page!

Another chance to win a Wood Burning Stove

HotPrice Fireplaces are giving you a chance to win a Wood Burning Stove - maybe something we wouldn't be thinking about in the middle of May, but this year the thought of huddling around a cosy stove is very attractive indeed!

For a chance to win, Like their Facebook page and then Share this photo (make sure you share it, as they will be picking the winner from the list of sharers). You can also comment on why you would like a wood burning stove.

Make sure your share is set to "Public" when you share, or the HotPrice Fireplaces people won't be able to see that you've shared it. This applies to any time you share something as a competition entry on Facebook. You can check that it is public by looking at the bottom of the box that opens up when you click on the Share button. Next to the Share and Cancel buttons, it should say Public. If it says anything else, use the arrowhead at the side of the word to open up a menu where you can change it.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Top Ten Tips for Comping Success

Are you going through a lean spell? Winning less than you used to? Or new to comping and yet to start winning anything much at all? Well, here are my top ten tips to get those prizes rolling in and KEEP them rolling in!

  1. Less is More. The fewer other entries there are, the more chance you have of winning. So always be on the look out for potentially low entry competitions. By all means enter those that are heavily promoted online, on TV, shared on popular forums and advertised in magazines, but bear in mind that every time you see it mentioned, many other people will also have seen it. If you see one run  on a Facebook page with only a few followers, or using a Rafflecopter widget where the number of entries so far is in the dozens rather than the thousands, you can be sure not many people know about it.
  2. Look Locally. Local newspapers, regional magazines, shopping centres, local community websites -  they all run competitions and sometimes don't even have enough entries to give all the prizes away. A big shopping centre that people will drive miles to might get tens of thousands of entries to one of their competitions - a small local mall might only get a couple of dozen.
  3. Don't Scorn the Small Stuff. Especially if there is a lot of it!  If a competition has just one prize worth £1,000 and gets 1000 entries, your chance of winning is 1 in 1,000. But if they have spent the same budget to buy 100 prizes and there are still 1,000 entries, your chance shoots up to 1 in 10. And in real life, that £1,000 prize will attract a lot more entries than the £10 ones, so in fact the smaller prize could give you an even better chance of winning.
  4. Make Sure Every Entry Counts. Check before you hit the submit button, send the text or post the envelope - have you followed ALL the instructions to the letter? Have you made sure that you've obeyed all the rules? You can't win if you aren't in!
  5. Enter a Restricted Zone! Look for competitions that have restrictions - ones where you have to be under 30, over 55,  live in a certain region, be available on a certain day.... the more specific the restrictions are, the fewer people will be entitled to enter. If, for instance, you find a competition that is open to only men or only women, 50% of your potential opposition is ruled out immediately!
  6. Serve up Some Special Skills. Creating a recipe, taking a photo, making a video, writing a blog post, playing a computer game (as long as it is hacker proof) - all of these tasks will put people off entering. You don't have to be super-skilled, leave that to professionals who have competitions of their own in their fields to enter - just an enthusiastic amateur. The extra effort involved means that fewer people will enter, giving you more chance to win.
  7. Enter, Enter, Enter - but only if you are allowed to! Modern technology makes it very easy for promoters to check for, and remove, multiple entries if they are not allowed.  But at the same time, don't become obsessed with getting as many entries as you can for particular competitions. After all, only one entry will be the winning one, however many of yours are in the pot. There isn't time to enter every competition out there, and putting all your comping eggs into one basket can lead to disappointment. If you want to enter several times, try spreading your entries out over the course of the competition, so that wherever the randomiser picking the entries hits, you have one nearby!
  8. Short is Sweet. The shorter the time a competition runs for, the fewer entries there will be. Sometimes, especially on Facebook and Twitter, a competition may run for as little as an hour. Far fewer people will spot it and enter it than one that runs for a month!
  9. Pick Peculiar Prizes. Not many people are going to want to win, for instance, specialist hobby equipment, a meal in a local restaurant, accessories for a certain brand of car. If you spot a prize on offer that is going to be irrelevant to a large section of the population but appeals to YOU, go for it!
  10. The Harder it is to Enter, the Easier it is to Win. Lots of compers just want to click and go,  whizzing through as many entries as possible. So anything requiring some thought, time or patience will put them off. A slogan to write, a crossword to complete, even a particularly long and complicated looking entry form, will reduce the number of entries - and that will improve YOUR chances!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Cook to win an apron signed by Michel Roux Jr

Everything you need to know about this fun competition is in the photos - click on them to enlarge them so that you don't miss anything. I'm just about to make a dish of slow roast belly pork with flageolet beans - look out for a photo of it on Twitter soon!

