Around Town

City man wins sweepstakes prize, pledges 55 per cent to charity

Carl Hartdegen grins behind his mask as he displays his prize from a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. (PHOTO BY ANN B. HARTDEGEN)

I had to smile when a letter from the Publisher’s Clearing House emblazoned with a legend “PRIZE CHECK ENCLOSED” arrived in my mailbox.
I was amused because I knew there had to be a catch.
Anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave without a mailing address probably knows about the Publishers Clearing House.
They’re the folks who run a series of sweepstakes featuring extravagant prizes as a way to promote the merchandise they offer – gadgets, gimcracks, household items and still even some magazine subscriptions.
The literature promoting the sweepstakes invariably tries to make it sound as if the recipient has already won a fabulous prize. The current jackpot is $100,000 plus a $5,000 per week payout for the life of the winner and (after the winner’s death) an additional $5,000 per week payout for life to a person designated by the winner. Many of bulletins which offer additional chances to win offer some variation of the award, oftentimes doubling the prize amount.
I know that, despite the optimistic tones of the PCH messages, the odds (one is 6.2 billion) make any hopes of winning almost certainly forlorn. But, the risk/reward ratio is so attractive that I have invested the postage necessary for the gamble frequently, as often as once-a-week (or more), for a long time. My ‘friend’ Deborah Holland, executive vice president of PCH, tells me I am “preferred customer” and a “loyal friend” of the company because I have been entering their sweepstakes for 27 years. In that period, I have only very rarely made purchases but apparently hope springs eternal at PCH.
I know that the odds of winning the fabulous prizes are ridiculous but, if you don’t enter any lotteries, you can’t dream of hitting it big.
So, I’ve being paying the postage to enter the PCH sweepstakes for decades. It seems like a small price to pay to be able to fantasize about what I’ll do when I come into a huge amount of money
Thus, when the special letter arrived, I knew it couldn’t be the big prize. I knew the winning number for the next big prize wouldn’t be chosen until some time in February.
But I also knew that each of the entry offers I have responded to has also included additional lesser prizes, guaranteed to be awarded to entrants who responded as instructed to each specific opportunity. And, after all, I have responded carefully to dozens of entry bulletins which promised awards ranging from $1,000.00 to $10.00.
So, even though I was amused by the idea that there might be an actual checque in the envelope, I opened it (with realistic expectations) and found an apparently legitimate checque, drawn on Wells Fargo Bank and signed by Deborah Holland.
For $10.00.
That made it easy to decide how to allocate my winnings.
I could, of course, spend my prize on postage stamps to fund my continuing gambling but it seems more meaningful to find other uses for my winnings.
Knowing that I will be fined for my windfall at the next meeting of the Rotary Club, ten per cent of the prize was already spoken for.
Half of the remainder was deposited in my charitable account and the rest was split between my dog’s account and my account to fund numismatic acquisitions. Every drip’s a drop.
High finance is always fun.


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