Saturday, 30 June 2018

Prize unboxing June 2018

And so to June's wins! This roundup is notable for (a) the absence of the water bottle I won and (b) the awful face I make when my varifocals are sliding down my nose. I really must work on that...

There was also the matter of my Lucozade Made to Move win - but more on that another time.

In case you're wondering, the water bottle came from a local flash comp but didn't come in the post, so I totally failed to capture it on video. I'd apologise but I imagine you're over it already!

Be lucky!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The only way is down?

I’m in decline. You may have noticed that my blog posts are getting fewer and farther between. I’m likewise entering fewer comps, or to be precise, I’m entering fewer interesting comps.

A competition to win a £5000 holiday is, of course, interesting. But that’s not the kind of interesting I’m talking about. Most big-ticket competitions are tediously straightforward to enter and consequently have thousands of entrants. In other words, the chances of winning are very, very small.

That’s not to say impossible - I once won an iPad Mini from a pool of about 2000 entries, but that kind of success has since eluded me, and goodness knows how many comps I’ve entered since then. Not as many as some hardcore compers, I’ll admit, but a healthily obscene number all the same.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I prefer competitions with smaller odds. It’s not just that the likelihood of winning is greater (like, duh!), but the ones that are more challenging tend also to be more interesting.

Unfortunately, my wit has gone somewhat out the window of late. The spike in my first-born’s challenging behaviour is presently celebrating its six-month anniversary and I am wiped out. I used to be smart. I’ve got certificates and stuff. These days, however, I can barely operate a spoon.

Me, when I still had brains. By which, I mean hair.
As a result, I’m failing to enter so many of the effort comps that I’ve bookmarked that I might as well not bother with them at all.

But that’s not to say I’m thinking of quitting this game. Rather, I’m cutting my crack to fit my clock, or however the saying goes.

In my case, that means sticking to Instagram. To be sure, tagging and following is a pretty mindless way to enter comps, but (a) you can do five-minute micro-sessions when you’re grabbing a breather between arguments; and (b) the random draws are less opaque than those for Twitter comps (see Di Coke's post on the subject).

That last point is particularly salient, as it puts Joe Average Comper with 100 followers on the same footing as a comping blogger with 5000 followers. Well, theoretically, anyway. As with any prize draw, there’s nothing to stop a promoter from pulling names out of the hat till they find one they like, but I can’t imagine there’s that many bad eggs out there to make that worth worrying about. And in any case, I’m still managing enough wins to keep it interesting.

The bottom line is that this hobby is fantastically scalable.

If you want a hardcore comping session, then go for it. Enter hundreds a night if that works for you - it’s a numbers game after all. But if all you want is a bit of fun, then go where the odds are smaller. There might not be as many tellies and games consoles, but everyone needs protein bars and gin, don’t they?

How do you change your comping game when life gets the better of you? Do you focus on the big stuff, the fun comps, or simply pull down the shutters? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Mindfulness for compers?

The Mayday Bank Holiday was the hottest day of the year, and while I was out basking in my mum’s garden, I noticed myself enjoying a warm, if slightly unfamiliar, fuzzy feeling. It wasn’t just the sun radiating positive vibes - although that always helps; the long overdue family reunion helped too. But the clincher, if I'm honest, was firing up the coals for the first barbie of the season.

I hate cooking. And yet I love to grill. It’s not just that there’s something primal about it, or that my life zenithed when my first-born was ten weeks old and we barbecued for 20 days solid. There’s also fact that I love reconnecting with my prizes - in this case, the cute little Weber barbecue that I won a couple years back.

Every time I set it up, I smile to recall how it was, until recently, the largest object I’d ever won, and how it arrived on the same day as the least physically imposing prize I’ve ever received: a font.

Sadly, I must confess that said font (Thistle Creek) has had precious little impact on my life. Unlike, for example, the swanky watch I won from a 2015 Warner Bros promotion, which I was using to time the cooking, while sipping my prize lager from the last advent season, and wearing one of the brand-spanking shirts I won less than a fortnight prior.

And while I watched the children guzzle the fizzy drinks we’d fixed with the strawberry purée I’d also won over Christmas, I thought to myself: I’m so glad I decided to be lucky.

In the same vein, when I first started writing this post, I was wearing the sweater I won at Christmas, having just packed away the football shirt I won during the last World Cup and boxed up the night’s leftovers in the Happy Jackson pots I won that same year. This was after making my first-born stop reading his Roald Dahl book and put away his X-Men headphones, both of which I won in 2016, and washing up my wife's flask (won 2017). I’ve also just finished off the chocolate I won last month, and before I pass out tonight, will be applying the fancy eye serum I mentioned a couple of weeks back.

Am I a premier league comper? I doubt it. On the off-chance that I do somehow qualify for the top-flight, I’m very much a Huddersfield - standing under the armpits of giants.

Indeed, I’m in perpetual awe of the many fantastic - and more importantly - dedicated compers out there, whose drive to win the big-ticket prizes is plainly inspirational. People like Di Coke and Nikki Hunter-Pike, for example, spring to mind - and not just because of their success, but also because of all the work they do to support the wider comping community.

Next to these guys, I’m a blatant also-ran. But that's also cool. Comping isn't a sprint race; if anything, it's a marathon. I’ve been in the game for about four years now, and despite a few episodes of mojo fatigue keeping me on the sidelines, the wins have slowly but surely stacked up, and I can confidently say that my “winner’s luck” has manifestly embedded itself into my life. That translates to a constant reminder of what it feels like to be lucky. It also translates to feeling good about myself.

Some might call my win rate unremarkable, but that’s no bad thing! Unremarkable, means replicable. It means that anyone with half a mind to “be lucky” can make it happen! And once you've made it happen, soak it up as much as you can. Every prize is a happy moment made concrete.

