The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) Ltd. (RD) publishes contests on a regular basis, ranging from monthly $5,000 draws to car giveaways and many more. Currently they have a contest “Reader’s Digest 71st National Sweepstakes” where a selected few, actually only 8 percent of Ontario area households, are chosen and have a chance at winning the Grand Prize of $500,000.00, Multi-Prize Draw of $105,000.00, Super Bonus of $50,000.00, Cash On Demand of $33,750.00 and a $5,000.00 monthly prize. There are also other prizes available in this contest.
This “RD” contest first caught my eye when my boyfriend (we’ll call him Bert from now on) received two envelopes by snail mail at our home. When he opened them he immediately queried “is this is a scam?” I took the contents of both envelops and told him that I would read the contest details and would let him know if this was indeed a “scam” or not.
The first envelope contained a letter stating “Notice of selection for ‘Bert’. Potential finalist to win an instant $500,000.00 in the third and last stage of the 71st National Sweepstakes” and was full of reasons why he should NOT throw his chance of winning half a mill out. It even goes as far as using examples of actual people who threw away their chance of winning. “Some people, like Mrs. Abbatt of Notre-Dame-de-Grace, Quebec, let their Prize Draw Number sit on a mantelpiece or in a kitchen drawer until time runs out… a mistake that cost her $32,500.00!” They “changed her details to preserve her anonymity and to spare her embarrassment.” At the end of the letter it mentions that he will be receiving a second letter shortly, which will contain his 6 digit “Prize Draw” number.
The second envelope, which I might note was addressed to Bert, was much larger and arrived on the same day as the first envelope. This letter contained a cover letter addressed to someone else (we’ll call this fellow “Ernie”), a Reader’s Digest Finance letter confirming that TD Canada Trust has guaranteed and placed a reserve to cover payment of all the prizes in the Contest, a letter containing the previously mentioned “Prize Draw” number which also lists the prizes that he is eligible to win, four cheque specimens (pre-print ballots with Ernie’s name) attached to some documents describing what to do to enter the contest and why he should not delay in entering, and finally two reply envelopes, one YES and one NO. The entry process is simple enough, all you have to do is place the cheques into the YES envelope, apply sufficient postage and mail it. If you do not want to participate then send the cheques in the NO envelope or just don’t respond.
At this point I am going to mention to you some of my issues with this Contest:
1. Bert does not enter contests nor does he subscribe to “RD”, so “RD” must have purchased his name for their direct mailing. There is nothing illegal about this, however, it just doesn’t sit well with people like Bert who instantly think contests like these are scams.
2. The contents of the second envelope were clearly mixed up. This I would say is a big “no no”. Bert received Ernie’s personal information, specifically his mailing address and his contest entries. This is a clear violation of the Ernie’s privacy.
3. Other than the “Excerpts from Reader’s Digest 71st National Sweepstakes” I was unable to find the complete Official Contest Rules, not in any of the literature that Bert received, nor online.
Now, if this isn’t enough to make you want to run away while screaming “GET IT TOGETHER READER’S DIGEST!”, then this next point will.
This morning I received an e-mail from “RD” regarding “Win a Honda Accord”. I was a little intrigued, not by the contest itself but because of the recent “RD” events with Bert. So I clicked the link in my e-mail to enter the contest.
This image you see is what appeared on my screen. HMMMMM…? I thought. What does this have to do with winning a car? (By the way, this is where I was able to access the “Excerpts from Reader’s Digest 71st National Sweepstakes”.) Being naturally curious at this point, I decided to proceed. The next page that came up was “Real Life is Real Funny”. What this page displayed was the “Real Life is Real Funny” book for a discounted price. I clicked Continue.
Here is where it became interesting, if I purchase the so-called real funny book I will automatically enter into the “Win a Honda Accord” contest. I was not willing to purchase a book that I would most definitely not find funny, for the chance of winning a car.
WHAT?? Now we are back to the 71st National Sweeps again. I am beginning to feel dizzy. I fill out my information and click “NO”.
Now to end my little (or, should I say, long) tale, I have to say this; Reader’s Digest’s 71st National Sweepstake seems to be a legitimate contest but I have quite a few problems with their direct mail deployments, contest rules and entry processes. Consumers in this day in age do not want to be solicited by mail, go through hoops to enter a contest or have to purchase something to potentially win a prize. “RD” needs to move into the 21 century when it comes to the way they run their contests.
And to answer your question Bert, no, I don’t think this is a scam.
*All quotations and references were taken from The Reader’s Digest 71st National Sweepstakes mailings, website and Excerpts from Reader’s Digest 71st National Sweepstakes.