What I am about to touch on today is pch.com.
To most people, Publishers Clearing House is synonymous to sweepstake and being lucky.
The company has certainly made an impression in a big way with the public. Think PCH, and you begin to visualize their famous prize patrol making that surprised trip to the doorstep, flowers at hand and camera crew ready, and announced to the lucky homeowners that they are latest winners of PCH’s $1,000,000 sweepstakes.
So Who the Heck is PCH?
Strictly speaking, PCH is a company that runs prize-driven games, search and lotto sites. But it also dabbles in direct marketing to help sell magazine subscriptions and merchandise.
The prize promotions and sweepstakes present a nice platform for them to advertise their subscriptions and products.
In the sweepstakes games in the US, PCH is probably among the most prominent players here.
But could it be the sweepstakes merely provide a cover for an elaborative scam, or the real prizes actually end up with real people as they claim?
Before we jump the gun, let us go back to basic and see what this company is all about and how the operation works.
Publishers Clearing House was the brainchild of Harold Mertz.
He set up the company in 1963, when he struck upon an idea that magazine subscriptions could be better handled through mail offers rather than the then prevalent door-to-door sales. He also reasoned that multiple magazine subscriptions (versus single magazine subscription) could be roped in easily to take advantage of mass mailing. The idea formed the corner stone of the business model of PCH since then.
Four years later, the company introduced the sweepstakes part of the business.
Fast forward to the 1990s, PCH found itself the target of many lingering doubts and allegations from the public about its dubious marketing conduct, specifically on misleading information dispensed to the market on the probability of striking its sweepstakes and also on how the purchases made by consumers could influence their chance of striking.
It was a long drawn out affair and a settlement between PCH and all of the 50 states in the US was finally reached in 2010. Here is the link to the report made by a Senate Special Committee on Aging investigation, called the PCH Report.
It all started with the New York attorney’s office began to lead an investigation into allegedly misleading advertising campaign from the company, following consumers’ compliant.
Soon, 14 more American states also pursued the case. In 1994, PCH released a statement denying any wrongdoing on its part, but it also announced that a settlement worth $490,000 has been agreed with the relevant authorities and it would change its practices to suit legislation.
Under the settlement, the company is obliged to make clear the definition for “finalist” and other ambiguous terms it had used. In addition, PCH was also compelled to make open the real chances of striking its lottery.
PCH’s Better Business Bureaue Rating
The company gets an A+ rating from the BBB.
Of course, that alone doesn’t mean much. As I explained many times before, there are a few flaws when it comes to the BBB and its rating system. For one, companies have to pay to participate in the BBB program. Second, the rating system is not entirely based on the actual service and legitimacy of a business.
That said, since a lot of us do rely on the BBB rating to get a sense of legitimacy of a company, I do include the rating in my reviews.
Prize Patrol is a fabulous idea coined together by PCH.
Basically it seeks to bring that sweepstakes prize-winning announcement to the winner directly, whether at home, work or any other location. Since there is a camera crew at hand to capture the whole event, it makes for a “live” atmosphere when being aired for view later.
The concept was first put together in 1989, and soon these live reality-TV type videos zooming into the surprised looks of the winners after being presented with checks from $1,000 to $10 million made their way to our national TV as a form of paid commercial.
With advancement of technologies, you can also view such videos on social media sites and various websites. The company also used it with regular frequency as it pursued some acquisition propositions during its peak.
In 2013, it launched a television campaign ($5 million budget) whereby the usual Prize Patrol was seen to be visiting the classical characters from shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch.
While such gimmicks are the products of digitization of old videos, the Prize Patrol has indeed impressed the public with real appearances (or handed out prizes) on popular TV shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Price is Right.
The Odds of Striking Lottery
This could not be exact math, but generally the likelihood to strike a PCH sweepstakes can be roughly worked out according to the total number of people involved in the draw and the actual prize/sweepstakes on offer.
According to official estimate, the odds of winning $1 million per year alone are 1 in 1.3 billion.
The chance of winning will fluctuate over time and over the winning amount. Back in 2011, it was 1 in 1.75 billion for a $1 million windfall. Correspondingly, the odds for a $10 million win were 1 in 505 million in the year 2008 and 1 in 1.5 billion in 1995.
Naturally, it is easier to win when a smaller prize is involved as odds become shorter then like 1 in 223 to 1 in 80,000, so obviously the winning amount has to be factored in on any sort of estimation or formula.
Is PCH Sweepstakes a Scam?
I can offer a emphatic “NO” as an answer!
It is true that PCH has some fabulous prizes to give away to lucky winners, and on regular basis, but its biggest problem is how it communicates the real chance of the consumers to strike these fantastic prizes.
Take a recent sweepstakes for example; the odds of you winning a $10 million draw are 505,000,000 to 1.
