Thursday, December 22, 2011

Somebody Has to Win

I have a part time job as a substitute teacher in elementary school. It’s not a very well-paid position. Sometimes, when a child misbehaves at school, I’ll say something like, “I’m not here to baby-sit. They don’t pay me enough for that.” Invariably, and I mean invariably, several children drop their pencils and their chins.

“You get paid for this?” they ask. Incredulity is written all over their little faces.

I do get paid, but not very much.

But that’s okay because I have discovered a way to supplement my income. You know those extra-long receipts you occasionally get from places like Wal-mart or Home Depot or Rite-Aid that invite you to participate in an online survey? In exchange for your time, you are entered into a drawing for a grand prize of anywhere from $1000 to $10,000.

I take these surveys.

So far I have won a fifty dollar gift card to Rite-Aid (a third-place prize) and a free entrĂ©e at Panda Express. I haven’t kept track of how much time I have spent filling out surveys, but I’m sure it has been worth my while. There’s no way it averages out to less than substitute teacher pay.

A few weeks ago I received a voice mail message from Wal-mart. A pleasant computerized female voice thanked me for completing an online survey and informed me that I had been chosen to receive a $40 Wal-mart gift card. I was also assured that I would still be entered in the grand prize drawing that would take place this winter. She gave me a number to call to redeem my gift card. When I called the number, all I heard was the same computerized female voice tauntingly saying,


That’s it.



 I am now involved in an e-mail correspondence with someone named Katrina Peters-McKenzie at Wal-mart’s corporate customer service department. It is obvious that she hasn’t actually read my e-mails. So far she has only sent me form letters about contest rules and regulations. But if I spend less than four hours trying to claim the gift card, and I succeed, the pay will be comparable to my substitute teaching pay. Plus, I am kind of enjoying myself.

On a visit to my parents in Florida one time, I got my mother started. We were in the grocery store and we got one of those extra-long receipts.

“You should get online and take these surveys,” I told her. “Somebody has to win.”

My parents are retired and on a fixed income. They could use a little extra money, I’m sure, and I can’t see either of them substitute teaching.

Well, my mother has taken it a step further. She spent the past year filling out and mailing in forms for the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. I’ve been encouraging her. Somebody has to win. Why not her?

Sometimes she’ll call me up and say, “I’ve got to make sure I’m home next Wednesday. That’s when they’re giving away $20,000. I told them I’d spend it on new kitchen cabinets.”

“Good!” I tell her. “Keep filling them out. Somebody has to win.”

My sister came to visit this fall. My uber-practical sister. We sat visiting in my family room one afternoon.

“Have you talked to our mother lately?” she asked me. Her eyebrows were raised.

“I talked to her a few days ago,” I replied. “What’s up?”

“She thinks she’s going to win the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.”

She obviously did not approve.

“Come on,” I said, “let’s go to Panda Express. It’s on me.”