Win a £50 gift voucher with Ask Her Friends

Ask Her Friends has been getting members of their Bloggers Panel to choose gift sets, and now they want YOU to help them pick the best one. All the gift sets are pictured on their competition page  and all you need to do is comment to say which is your favourite and then complete the Rafflecopter form, to be in with a chance of winning a £50 gift voucher. You have until May 29th to enter.

The gift sets are all so good you'll have a hard time choosing which you like best, but this is one gift that really speaks to me......


Supermarket radio can be extremely frustrating for compers. Take today for instance..... this is what I heard:

And now we're going to bring you news of a great competition we are running with
Customer announcement - will the owner of car registration AB 12 CDE please move it as it is causing an obstruction
who are giving you the chance to win one of five amazing holidays to
Staff announcement - will a first aider please go to checkout 25,  first aider to checkout 25 please
Simply pick up a pack today, and enter the details from your receipt online at
Staff announcement - Mr Wilson please call extension 123
Now let's get riiiiiiight back to the music!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Win a holiday to Greece with Kiddicare

Kiddicare has teamed up with luxury family holiday specialist Mark Warner to win a 5* family holiday in the Greek sunshine, worth over £3,500.

A lucky family of four will win an exclusive competition for a week’s stay at 5* Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes, Greece, where all the activities you could dream of are on offer. Also included in this amazing prize is £250 to spend on beauty treatments or childcare at the resort AND a £250 Kiddicare gift card for all your family holiday essentials.

What else? British Airways flights from Heathrow, transfers, half board accommodation, tennis, fitness programme, sailing and windsurfing with tuition, free childcare for 2-17 year olds (chargeable from 2 months-2 years).

This incredible competition closes on 26th May 2013. Simply enter via on the competition form here.

Monday 13 May 2013

Competition: Win a set of Kitchen Tools

Find Me A Gift have a great range of gifts for all occasions and to suit every taste. Many of their household accessories are quirky yet really useful, like this super set of Click N Cook tools

I store all my kitchen tools in a large stone jar and the handles are constantly getting jammed together - but using just one handle means that jams are no longer possible. A great idea!

I have one of these sets, worth £29.95, to give away. Just follow one or more of the steps in the Rafflecopter widget - if you do them all, you have four chances to win.

The competition closes at midnight on Sunday May 12th (I hope - it's never that easy to tell what time you've set it for until a Rafflecopter widget goes live!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday 12 May 2013

Grape Vine has a Facebook page at last!

Today I have set up a Facebook page for Grape Vine. I'm still working out how it works, how to get a Facebook button for the blog, how to be ME in one profile and Grape Vine in another, so please bear with me, it won't have much news on it at first. But I hope it is going to become a place where Grape Vine readers, whether of the blog, the printed magazine or both, can keep in touch with me and with each other.

I'll get a button on the side bar as soon as possible, but until I do you can find the page here - see you there!

Saturday 11 May 2013

Win the Pink Whisk Guide to Cake Making

Here is another lovely competition from Chocolate Log Blog. This time there are two prizes, each of a copy of the lovely book, the Pink Whisk Guide to Cake Making.

Baking is very fashionable now, and this book contains recipes even an absolute beginner can tackle.
For a chance to win, head over to the Chocolate Log Blog competition page and enter using the Rafflecopter widget. And while you're there, drool over the gorgeous Choc Chip and Fudge Madeira Squares!
The competition closes on June 6th, but the sooner you enter, the more extra entries you can get for daily tweets.

Win Tickets to Mums Show Live and a case of Cho Gazpacho

If you read my other blog, Onions and Paper, you will have seen that I sometimes take part in a challenge called "Random Recipes", run by Dominic Franks at Belleau Kitchen (this month's challenge is bread,  and I'm waiting to pick a good moment to break the news to my bagel-hating husband that I'm going to be making bagels).

Dom is running a competition at the moment, with 4 prizes. Each winner will get a pair of tickets to Mums Show Live which is at Alexandra Palace from May 16th to 19th, and a case of Cho, which is a drinking gazpacho and sounds absolutely delicious.

To enter, head over to the competition post and complete the tasks in the Rafflecopter widget. But hurry, you only have until May 14th to enter!

Friday 10 May 2013

Victorian ladies

I've been meaning to make a card along these lines for ages,  inspired by several projects in old craft magazines. I  bought some sheets of toppers at the Make It show in Farnborough ..... not this year but last, and I'd not even opened the package until today. The paper is from a pad that came free with a craft magazine a few months ago and has been nagging me to use it ever since.

