Thursday, February 28, 2013

Companies That Do It Right When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes when you win sweepstakes you will have problems getting your prize. It doesn't happen often, but it does occur. There are many things that can go wrong - the sponsor doesn't send out the prize, they send the wrong prize, or the package gets lost in the mail. I have even been in situations where I was told I was a winner, only to find out later that there had been a mistake in sending out winner notifications and that someone else had won.

Today I had two prizes delivered by Fedex. Both of them had delivery issues. The reason that I wanted to share this with you is not because of the problems I had, but because both of the companies that sponsored these sweeps went beyond what they had to do in order to get me my prizes.

The first company is Rock Bottom Golf (RockBottomGolf.com). I won this great pair of Tifosi sunglasses from a sweep that they ran in December on their Facebook page:


I was first notified that I had won on January 7th, and I put it on the spreadsheet that I use to track all my wins. I waited patiently, knowing that it often takes some time to receive prizes. I normally give a company 4-6 weeks to deliver, unless they tell me to expect it at an earlier or later date. In this case, I waited about 6 weeks, then sent them a polite email letting them know that the sunglasses had not arrived. They emailed me back to tell me that they were looking into it. Some companies, at that point, would have either spent days trying to figure out what had happened, or would have sent back a "Sorry, but we shipped those out to you weeks ago" email. Rock Botton Golf did neither of those things. Twenty minutes later I received a second email telling me that they were "rushing a new pair of shades out the door" to me that day, while they continued to look into the issue. I'm still not sure what happened to the first shipment, but I appreciate the fact that they quickly responded to my email and took action to get me my prize.

The second prize that I received today was from a Twitter sweep sponsored by Tivo (Tivo.com) called the #BestCommercialEver Big Game Giveaway. The box that came today contained a bunch of Tivo swag, including a great bag that zips up into its own little pocket:


The prize also included 3-month subscriptions to Spotify Premium and Hulu Plus, so last week they sent me the promo codes I needed for redemption. Unfortunately, the Hulu Plus code that they sent was invalid and did not work. This week I received a correct code, along with an apology for this inconvenience...and six months of Hulu Plus! I love it when companies take the initiative not only to make things right, but go even further and make things better!

There are two lessons for sweepers to take away from this:
  • If you don't receive a prize, make sure that you follow up with the company. Sometimes mistakes happen, but sponsors are not always aware when things go awry.
  • When you follow up, do so politely. The people running the sweeps usually want to make things right, and it will almost always work out in the end.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My #1 Tip for Winning More



This is the most important tip I can give you to help you win more: use form-filling software.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an endless number of hours every day that I can devote to entering sweepstakes. I have a list of bookmarked daily sweeps that I want to get through as quickly as possible so I can get on with other parts of my life. Some of these sweeps will require typing in an email address and hitting Enter, but others have long entry forms that require filling out name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, and more. I am a pretty fast typist, but those forms take a long time to fill out manually.

The only way to get through all those entry forms in a reasonable amount of time is to use a form-filling program.  With form fillers, you enter all of your personal information into a profile which is saved in the program and protected by a password. After that, you can fill out most forms with just one click. An added benefit is that you know that all of the information is correct, with no typos.
My favorite form-filling program is RoboForm. Most of the sweepers I know use it. They offer three versions: RoboForm Free, RoboForm Desktop, and RoboForm Everywhere. All three have some great benefits for sweepers:
  • One-click form-filling
  • Strong encryption of your personal data
  • One-click logins to password-protected websites (up to 10 with free version, unlimited with Desktop and Everywhere)
  • Ability to set up multiple profiles with Desktop and Everywhere
  • RoboForm Everywhere allow you to access your information from all your computers and mobile devices
Having multiple profiles is great if there are several people in your household entering sweeps from the same computer. On my computer, I have one profile set up for myself and one for my husband. I use them not only for sweeping, but also when filling out other forms online.
I have found that RoboForm will correctly and completely populate the form with my information about 90% of the time. Sometimes it will put the information in the wrong fields, or leave out the date of birth, or use the wrong phone number, requiring me to manually fill out or change a few fields. Even so, it saves me a huge amount of time. I use that saved time to enter more sweeps, which increases my chances of winning!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Best Win So Far!

In my last post, I mentioned a some of the things that I have won over the last few years. I thought that today I would share with you a little more about what has been my best win to date - a two-week trip to Thailand that I won from Starwood Hotels and Resorts and AAA. The sweepstakes was called the "Vacation of a Lifetime Sweepstakes", and that turned out to be true!