To be sure, this isn't mindfulness per se. Nevertheless, if you take time to contemplate each episode of joy that literally passes through your hands each day, then you'll find an awful lot of cheer coursing through your brain. And that's definitely good for your stress!

Does comping make you feel like a lucky person? Do your past wins blend into the wallpaper or do you keep an active eye out for how they weave their way into your everyday life? How does that make you feel?

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Prize Unboxing April 2018

With apologies for tardiness, here's the prize unboxing for April. I also apologise for gurning at the camera halfway through when I thought it wasn't recording, and the ceaseless heckling from my second-born.

Be lucky!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

A nice problem

There’s a down side to comping: it develops tastes, creates needs.

Take confectionery, for example. It wasn’t so long ago that my idea of aspirational candy was a chocolate Matterhorn. That was back when duty-free shops the world over made like Fort Knox and stacked their king-size Toblerones like gold bars, and Alan Partridge scarfed a lap-full while driving barefoot to Dundee. Without doubt, Toblerone was the acme of sophistication.

These days, however, it's become a staple. Partly that’s because I can get my fix at Poundland, and partly that’s because I have over the last few years won a silly amount of top-end chocolate.

This year, in particular, my wins have become increasingly fancy (or increasingly grown-up, as my lad might say), culminating most recently in this great stack from Octo.

Clearly, this is made for posher folk than I. Consider, if you will, Exhibit A: this 100 g bar of raw white chocolate with salted pistachios retails at £8.50! Translated into Toblerone, that kind of dough would score a kilo of chocolate with enough change for post-binge Alka-Seltzer.

Raw white chocolate

You can probably see where I’m going with this - yep, it’s one of those problems that gets little sympathy: I’m becoming a chocolate snob - worse, a cocoa bore. I’m currently so flushed with the stuff that I’m sprinkling my morning porridge with goji berries coated in raw chocolate. I look like a right middle class ponce, even though I wouldn’t recognise a goji berry if I woke up in a sack of them.

My so-called problem is by no means limited to sugar and spice. I recently won some serum - man serum, to be precise. I was planning to let my wife use it, but at her behest I gave it a go. Which is to say, at her behest and under her direction, as I had not the first clue what it was for or how it should be applied given that my skincare regime had never graduated beyond patching cracked fingers with hand cream.
The serum I won
Fancy serum
And here we are: one week of half-heartedly following her guidance and the dry, flaky bags under my eyes are now just regular bags, albeit marginally less creased. Which is great - but given that childcare commitments mean I can work only part-time, the idea of ponying up £50 for another 30 ml of this elixir gives me the heebie jeebies.

That said, it could be worse. During the advents, I won a month’s worth of la-di-da serum for my wife. It retails at £200, which in terms of sustainability presents a lifestyle choice between slightly smoother skin and feeding our children.

REALLY la-di-da serum
Insanely fancy serum
Suddenly, my Toblerone habit pales into insignificance.

Has comping actually driven up your consumption of things you once considered luxuries?! Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Blurred lines

Obsession. Compulsion. There are times when the difference between the two isn’t so clear. The Great Oreo Cookie Quest is one of those times.

For the uninitiated, this app-based promotion is basically a scavenger hunt where you have no idea what you’re looking for. Actually, that’s unfair - there are daily clues, but in many respects it’s quicker simply to point your phone at anything and everything and hope for the best. (For a better description, see Di Coke's post.)

What’s up for grabs? Well, if you’ve time on tap, it’s easy enough to win yourself £15 of vouchers for the Google Play store. There’s also the star prize - a Galaxy J7 phone - for the first person to find all 390 items.

SPOILER! That prize has already been claimed, so if you’re planning to take part, you might as well put your feet up once you’ve bagged the vouchers.

That is, unless you’re particularly fond of obsessive compulsive behaviour, in which case, the pleasure of collecting items grows exponentially the further you progress. This is in no small part down to the fact that some of the items are nigh impossible to scan.

Take milk, for example. It must have taken me an hour to scan this one.

At this point in the game, I had fewer than ten items to collect, while the player in pole position had only one. So … everything to play for, right?

It had taken a few hours to get this far, and was plainly going to take hours more. By all rights, I should have conducted some sort of cost-benefit exercise with my time, but logic had plainly gone out the window by this point. By hook or by crook, that milk was getting scanned.

Thankfully, a kind-hearted fellow comper put me out of my misery with the following recommendation: froth it up a little and snap from above.

Ker-ching! Item scanned!
Proof that I scanned the milk! THE MILK!
I did it! I scanned the milk!
I must have spent just as long fumbling with Google Image Search, trying to find a hatchet that would scan - no easy task when the app thinks they’re all axes. My doggedness paid off eventually, but when I realised I now had to scan an ice axe as well, my heart sank. I must have pointed my phone at a hundred ice axes, only to have the app think they were hammers, nails or, on at least one occasion, a stethoscope.

By now, I’d reached seventh place on the national leaderboard - woohoo! Unfortunately, the player who had been leading the pack had managed to find the last item on the list. Game over, in other words. Except for the fact that I hadn’t checked the T&C at this point, and spent another couple of hours banging my head against the wall, trying to scan pliers and coconuts before having the common sense to check the small print.

By the time I downed tools, there were three items I’d failed to scan, and a further three I’d failed to identify at all. Which was more frustrating I couldn’t say; however, the sense of relief as I was released from my obligations was overwhelming. My shoulders buoyed as their invisible burden was lifted.

Now all that remains is to spend the vouchers - has anyone got any recommendations?

Have you been playing the Great Oreo Cookie Hunt? And if so, how have you got on? Let me know if you need any clues!