Why I Fall For Promotional Contests Every Time

I have a stack of yellow Atlantic Avenue pieces for the McDonalds’ Monopoly game even though I consider fast food a heart attack in a bag. I buy more Tim Horton’s coffees in a week of their Roll Up the Rim promo every March than any human should drink in a month. And when the local hardware store ran an online Spin to Win campaign last Christmas, I logged in every day even though it meant playing an obnoxious elf game.

I know it’s pathetic. I know that I’m playing right into their hands like a mind-controlled lemming. But they draw me in every time with their promises of free food, free cars, money.

After all, I tell myself, someone has to win those prizes. I have as good a chance as anyone. That my chances of winning are so slim I have a better chance of growing another inch doesn’t matter. I might win. I might. And no one can convince me otherwise no matter how much they smirk and laugh behind their hands.

I revel in the anticipation of peeling the stickers off that sheaf of fries I shouldn’t be eating (but can justify because the calories will all be worth it if I win.) Will it be Boardwalk at last? Or only another stupid Reading Railroad? The collection of the different pieces is part of the fun. Peeling them off and sticking them on the game board provides a certain sense of satisfaction. (Even if I do have to let my husband peel the ones off his own food.)

These little games, stupid as they are, give me something to hope for. Maybe when we roll up the rim on this coffee, we’ll win the car so we can retire our rust bucket that’s held together with duct tape and dirt. Maybe when we peel this sticker, we’ll get the money we need to pay off our student loans or quit the job we hate to follow our dream.   

As Snow White tells bail bondswoman Emma Swann in the premier episode of Once Upon A Time, “Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.” That’s what really draws me in. It isn’t the prizes. It isn’t even the money (nice as that would be).

It’s the possibility of a happy ending.

In the last year and a half, I had dental surgery because my front tooth randomly fell out, my husband tore both his hamstrings at once leading to a slow rehab, my dog died of cancer, my husband lost his job, my truck was totaled, I had to take a job that makes me want to curl up in the fetal position, and I had to give up my horses—to name only a few.

Playing the silly promotional contests helps remind me on the bad days that things will get better. No, I probably won’t win the car or the money. But the rocky times we’ve faced lately won’t last either.

Tomorrow might be the day my husband gets a job. It might be the day I land an agent. It might just be a perfect day for no particular reason at all.

Or I might roll up the rim on my coffee cup and win $100,000. You never know.

What things do you do even though you know they’re silly and irrational? What little habits or routines do you have that for some unexplainable reason make you feel good? What helps you believe in the possibility of a happy ending?

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