I’m not telling you to avoid Christmas giveaways. I’m not telling you that Christmas giveaways are bad things at all. Before you participate in any contest or purchase anything as part of a Christmas giveaway, there are a few minor things I’d like to point out so you can actually enjoy what you receive.
Read the Fine Print
The fine print is the smaller print that you’re supposed to ignore, if that option is left up to the people advertising the giveaway. Disclaimers and rules are required to be published with advertisements, so the marketing folks really don’t have a choice in the matter as far as putting them there. They will, however, put them there in such a way that they’ll most likely get overlooked.
The majority of advertisers aren’t trying to pull a fast one on you, but there’s always that very small percentage of them who will try. How would you feel if you found out, after you won something like a Mexico vacation, that you couldn’t receive it because of something in the fine print?
Responsibility for Payment of Taxes
I’ve seen this happen quite a bit with charity raffles, but not too much with giveaways and sweepstakes. You, as the winner, may be responsible for payment of taxes. If you are, it should be listed in the rules or the fine print.
If you win a Vintage Telecaster Bass Guitar, for example, how would you feel if you couldn’t afford to pay the taxes for it?
In some giveaways, the winner is required to pay shipping costs. In some cases, the shipping costs can be higher than the value of the prize, depending on the shipping origin and destination.
Advertisers and prize sponsors sometimes use inflated shipping costs to offset the cost of the prize on their end. It’s disreputable and can usually be spotted, but it happens.
Equivalent Cash Value
Many sponsors offer an equivalent cash value for prizes won. Christmas giveaways are no different. If you think you can’t afford the taxes or the shipping costs for the prize you’re attempting to win, check the rules and other fine print. You may be able to elect the equivalent amount in cash instead of the prize.
Another option is to sell the item you win in order to pay the taxes and put some money in your pocket. I’ve this happen several times at a yearly charity raffle — a car was won and then sold to pay the taxes, putting several thousand dollars into the pocket of the winner.
And the point is?
Always read the rules and the fine print. It doesn’t matter if the Christmas giveaway is advertised in a newspaper, a store coupon listing, or online. The same rules apply almost everywhere.
[Originally published in December, 2008]
*** By the way, happy birthday to me, my 52nd ***