To put this into perspective, you can start buying a sweepstakes ticket every day, and you need to buy it for the consecutive million years before you have any real chance of winning.
Partly because I am against gambling, but for the explanation above, anyone should be discouraged (or at least not get excited) over PCH sweepstakes. Occasionally taking an entry is no problem; so long you don’t take your chance of winning too seriously.
Will I Receive Spam from PCH Sweepstakes?
From what I know, PCH is certainly not into spamming (whether its own members or members of the public). Neither does it share your personal details with whoever keens to secure them without first asking you.
The conduct and practice fall pretty much in line with the minimum requirements as set out by CAN-SPAM laws (some argue that SPH even have a higher standard on personal privacy protection).
In fact, you can say that PCH is on the side of the consumers, as the company regularly launches campaigns to raise the bar higher, offering the public better means from spams invasion.
With all these being said and done, PCH never shy away from the fact that its revenue source is primarily driven by marketing activities, and the sweepstakes provides them a platform to generate leads.
As you contemplate whether to sign up with the site or not, be warned that the registration is going to be a long and laborious exercise with multiple pages to fill up. And true to the nature of its business, you will also be bombarded with a wide assortment of ads and offers.
Stay focus during the registration process and make sure you agree on offers that you have originally set your eyes on, no matter how tempting the other offers are.
If you think this is a real bad idea, click here to read about how to remove your name and address from the mailing list.
Is Any Purchase Required Before I stand a Chance to Win PCH Sweepstakes?
You hear this from me, NO!
The sweepstakes is the centerpiece of the entire business model, which the company used to good effect to generate leads. But no purchase is expected of you.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I stress that whatever you choose to buy won’t have any barring on your chances of winning a sweepstakes.
I Got a Mail Declaring I Might Have Won – Can I Trust This?
If you are not sure, read and read one more time.
In all probability, it could be an email from the actual PCH company, and the company’s official line won’t stray from this: “If you enter this sweepstakes and if your name is drawn, you might be a winner.”
Another fact to take note of is that the winner is drawn only on specific dates (just prior to the sweepstakes reaches its expiry).
Also, whenever you are invited to enter a sweepstakes, you would enjoy the same chance of winning like thousands of others PCH sends emails to (means you have a real slim chance of winning), no matter how the printed words on the envelope says.
Sometimes, clever marketers do words that sound real good, but just another gimmick to get your attention.
I Got a Call Requiring Me to Pay Money Before I’m Able to Get My Prize, Is This Legitimate?
While I can confirm that weepstakes from PCH are no scams, I am aware of the fact that there are fraudsters lurking around to take advantage of the PCH name and entice you with all sorts of con work by pretending to be PCH over the phone line.
Invariably, their goal is to convince you to part with your money!
Whatever your obsession about winning sweepstakes, there are two ground rules that you should keep at heart before entering any PCH sweepstakes:
Publishers Clearing House doesn’t notify a winner through telephone.
A winner is NEVER EVER required to pay to claim his/her prize.
If you sense that the phone call is not going right (or if you ever receive such phone call), you can also check with PCH at this toll-free number 1-877-3SWEEPS (1-877-379-3377) Monday to Friday from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM.
How Will I Know on Winning a PCH Sweepstakes?
Winning entry is confirmed in the form of an official mail or you might find the Prize Patrol comes visiting.
It will be either of the above descriptions.
No winner is going to be announced over phone, bulk mail or even email.
Again, you can’t rule out the possibility of imposters taking advantage of Publishers Clearing House’s name to push for their own illegal sweepstakes.
How to Stop Receiving Mailings from PCH?
If you find the emails sent out from PCH reach an annoying level of frequency (you can pass this tip to anyone who faces the same situation), just pick up the phone and contact the company’s customer service section at 1-877-3SWEEPS (1-877-379-3377) Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM- 5:30 PM.
Let them decide if they want to cut down the number of mail dispatched to you or they simply take you off from the mailing registry.
Should You Play the Game?
I never, for a second, suspect PCH being a scam.
It is a fully legit player in the sweepstakes game and the company actually makes good of its payment to the winners.
Innocent as they are, I can’t deny that there are fraudsters making use of the good name of PCH to con people of money.
My best advice is to stay vigilant and make sure that you are communicating with PCH the company, and nobody else.
I would not discourage anyone from participating in this game, but frankly I am not a fan of this PCH sweepstakes, as I was never able to compute the real chance of winning a real prize.
If this fascinates you, I won’t stop you having your fun and anticipation. But be clear that the odds of winning are really slim (even though it is real).
Undoubtedly, you will be impressed with the next winner, and probably feel the same thing with many others to come. Yes, one of them could be you and you would be impressed with yourself.
But until such outcome arrive, don’t pin too much hope on this probability game from Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.