However I'm not really that pleased with the overall result. I'm really not all that good at "pretty" and I suppose however much I WANT to enjoy making pretty things, most of the time my heart just isn't in it.

So I'm submitting this to the Vintage-Nostalgic challenge at OLLCB - not because I'm proud of it, because I'm not,  but because I'd love to hear what YOU do when your hands want to make something outside your comfort zone but your imagination says "No!"

Win a man's shirt

I really don't know why I'm sharing this with you, as I know the shirt would look just perfect on my husband!

The competition is over at Yes Squire and here is the great Tuk-Tuk shirt they are giving away.

For your chance to win, pop over to their competition page and follow the simple instructions to enter using your Twitter account.

The competition closes next Friday, May 17th.

Those prizes you've never won - some suggestions for ways to win them!

A few days ago, I asked what you dreamed of winning and yet had never won. I've been through all your comments and made a list of some of the things people are longing to win, and looked around for suitable competitions. Is YOUR dream prize on this list? If so, good luck and let me know if you win.

I'm not going to say who asked for what, as several of you asked to win the same things, so I'll just list them by type of prize

A new kitchen

Oh, isn't this just typical? There always seem to be kitchen competitions around..... except now! The only one I could find involves playing a game of bingo! The game takes place at 9pm on May 30th.

A dream holiday

My search led me to a listing site I had never seen before, Jet Set Prizes, which specialises in bringing us competitions with exotic holidays as prizes. I'm certainly going to be bookmarking this for regular visits!

VIP Wimbledon tickets

Not VIP tickets, but still Centre Court ones, are on offer at Activ Instinct with a closing date of June 7th.
For real VIP tickets, head over to Costcutter, but hurry as this one closes on May 19th.

A year's supply of Nappies

Here's one you'll need to be extra-quick for, as it closes on May 12th. So hurry over to the Asda Baby Event to enter.
If you miss that one, Made For Mums also have a competition, closing June 6th.

A Car

I couldn't find any current competitions to win a car, but keep an eye out for the ITV competitions as their massive prizes often include one. Several sites list the ITV competitions, including  TV Competitions and Free TV Competitions

A Smeg fridge

Keep an eye on Appliances on Line's Facebook page  - they run new competitions practically every week and one is sure to turn up as a prize before long.

Tickets to a film premiere

These often run at very short notice, so keep an eye on the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of all the cinema chains. Total Film often runs competitions for them - there are no premiere tickets as prizes at the moment  but I'm  sure there will be soon. If "The Stone Roses" appeals, there is  a competition on Channel 4's dedicated website to win premiere tickets and tickets to private screenings.

An iPad

 take care when entering competitions for iPads, especially on Facebook as they are often used to lure people in to entering fake competitions. Stick to Facebook pages and websites belonging to reputable companies. One site to visit is T3, where  they are often given away (along with lots of other lovely tech gadgets) and there is a current competition on the Nurishment website for one, closing May 31st.

A computer

Well, if you win this competition from the Telegraph, you might have to put up with a holiday to Monte Carlo as well!  But don't worry, you might win one of the two runners up prizes of laptops. You have until July 31st to enter.

Well, I've managed to find current or potential competitions for everything that was wished for except a child's go-kart but  if you keep checking the Toys R Us Facebook page,  the Hamleys and Argos websites and in-store are The Entertainer (entry forms are on the counter in most branches) maybe one will come along soon.

I hope you ALL find lots of great competition to enter among the sites I have suggested. Good luck - and don't forget to let me know if you win anything.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Win a set of tickets to Celebrities on Ice

YouAndYourRights have a set of tickets to Celebrities on Ice which includes a Meet & Greet with the celebs to give away. To enter simply go to  and click on the competition section at the bottom of the page. One entry per person. Closing 9 June. 

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Like and Share competitions on Facebook

You must have seen them on Facebook, even if you've only ever visited the site once in your life - all those competition that ask people to "Like and Share" a post or a page in order to enter a competition.

Well, first of all I'm going to go right back to basics and tell you how to do it. And then I'm going to switch direction completely and tell you why you shouldn't!

To like a PAGE 
Either go to the page itself, and click the Like button that appears just below their cover photo,  or if somebody else has shared that page in your timeline, hover over the name of it until a pop up appears with a miniature of the cover photo on it and use the Like button on that.

To share a PAGE
Go to the page, either directly or by following a link in your timeline, and on the far right below the cover photo, you will see the word "Message" with a cogwheel to the right of it. Click on the arrowhead next to the cogwheel and a menu will drop down. The "Share" option here is the one to use if you are asked to share a page, rather than a post.

