Today I had to go to the Bendigo Media Centre. It’s a strange little place, a combination of very new buildings and horrible brown-brick 1960s buildings, erected in the shadows of the main broadcast transmission towers on a hill near the middle of town. The centre houses the studios for the local Ten and Austereo networks, so the lobby is full of glossy promotional posters for the network personalities.
On my visit today I particularly enjoyed the posters featuring the local radio announcers. You have an image in your head of what these people might look like, and it's never, ever accurate. There's a reason people are told they have a good face for radio, and yet management insists on having them sit for lobby portraits. The results are often unintentionally hilarious.
Anyway, I was visiting today to pick up a quiz prize. I've blogged before about almost winning a Gold Coast holiday. Well, last week Mrs G pulled off the win on the quiz, netting us $300 worth of Snooze merchandise (beds and/or bedding). This is enough to replace Minion J’s bed, which was damaged by the removalists and is ready for retirement to the shed. We already have the new one picked out, and this weekend we'll set her up.
This weekend will also see the minions delivered to their aunt, uncle and cousins in Melbourne for a couple of days, and Mrs G and I will enjoy a date night in their absence. Date night also comes courtesy of some vouchers for a local eatery, from our last win on the quiz (the time we didn't win a holiday).
When I think about it we benefit from freebies of one sort or another reasonably often. For the price of a local phone call it’s very easy to combine ridiculous knowledge and fast Googling to get free stuff from the radio station. As well as providing us and the listeners with a little entertainment, we get a few treats and it saves us some money in the long run.
But I’m under no illusions that this is an impressive haul. I have one friend from university who has participated in a string of television quizzes over the last 20+ years. He’s been on pretty much all the big shows, and he keeps his brain in shape by calling in to Tony Delroy’s ABC radio quiz. His motivations for repeatedly entering big-money quizzes is that he’s good at it (he has a quick wit and an excellent general knowledge) and it’s a useful source of cash. He even describes the amounts he’s won as “karmic”: he seems to win whatever is required at the time, e.g. a house deposit, or just enough to clear a credit card.
As with most things there are those who take this business to extremes. For example, go have a look at Contestqueen.com. This site is a resource for the growing band of people who stretch competition rules to their breaking point in an effort to make a living out of entering competitions. This goes way beyond getting something for nothing, since the time required to do this full-time would not be classed as "nothing". However, given that the odds of winning anything in these kinds of competitions are far better than your average lottery, it’s hardly surprising that this has become a viable career option. Even non-cash prizes can be used as gifts (saving you money) or be sold on eBay.
Don't worry, I'm not about to submit my resignation and start spending my days clipping coupons. Those competitions leave far too much to chance for my liking, and they are really just a case of applying the splatter effect to opportunities offered by an industry which is simply advertising in a flimsy disguise. Furthermore, you would be pretty certain of seriously compromising the security of your personal information by doing this sort of thing, and I don't like that.
By contrast, choosing a game of skill that plays to your strengths can profitably reduce the odds against you. Participating is simply a way of making your own luck. Under those conditions I think there's definitely something to be said for investing a little bit of time in return for a little bit of magic. And don't we all deserve a little bit of magic?