The prize included airfare to Bangkok, three flights within Thailand, and 12 nights in Starwood properties. I also received 100,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points, spa treatments and cooking classes at the hotels, and $2,000 in cash. When the notification came by Fedex that I was the grand prize winner, I couldn't believe it! This was my first big win, and it happened after only a few months of sweeping!

I won the trip in Fall 2010, but we weren't able to schedule it until June 2011. A travel agent booked all our flights, and I worked with a Starwood representative to schedule the hotels. Along with four nights in Bangkok and four nights in Phuket, we were allowed to choose any of the Starwood properties in Thailand for our last four nights.

After a long flight from Seattle to Bangkok, with a change of planes in Tokyo, we arrived early in the morning. We had decided to spend our first two and last two nights in Bangkok, so we headed to our hotel, the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. It is in a great location, right on Sukhumvit Road and next to the SkyTrain station. We had a great view from our room:

 We spent most our time in Bangkok exploring the city, visiting the Grand Palace, and taking water taxis on the Chao Phraya River. We did spend some time relaxing at the hotel pool, a peaceful and sumptuous retreat:



 After a short flight from Bangkok to Phuket, we arrived at our next hotel, the Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa. This was a huge change from the bustle of the city! The hotel is laid out on a hillside overlooking Siray Bay, with many of the rooms in small villas. There are several pools scattered throughout the resort, along with a small beach. We enjoyed a large buffet breakfast every day, and tried out all the other restaurants for dinner each night.




Starwood allowed us to spend our next four nights at the W Retreat Koh Samui, which had just recently opened. This was luxury to the max! The staff was wonderful, and the facilities were beautiful. When you first step through the lobby, you know that you are in for a treat:


Most of the rooms are in individual villas, with small private pools just outside. We stayed in a Tropical Oasis room:


And this was our back yard deck and pool:





 
We also loved to relax at the beach, and took advantage of these comfy loungers:
My husband enjoyed the view from his lounge chair and snapped this picture - they were doing a photo shoot on the beach in front of the resort!

 
After 12 days that were both exhausting and relaxing, we headed back home. We may never make it back to Thailand again, but we will never forget this trip. Thanks to Starwood and AAA for offering this wonderful prize!
 
I never expected to win a great prize like this, but when you enter sweepstakes you never know what you might win. I hope that you all have the chance to have an experience like this!
 

Friday, February 22, 2013

How I Started Sweeping and Winning

View from our hotel room in Hawaii
You have probably seen advertisements for sweepstakes. You can find them everywhere – in newspapers and magazines, at the grocery store, in your email – especially once you start looking for them. I have known about sweepstakes for my whole life, but had never really considered entering them. I mean, nobody ever wins those things, right? This changed about three years ago.

I’m not sure what prompted me to enter a sweep for the first time. It was probably because I really wanted to win the prize. Maybe it was a trip to Disney World, or a new car. I can’t remember the exact sweep I entered, but it got me to thinking. If it was this easy to enter, and if I had a chance to win something that I really wanted (even if it was a small chance!), maybe I should enter some other sweeps. And if I entered enough of them, I would be even more likely to win!

So I started searching the web for sweepstakes that I could enter, reading my emails, and paying attention to all those product ads in the newspapers. While it was possible to find sweepstakes this way, it was very time consuming to always be searching out new sweeps. I spent most of my time looking for sweeps, and very little time actually entering to win.

Things changed when I came across an online directory of sweeps. It listed all of the new sweeps every day! Having access to this list meant that I could spend almost all of my “sweeps time” entering, not searching. I also found online sweepstakes forums where I could ask about the things that confused me, and learn some of the best ways to become more efficient in my entries.

Within a few months, I had my first win. Since then I have won scores of prizes. My biggest wins have included:

· a 5-day trip for 5 to Disney World from Nickelodeon

· a 4-day trip for 2 to Hawaii from World Foods

· a two-week trip for 2 to Thailand from Starwood Hotels and Resorts

· a weekend in Boston for 4 from Oreo

· $2500 from Challenge Butter

· a DSLR camera and four tickets to an NFL game from Canon

I have had to turn down some wins due to scheduling problems, but have been able to accept and enjoy most of them. My family and I have taken some unforgettable trips, doing things that we never would have had the opportunity to do without my wins. Some of these prizes have included once-in-a-lifetime experiences, things that you could not buy, such as behind-the-scenes tours and celebrity meetings.

Once you experience the thrill of winning a sweep, whether large or small, you start to see how fun and exciting sweeping can be. There is nothing better than receiving an email that starts with “Congratulations!” or “You Are a Winner!”


My goal is to get you excited about entering sweepstakes, and to teach you how to enter easily and win what you want! I will teach you all the tips and tricks that I have learned over the years, while sharing some of my sweeping experiences.