To like and share POST
I've just been doing some experimenting with this and I was rather surprised by the result. I'd thought that if I saw a post a friend had shared, and clicked "like", that I would be liking the original post. But in the test I did that didn't happen. So all I'd liked was the fact that my friend had shared the post. I'd suspected that was the case with sharing, as when I share something and then other people share it, the notifications come to ME rather than the original poster.
The moral of this is, if  one of your friends Likes and Shares something in order to enter a competition you can't enter by liking and sharing their shared post, you MUST go to the promoter's page and both like and share the original. Otherwise, the promoter won't see you - and you haven't entered!

Should I write "Liked and Shared"?
A lot of us suspect that our likes and shares won't show up if we don't say something, or that the promoter will favour  those who have commented over those who haven't. But just saying "Liked and shared" marks you out straight away as a comper - which some promoters don't like - as well as making it look as if you are too lazy or uninterested to actually interact with the promoter. Why not say a few nice words instead? Praise the promoter, praise the prize, say what a lovely page it is - most people who run like and share comps are small businesses who really value praise and compliments from their Facebook fans - why not them make feel good about running the competition in general and your participation in particular?

So, now you know how to do it, why am I advising you NOT to like and share, if it's all there is to entering a competition?


It's not the act of liking and sharing that is against the rules ; the whole Facebook system would fall flat on its face if there weren't millions of middle aged women like me all over the world sharing photos of cute cats - it's the running of a competition that involves Liking and Sharing that breaks the rules.

Facebook's  rules on promotions say that all competitions must be run through an app, or by email, or following a link  to a non-Facebook website. Running a Like and Share competition is against Facebook rules. One of the reasons for this is the number of fake competitions that  are set up in order to get a huge number of likers to a page, which will then be sold to a business too dodgy to build up a fan base of their own, Running a like and share comp can spread things virally so that tens of thousands of people like the page, lured by the promise of free goods that will never materialise, only to wake up one morning finding themselves following a page selling under-the-counter pharmaceutical products they have no need of! Clamping down on like and share competitions helps to stop the spread of these fake pages, but Facebook has two ways of doing it. Sometimes they remove the page running the competition, and sometimes they penalise the page by removing all the people who have liked and shared it! And being such a huge organisation, Facebook doesn't have time to research whether the page is really a fake one or a genuine small business who simply doesn't know the rules,  so even if you are careful to only enter competitions you are certain are 100% legitimate, you could find yourself with a suspension lasting anything from a few hours to 30 days, or even lose your account completely.

So, how can you protect your account? Well, the most straightforward way is not to enter any Like and Share competitions at all. But that can be difficult. They can be so tempting, and you often feel you want to support small businesses, especially if they are run by personal friends. So here are some tips that might help you to avoid suspension (I can't make any promises, but I've not had a suspension since I started doing things this way)
  • if you can't give them up, cut right down on them. There are plenty other competitions out there to enter, even if you never move away from Facebook.
  • when you DO enter one, don't comment "Liked and Shared". Say something relevant or don't say anything at all. Making multiple comments the same can get you marked down as a spammer.
  • Like and share things other than competitions ("Oh, so THAT''s why Jane suddenly started sharing cat photos, jokes and random scientific facts!" I can hear you saying) so the ones you do for  competitions get "diluted" among the other stuff.
  • Use your Facebook account for other things. Share some good news, some bad news, a rant, a family event. Comment on a friend's photo, wish somebody a happy birthday. You might even enjoy it!
I've only looked at Like and Share competitions in the most basic of terms here,  but Superlucky Di has some blog posts that go into much more detail. The first looks at a lot of other reasons Like and Share competitions are a bad idea such as difficulty in promoters contacting winners, entries not always being visible and vulnerability to cheating.  The second is a closer look at those Facebook regulations, with some advice to promoters on how to stay within the rules and to compers on how to handle promotions that break them.

Saturday 4 May 2013

What have you never won?

Or rather, what do you long to win but have never won YET?

When I was filming for the forthcoming TV programme "Something for Nothing", I was asked several times "How many cars" I have won! After all, I've won lots of holidays -  I've lost count now but it's probably around 40 - so people who assume compers are always winning cars, cash and holidays think I must have won several cars over my 28 years  as a comper.

But the fact is, apart from a radio controlled model car, I've never won a car in my life. In fact I don't think I've ever even won a runners up prize in a competition with a top prize of a car.

