NEWS

Peter Chianca: You may already be a winner!

Peter Chianca

Whenever I see those Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes commercials, I can’t help but think about how I might spend my $5,000 a week for life. For instance, I’d get an HDTV so big that we’d actually have to bring in contractors to expand my living room wall. That’s the type of thing we sweepstakes winners do.

The problem with that contest, though — despite the lure of free money and giant TVs — is that the average person doesn’t have the wherewithal to deal with the avalanche of stickers, prize tickets, claim stubs and other flotsam that falls out of your prize packet. While you’re going through it you can’t help but think you’re part of some bizarre social experiment, and the chimps who have been given the same task have been deemed smarter for stopping halfway through their entry and eating it.

But apparently at least some of the aspects of the old Publishers Clearing House have changed. For instance, instead of just dealing in magazines — because frankly, just how long do they expect people to stay in the bathroom? — they now also sell hundreds of useful household items, including:

* The Amazing Pocket Saw;

* Lettuce and Tomato Container Set;

* Never Released 1981 Susan B. Anthony Dollar;

* “Walking Thunder” DVD, featuring “John Denver In The Touching Story Of A Boy Becoming A Man!” (also presumably never released); and

* Socks.

Also, just to show that they have something for everybody, Publishers Clearing House may be the only company to simultaneously offer both the Praying Lamb plush praying child’s toy and the “Discovering Unforgettable Sex Series” DVD, featuring “Secrets Of History’s Greatest Lovers.” (Secret No. 1: Always wear your Greatest Lover medal when you go out to bars.)

But the most interesting thing I found out from my prize packet (other than the fact that someone with my initials, hair color and approximate body type will DEFINITELY be a winner) is that you can now enter the sweepstakes online at www.pch.com. And since to the best of my knowledge science has not figured out a way for you to put stickers on the Internet, this sounded pretty good to me.

And at first the process was pretty easy — fill out a little online form and click through. Then click through the page with all the magazines you can buy, then a page with more magazines, then the page with all the e-mail newsletters you can subscribe to, then all the special offers (100 casino chips for $1!). And then, just when you start to feel like there’s ammonia in your eyes, the pages with all the products start coming up.

So, no, I don’t want the Shed Ender Pro … the Tweeze with Hair Inhibitor Gel … the Hawaiian Good Luck Ti Plant … the Vidalia Chop Wizard … Hmm … Actually, I could sort of use a Vidalia Chop Wizard, what with its penchant for delivering beautifully cubed cheese. And at four easy payments of only $3.75, it seems ideally suited for its target audience, namely, people who don’t know how to multiply.

OK, so now it’s time to click through the final contest page, and sure enough, the little red bar starts moving across the screen, showing the actual progress of the high-powered Publishers Clearing House computer servers in processing my entry. And then, suddenly … “Would You Like More Information on the University of Notre Dame?”

The University of Notre Dame? What about my entry? There’s no button to continue, and the “Back” button just brings me to a blank screen. I enter my information to find out about becoming a finance major at Notre Dame, but that just takes me to another site altogether. Why do I get the impression that somewhere, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon are shooting suction darts at my picture and laughing their wrinkly old heads off?

Still, I suppose I should have confidence that Publishers Clearing House knows what it’s doing. I’ll just wait and see, and who knows — maybe on Feb. 29 a certain van will show up at my front door after all.

Although with my luck I’m pretty sure it’ll be delivering my Chop Wizard.

Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” (chianca-at-large.blogspot.com) and “The Shorelines Blog” (blogs.townonline.com/shorelines). To receive At Large by e-mail, write to info@chianca-at-large.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”