Tuesday, October 28, 2008

India-Today group Sweepstakes gimmicks

You receive a mail by post, which looks extremely personalized and says “You’ve been shortlisted for the final stage of ABC Sweepstakes with a chance to win RS 60,00,000. All you need to do is respond to this mail within 14 days and confirm your nomination

The mail will have lots of personalized document such as ‘Eligibility Certificates’, ‘business reply envelopes’ stickers to say YES or NO and more. Cover letter explains how lucky you are to get shortlisted for the final stage of sweepstakes and since only few people in your city have got nominated how close you are to winning a big amount. That looks tempting. You’ve nothing to lose but to respond and confirm your nomination. As you prepare to reply, you find that there is something for sale-a subscription offer or a book or something else, which if you chose to buy, your prospects of winning sweepstakes increases by several times. You will have an option of saying “NO” to this purchase, but what will you do? Risk your chances of winning a big amount by hesitating to buy a few hundred rupees worth product? Or buy it?

Reader’s Digest have been using above tactic for long time and after their association with Living Media India Ltd (the group that runs India Today group of Publications), the later also has learnt the trick and implementing it aggressively. We never know if anyone actually won the sweepstakes, but at a high level this looks like an attempt to sell their products under the temptation of winning a bounty.

Some observations:
1. The mail would say “you need to reply within 14 days”-but it doesn’t state the deadline (the last date to receive confirmation). That sounds fishy, because there is no mechanism to identify when a customer received the envelope and count 14 days from that date

2. Mail would hint as if you’re the only one in your entire town to get nominated. Reality is that they would send this to each and every person in their database, hoping most of them would buy the product, in temptation of sweepstakes.

3. There will not be a mention of draw date and when the winners will be announced.

4. When I received an online nomination, I confirmed participation, without buying their product. I was expecting a mail like “your nomination has been confirmed, we’ll announce the result on -date-”. Instead I got 3 more nominations and had to mark them as SPAM.

5. What is the point in asking people to confirm their nomination? No one is going to reject the money if they happen to win right? So can’t they go ahead with the sweepstakes and inform only the winners? Instead they spend around Rs 20-25 on each individual (postage, printing those flashy documents and brochures, business reply envelopes etc), which itself amounts to several lakh rupees.

What has been your experience in this regard? If you’re a subscriber of RD/India Today, you must have definitely got one. Do you know anyone who won big amount this way?

March 2009 update: IndiaToday group has also started running another form of cheap and spammy marketing measure- They send you an email saying "You've won a gift". When you click the link you'll realize that your gift actually costs you several thousand rupees- some useless and overpriced products offered to you at a "great discount" but still expensive.

If some unknown company was running this kind of campaigns we would have ignored it. But a reputed group like Living Media is earning itself a bad name with unethical approaches like this. They may have a small success rate-some people might end up buying those products-but the dent caused to their image will be irreparable.

Related: Supermarket Supersavings-Caution *


Mohan said...

I used to be a subscriber of Readers Digest for a long time. Yes, I did participate in some of the similar promos. I never won anything. But as far as I can recall, they were publishing the winners name, photo and city in subsequent issues. Not sure if that was genuine or some crap!

Mridula said...

Shrinidhi, your previous profile photo was much more pleasing :D

Bring it back.

ranjit nair said...

I remember how long ago we used to get a number game mixed with a promo for a mixer/grinder. You have to fill and send the number game and you could win the jackpot.But if you buy a mixer too, then your probability gets increased.So I guess it's not Readers Digest whos playing the game.

ray said...


I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘eNidhi: A professional amateur’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)


Kiran said...

I have been participating in Sweepstakes religiously for the past few years. As said by Mohan they publish the winner with their photos.. so the hope factor is always there :). Also i dont need to waste a single penny as RD pays for the postage.

In their terms and conditions they write that all matters are to the jurisdiction of Chennai (I think) court which makes it appear even more genuine.

At the end of the day sweepstakes seems to be a very hopeful lucky draw for a middle class Indian soul like me.

Who time i might win a Maruti Alto or a Hyundai Accent :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Mohan Ok, let us hope it is genuine

@ Mridula, I've replaced it with a slightly different one now- your comment please

@ Ranjit OK.

@ Ray: I see that you've been spamming around at many blogs. Anyway all the best to rambhai

@ Kiran
All the best for next time...You've been buying the product each time or used NO REPLY envelop? I think in RD for No reply envelop you've to affix postage

hari said...

This looks like a scam most likely.

By the way, the new commenting system on blogger seems to be excellent.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Hari

Yes-just like so many SMS based contests-no one ever knows if anyone ever really won the prize advertised...

btb that new commenting system wasn't working for me when I tried to comment, hence restored to regular version

Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
zaubeir said...

i got a same mail from india today n i am not able to recall my subscription to india today...I seems like crap

Shrinidhi Hande said...

yes- they never mention the selection criteria under which you were shortlisted...

Any individuals postal address they get, is nominated to "Final stage" and "Eligibility certificates" are sent...

Anonymous said...

Even after so many attempts and disappointments, there are people who still trust India today book club. I have drill down to see and learnt that it is a group mess for online product selling in the name of gift.

I realised that the meaning for the word Gift has been first changed by a familiar group India Today book club -:) in a meaning less way @!!

We will hate gifts if it is given in such a way !!!

Team - whatever you say, I am a realtime person who had spent a lot of money buying all products from them :))) and have got nothing for the past 1 year experience.... hold on to turn sensible....

Probably should block them upright with a legal firm in a while.

Magi Noodles...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Why are you reluctant to mention your real name?

Anyway comment is valid. Will add a line in the post about their spam mails which says "you won a gift" and you realize later: you gift is that you can buy some useless overpriced products for great discount...(mind you, even after all discount they are expensive and not worth)

Dalal Street Guru said...

The sweepstake offer of India Today is live even today. I recieved an email yesterday and clicked on, rejecting the promised 70 percent discounted Reebok shoes and track suit and a holiday package. The ultimate result, "We are not able to process your request" and return to the home page. I really did not try to find out what if I accepted the offer. But this whole process looks extremely fishy. Can we not take these guys to court for sending such offers.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

At this rate they'll soon be popular as SPAM Today

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Kaneez Sonachandiwala said...

It is fake to the best of my knowledge. I never reply to them. Why would I if I know I never participated in any such things. I used to receiv those mailrs in post evry year n my mother used to tel me. Why dont you write back to them. I hd to explain her each time that these are scams

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Agree, cheap tricks by reputed firms