An Inside Look at Magazine Clearing House Contests

Entering contests can be a form of entertainment for many people, who like the thrill of knowing there’s a chance of winning big money. Every day in the mail, we receive promotional items, meant to entice us into entering contests or taking advantage of some great deal. Before you run to the phone and call those 1-800 numbers, keep a few key thoughts in mind. Having formerly worked in the marketing sector of one of the famous publishers’ clearing houses myself; I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly things they can stoop to, to get your personal information and money. Some companies are better than others, of course, but having witnessed the dark and seedy underbelly of the magazine-fueled money machine, my advice is to run. Run far, run deep, and just toss that promotional flyer that promises to win you fame and fortune, right into the trash. Here are a few reasons why.

For those unacquainted with the usual magazine influenced contest, here’s the general lowdown. You get an official flyer in the mail. It looks pretty official, maybe even like a telegram, telling you to call right away regarding this or that contest. Intrigued, you reach for the phone, to see what the heck this thing is all about. Is this a scam or is it legit? These marketing mailers are designed by those in the marketing know, to pique your interest and get you to contact the company. In my opinion, these contests serve two purposes: to give hope to those in desperate for money, of winning something. Also, this clever ploy is to get you to buy something, usually magazines. I have nothing against magazines at all. They serve a great purpose in this world, informing us on all sorts of interesting topics. There is big business in the world of magazines. One way to sell them, like a host of other products, is through the mail. In every American life, some magazine promotion must fall. But how you respond to it, that is the question. 

Entering a clearing house sweepstakes should be quick, free and easy, but it seldom is. Throw away any promotion that charges you money to enter anything. No exceptions, end of story. Receiving calls from unfortunate individuals who were previously scammed by a variety of companies offering promotions, I heard horror stories of the worst magnitude. Beware of any company with a post office box only, and that originates from a foreign country. If money is asked for up front, just to tell them to remove you from their mailing list, send them absolutely nothing and contact the Better Business Bureau. Scams of all sorts are floating around in the mail system trying to emulate valid promotions, so don’t fall for them. Be a wary consumer.

Publishing house personnel from a bona fide clearing house will generally tell you that there isn’t any purchase required to enter their contest. Still, they will try to pitch you for magazine subscriptions anyways. You don’t get something for nothing, and since they cannot charge you to enter, their jobs are to get you interested and buy impulse items. If you want magazines, then ask what sized packages are available, and then call them back later after checking the company with the Better Business Bureau. The phone employees will try to keep you on the phone to go for a sale, most of the time. They are being listened to by their superiors and punished if they don’t do as they are told. There is a fast turnover in employees, as a result. If you are sick of listening to the presentation, then simply hang up. Don’t fight with them, as they are just doing their jobs to read the promotion to you from a script.

For those who just want to enter the sweepstakes, just realize that you probably have a better chance of being crowned King or Queen of England or orbiting the moon than actually winning the grand prize. The odds of winning are not at all in your favor. The phone banks that take your call are manned by huge amounts of representatives, working nearly around the clock; whose full time job is to enter you into the sweepstakes. If you want to win a contest, find some low-odds church raffle or other venue, and pursue that instead. If you do call to enter the magazine sweepstakes, your voluntary call to the company can put you on marketers’ mailing lists. The company probably has Caller ID, which gives the caller’s phone number on the computer screen. Ask to be put on the “do not call or mail” list, if you are concerned about your personal information getting into other businesses’ hands. Also, when asked if you have a credit or debit/bank card, tell them that you don’t. If you say that you do, expect to listen to long-worded sales pitches that are designed to keep you on the phone until you say yes, from my experience. In short, say no to promotions such as these to avoid the hassle of it all. 

And those extra magazines that are sometimes sent, that you never asked for, where did they come from? Those are titles whose circulation numbers are low, and need a boost to answer to auditors’ quotas. Having worked for a publishing house directly many years ago, free subscriptions are sometimes given to boost circulation and introduce the reader to the product. If you don’t want them, then send a registered letter to the publisher itself. The address is usually in the first few pages of the magazine. Tell them to cancel the subscription, and then send the letter registered (meaning it must be signed for). This way, the company cannot say that they never received your message. It’s legal when in writing. 

Most people in the magazine world are hard-working folk who are trying to make a living. Not all offers are scams, some actually may have some good deals. But be wary and proceed with any offer with your eyes wide open. If you want a simple subscription then contact the publisher directly and see what deals that they have. Make sure your subscription isn’t automatically renewed, as that is a common tactic, to get you to keep subscribing. Be kind to magazine personnel, and if you aren’t treated well, then take your business elsewhere. It’s the customer who keeps the publishing industry employed, and they value your business. Choose to buy from the reputable organizations, and happy reading.

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