News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Friday, 15 December 2006

National Prize Register - a Clever Use of a Comma

Despite having signed up several years ago with the Mail Preference Service, I still receive occasional junk mail. A recent example caught my eye and made me burst out laughing at the audacity of the company in question. If the writer were so inclined, he (or she) could be making a career as a writer or copy editor rather than a marketer of "prizes" from a spare room in Leeds.

After the initial greeting informing me that I was guaranteed to receive one of the following fantastic awards, the list of prizes was presented to me. The list, in handwritten font, was as follows. Please read it carefully, paying particular attention to the use of commas.

A cheque for £15,000, a Sony 42" Wide screen TV, £1,000 in cash, a Jeep, Omega or Rolex wristwatch, an Internet ready Dell laptop or £200 in cash.

Experience has shown that with such a list, the hapless recipient will always be given the cheapest prize. On this list, however, the cheapest prize appears to be an Omega wristwatch, available on eBay from £99 up. On closer examination, however, it is apparent that the cheapest gift is in fact a Jeep wristwatch, available on eBay from as low as £0.01.

The clever use of the comma is confirmed by the footnote at the bottom of the page which states that there are 100+ Jeep watches to be given away (in other words, about 50,000 of them) compared with one Rolex, one Omega and one cash prize of £15,000 (which has presumably already been awarded to a distant nephew in Ukraine).

To add insult to injury, the lucky winners of the Jeep wristwatch will be required to pay a £7.99 "insured delivery charge", a charge which for some reason is not required for those contestants lucky enough to win one of the five Dell laptops or the three £1000 prizes. This insurance cover is in addition to the cost of calling the 24-hour claim line: calls to the 0906 premium number cost £1.50 per minute and will last 6 minutes.

So, armed with this unmissable offer of spending £16.99 on a half-penny watch from the far east, I will be using my first class stamp (also requested by National Prize Register) to forward their letter to the relevant authorities in the hope that the owner may be encouraged to pursue an alternative career in the future.

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unicorns said...

A really useful article, thank you. I was fooled by this one. Having spent on the phone call I have won a Jeep watch. So what now? Do I do nothingfurther and save myself the £7.99 insurance?

atlanticwriter said...

Sorry you got stung.

Your cheapest option if you wanted to cut your losses would be to take no further action. You have not entered into any contract with NPR and, as far as I know, are not required to claim your prize.

Thanks for looking in.

Best wishes.

wendy said...

I have received numerous letters from various questionable companies offering grand prizes if you match your allocation code to the prize announced on the premium line. Knowing that it was foolish to call I wanted to confirm that my notion was indeed correct. All the expensive prizes are delivered free of charge and the cheapest item (MP3 Player) required you to pay a sum of money for the insurance.

My advice; throw the letters in the recycle bin!

atlanticwriter said...

You had better read the small print and see if making the phone call causes you to be contractually bound to receive it.
I'm no legal expert but your local trading standards officer (via the council) might be able to advise.
Sorry about that and thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

I have recieved 1 of thases letters at my own address but also 2 of them addressed to me at a friends address!!! i would like to know firstly where they got my details but secondly why they sent letters for me to a friends address! Any idea how i can get in contact with them, a customer service number or email address?

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