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Popular sweepstakes operates aboveboard

Published September 23, 2005

Is there any truth to the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes? Please accept my thanks ahead of time for your time and your response.

- Marina Lucas

If by truth you mean is the sweepstakes legitimate, the answer is yes. Publishers Clearing House has been around for a long time. According to its Web site, the company has "been giving money away since Jimi Hendrix played the National Anthem at Woodstock!" So feel free to enter. If you're lucky, you could be the direct mail marketer's next millionaire.

However, a word of caution is in order. You do not have to buy anything from the company to enter the sweepstakes and making a purchase will not improve your chances of winning. In January 2000, a number of states, including Florida, sued Publishers Clearing House for targeting the elderly with deceptive advertising designed to get them to buy magazine subscriptions and other merchandise. The company denied any wrongdoing, but since that time, the disclaimers on the company's literature that consumers may enter the sweepstakes without making a purchase have become more visible and clearer.

Clarifying Kane's strikeout contest

Like many other Devil Rays fans, I have enjoyed the coupons, available at Kane's furniture stores, for 10 free chicken wings from Hooters restaurants after every game in which the Rays' pitchers strike out 10 or more opposing batters. My question involves the other Rays promotional giveaway that Kane's is offering, a $1,000 merchandise certificate that is supposedly given away each time the 10-strikeout threshold is reached. When I attended a game in late August, there was a presentation before the game during which a fan did receive a check for the amount mentioned, but it was for a 10-strikeout performance in June. I have asked at the Kane's counter when I visit to pick up my wings coupons if I could receive a notification of the winners in the $1,000 giveaway. I even offered to provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The only response I received was, "If you win, we'll call you."

I thought companies offering a prize were obligated to inform those who enter the contest of the winners, if they request to be notified. It seems to me that Kane's has not been forthcoming in many ways with the winners and the actual contest details, which, as far as I know, are required by law. How often is the store awarding the prize certificate? Is the $1,000 amount good for merchandise from Kane's or some other retailer? Are these certificates awarded monthly throughout the year?

The answers to these and other questions are not clear. I believe that already this year there have been around 10 or 12 games when the 10-strikeout goal was reached. Why was a check for the June winner being awarded in August? As a Rays fan since the first pitch, I appreciate Kane's support of the team; I am just disappointed in the lack of clarity and seeming obfuscation that surround the awarding of these $1,000 prizes.

- W.L. Goode Jr.

In an e-mail, Bill Waszak of Kane's Furniture in Pinellas Park explained that this season has had an unprecedented 16 10-strikeout games so far. In other words, 16 people have won $1,000 certificates. He continued:

"Each contestant drawn is notified personally by phone and is given the opportunity to select where they would like to have their shopping spree. Only two of the 16 chose Kane's for their prize. The others selected places such as Home Depot, Lowe's, Wal-Mart, Sears, Best Buy, Tyrone Square Mall and International Plaza.

"The coordination of the presentations is the combined efforts of the Devil Rays, Kane's furniture and the winners themselves. The timeline of the presentations is dependent upon the availability of presentation dates at Tropicana Field, Kane's staff and the winner's ability to attend the dates available."

Waszak concluded that he hoped his explanation clarified the facts about the contest for you.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, e-mail or call your Action number, 727 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. Readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

[Last modified September 22, 2005, 09:32:02]

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