Help Me Hank: Contest Confusion
Sweepstakes, jackpots and grand prizes -- contest-pro Janice Kelley says you have to be in it to win it.
"I know if you enter enough, your number is going to come up."
The proof -- her whole family just got back from a hot-shot vacation.
"I won a lovely cruise, a Caribbean cruise."
What’s more, lady luck also smiled on daughter Bethany.
"I love serendipity!"
The teenager won an Internet contest for $2,000 worth of jewelry.
"This is the biggest thing I've ever won."
She happily browsed through the cyber-store, but saved her winnings for two special events.
"Things for my mom and my sister's graduation."
And then it was time to cash in. Bethany typed the winning code and hit send, but got a message she didn't expect.
"It just said in big red letters that the coupon had expired."
Expired? Bethany and Janice examined the coupon's fine print, but found no expiration date.
"Nothing about time frame for using up the prize."
Hoping it was a mistake, Janice emailed the company to find out what happened.
"I got no response from that."
They called and sent a certified letter, but got nothing.
"I was disappointed."
Had the family luck run out?
"Her bling, bling was long gone."
Janice decided to take one more chance and as luck would have it -- the right one.
"Contact Help Me Hank…"
Here's the key, unlike a gift certificate, which must be good for at least seven years, a contest prize can expire earlier… if that's clearly specified.
But when we checked the terms and conditions of Bethany's, not one word about an expiration date. So we called the company to bring back the bling bling.
The company insisted the coupon was out of date, but admitted they'd never told Bethany about any time limit. We explained to the company -- no can do.
After that, Janice got a call that their luck had turned around.
"Very apologetic, it was all a mistake."
Bethany wasted no time and logged on.
"It felt good, I was glad."
And look what arrived soon after – boxes, bags, blue ribbons and white satin and a newly bejeweled Bethany, trying out her newfound treasures.
"Amen! I'm so glad we called Help Me Hank."
Bethany and Janice prevailed because they read the fine print. If you win a prize, make sure you know how long you have to claim it or you may wind up a loser.
If you're fighting a consumer battle, maybe I can help.