March 28, 2014

Always Enter the Contest!

The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center Lobby

When it comes to contests and games, I have always been pretty lucky. It started when I was nine -- I entered a Name the Parakeet contest sponsored by the kids' show Doodle's Clubhouse (for those of you old enough, it was hosted by comedian Doodles Weaver and was just marginally for children). I won a cool Ungar Woodburning and Leatherburning Set (which I used to destroy the linoleum tile floor in my bedroom) and got to be on television. We trooped up to L.A. from Anaheim to the CBS building on Sunset Boulevard, where I went through makeup and hair -- a super thrill for a nine-year-old. The winners were only on air for about a minute or two, but all our friends saw us and were suitably impressed. Plus, I got to experience the TV setup thing AND keep the prize.

Time marches on, and I forgot to enter contests. But I was always winning door prizes at events and games at parties. During the 1970s, at the height of the recession, my ex-husband and I were unemployed for a period. I decided to try out for a quiz show called Split Second. I didn't win the top prize, but I did win cash and the daily giveaways. The money came just before Christmas (and so did the prizes, which made lovely gifts).

In the last few years, I have entered various online contests and have had some reasonable success. I won an HP Photosmart printer just as our other one gave out, some spendy dry shampoo, and a couple of other bits and pieces. And when we moved to Las Vegas in 2003, I filled out a form for my husband at Target, and he won a shiny red Vespa. In addition, as many of our friends witnessed, I was pretty lucky at the casino games. Definitely won more than I lost. But last year's win was a real pip.

I entered a Twitter contest sponsored by AFAR travel magazine and Westin Hotels (a part of the Starwood Preferred Group of hotels). When they contacted me to say I might have qualified to win the Grand Prize (24 nights at any Westin/SPG property worldwide), I had to fill out a bunch of forms, get stuff notarized, and wait what seemed to be forever.

Then, one day last November, I checked my Starwood points online and discovered that 288,000 points had been posted to my account. Jackpot! This prize was worth so much I got a tax form for it! Believe me, the taxes we will have to pay for this thing will be worth it.

Our room at the Westin
My friend Allison and I recently used a small portion of this present for five nights at the Westin in Lima, Peru. It was pretty fancy. The food was probably the best food I have had in a hotel since K. W. and I were treated to a dinner at the French Room in the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas a gazillion years ago.

K. W. and I are planning to use the remainder of the points in Europe -- some of them at really high-end places. You know, the kind of place you wouldn't pay for even if you had the money. I definitely will report on that trip.

Moral of this story: Enter the contest. It's worth the time and effort. Who knows? You might win something cool, too.


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