I know of several people who have won cars, sometimes three or four of them, but it's the one major prize that has always eluded me. Older compers will remember the famous Joy Thorpe, who didn't win a car until she'd been a comper for 25 years, so I've even outdone her in the carlessness stakes now!

But there is one other thing that I would dearly love to win, even more than a car (after all, I'm no petrol head, I see driving as a rather painful chore). A goody bag. Not just an everyday promotional goody bag, I've had my share of those, some good, some bad, some amazing (if you ever see a competition for a goody bag on the National Geographic website, go for it!). No, what I want to win is one of those incredible goody bags that get handed out to people attending awards ceremonies. The BAFTAS, London Fashion Week, The Orange Awards for Fiction, even - and this is really a long shot - the Oscars.

Those goody bags contain some amazing gifts - books, perfume, wine, watches, even sometimes holiday vouchers, and every time there is an event there are competitions to win goody bags. I enter every single one I can find, and have been doing for many years. One day I'll win one....... one day!

So what about YOU? Is there anything you've been longing to win but just can't seem to succeed with? Why not comment below. you never know, I might just be able to find you a suitable competition to enter.

May's zulily cuties competition

I'm sure you're familiar with the form by now - find out what the month's theme is, take a suitable photo of your little one and upload it to Instagram, sharing it with the correct hashtag. So here we go with the details of the May competition from zulily.

Full entry details are at but here's what you need to do:
The theme is “Cuties Play Dress Up and the winner will receive  a £100 zulily voucher to spend on, a Quax round cow toy and a Juicy Couture wallet for Mum.

How to enter:
  1. Upload an Instagram snap of your little cutie playing dress-up in May
  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:
  • #zulilyUKMayCutiesCompetition
  • @zulilyUK
  • and either: #zulilynewbie (if you’re new to zulily) or #zulilian (if you’ve already joined zulily)
The competition closes on Sunday 31st of May. They’ll be shortlisting on Tuesday 4th of June and if you win they’ll contact you via Instagram comments. The winner will be announced on their blog no later than Friday 6th April. The Ts&Cs are here.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Win an iPad Mini and £250 off your move with Eco Movers

Eco Movers are a man-and-van removal  service based in London (how I wish they'd been around when #2 daughter was finishing university!)

At the moment they are running a competition to win an iPad Mini 16GB with Wi-Fi as well as £250 off your next move with them.  Enter (one entry per person) on their competition page. The closing date is May 20th.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Win £150 of holiday vouchers

Here's a fun creative competition that could win you £150 worth of holiday vouchers, thanks to Economy Car Hire. They want to know, in no more than 150 words, what your dream holiday would be.

To enter, pop over to their competition page and submit your dream, and validate your entry by following them on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. 

The winner will be able to choose one of three top operators for their vouchers, giving you lots of choice  of how to spend them.

The competition closes on May 31st.

As for my dream holiday, I've already experienced it, at the beautiful Bordubet in Turkey!

Win lots of goodies with Brabantia

Brabantia are giving away a selection of goodies worth £150 -  a Perfect Flow ironing table, laundry bag, clothes pegs and peg bag for the first prize winner and laundry bags for 8 runners up.

The competition is being run on Pinterest, but the full details of how to enter  and the terms and conditions are on their Facebook page.

If you have a WallFix, you need to pin an image of it,  and they suggest that you should
Be creative, have fun and prepare to inspire us! Maybe it’s a photo of a quirky way you hang your washing on your WallFix or maybe your WallFix is placed inside your garage or attic or outside under a carport or balcony?
If you don't have a WallFix, you can enter by repining any of the photos from their Wall Fix Experience board  but if you enter this way, you must add a laundry tip of your own in your comment.

Whichever entry method you use, you need to make sure your entry includes the competition hashtag #WallFixExperience

If you don't have a Pinterest account, you can submit your own WallFix photo by email - check the instructions for details.

You have until June 30th to enter and you can enter as many times as you like.

The Grape Vine monthly competition

I've only just realised that those of you who subscribe to the blog by email or read it through a feeder such as Bloglovin' or the soon-to-be-obsolete Google Reader  don't get any notification of when the new monthly competition goes live, so this month I'm putting that right.

The monthly competition has its own stand alone page - if you are reading this on the site, the link is at the top of the page, and if you are reading elsewhere it is

The prize, as usual, is a 6 month subscription to The Competition Grape Vine.

Don't forget to look out for the other competition I run! At the moment they are:

Win a Year in the Winnin Post club - this is a limerick competition, closing 31 May

Win a Set of Kitchen tools closing 12 May