Man Wins $100K In Contest, Then Loses It
Yup this is a head-scratcher… Hey you’ve won! Oh no wait a minute, no you haven’t… Um, there’s this little issue with the fine print. Talk about going from an extreme high to an extreme low! Here’s what happened:
When Theodore Scott, a self-professed 22-year work-a-holic heard of a contest offering a $100k prize in order to take a year off from work he jumped on it and to his surprise, he won it! Contestants had to submit an essay and a video detailing why they should be chosen out of the myriad of hopefuls for the prize and in the end the winner would be chosen by Facebook user vote. So happy Ted sends in his heart-warming submissions and tells all of his friends and even submits his story to some online forums hoping to rally people to his cause. He never thought he’d win but that’s exactly what happened. But then the unthinkable happened. He was told that he had been disqualified for breaking the rules. Unbeknownst to Theodore though he was not allowed to ‘farm’ votes by actively soliciting votes from online communities.
According to the statement, Mr. Scott had been disqualified for trying “to inappropriately induce members of the public to vote for his submission, a violation of Official Contest Rules” … In an e-mail to Mr. Scott, Sarah Tabb, an associate brand manager for Gold Peak Tea, cited Section 6B of the contest rules which states that finalists were prohibited from obtaining votes by “offering prizes or other inducements to members of the public, vote farming, or any other activity that artificially inflates such finalists votes as determined by sponsor in its sole discretion.”
I guess it says it in plain English, but not a day goes by where one of my Facebook friends is trying to get their peeps to vote for them for some contest or promoting some cause that they are involved with. It has become commonplace for us to see these pleas on a day-to-day basis and if I’m moved enough, I’ll vote whether not I know the person well. I guess where he overstepped here was offering incentives to vote for him.
The other thing that I can’t wrap my mind around is that after working for a ‘brand’ getting traffic to your site is a big deal and Theodore drove a ton of people to their page which is what the contest was designed to do for the company in the first place. The whole public voting thing is a toughy anyway and is very difficult to regulate in terms of where votes come from or if someone is voting multiple times. Once you involve the public in anything you run serious risk of losing control of whatever it is you’re trying to do, people will always surprise you.
Now Theodore claims that he never read that in the rules (who ever really does? It’s like reading an encyclopedia! I always click agree and just keep on moving) and although it was his responsibility to familiarize himself with the terms, he doesn’t seem malicious so it’s tough to watch an unsuspecting guy who meant well and was was eager to get a year off with his family fall to the letter of the law. And speaking of the letter of the law, surprisingly the new winner (chosen by the company, not voters) also violated the rules as well as did others in the Top 5 (read more here). If that’s indeed true then this Coca-cola subsidiary is in deep and it could be awhile before this issue is resolved.
The debate is raging on both Gold Peak Tea’s Facebook page and on a petition/support page setup by people who feel that Theodore has been treated unfairly. You can chime in and do some research of your own if you’re interested or just vote below. But be careful how you vote though, it may not count and the winner between the two choices may not be the actual winner at all in the end if it happens to violate our polling rules somehow which we will determine at a later date after you’ve celebrated.