A Contest I wish I hadn't won!

We all like winning contests and prizes, don’t we? I am sure everyone does; we are human after all. But what I learnt after allegedly winning a certain supposed contest in the past month makes me wish that I don’t ever win any in the imminent future. For the sake of clarity at the onset I would like to mention that writing is a passion for me. I write for it helps me make sense of life and it also in a sense completes me. It would truly be an understatement if I were to simply say that I love to write. Therefore winning a contest or a phone or an iPad isn’t really the driving force behind my posts or my blog. My prerogative is to write and the rest is insignificant.

What comes to your mind when you read about a contest in any blogging website? Of the top of my head would be that it is genuine and that those sponsoring the competition are authentic too. Of-course, another added point would be that the prizes for the same are actually prizes and not something that a winner would have to pay for. So that out of the way, we would expect that the site hosting the contest would also be equally responsible up to the point that the prizes reach the winners and participants. But it seems that it is not always that simple and the waters are murkier than we’d ever be able to guess!

I am sure I speak for the entire fraternity of serious bloggers when I say that we do not like to be taken for a ride. And we certainly don’t like to be cheated and misused whatever the format! So my sole aim to write this post is to put across that very fact that we are not people who would take nonsense lying down. We have a voice and that like it or not, help certain websites earn their living! And if they thrive out of us bloggers writing and actively taking part in events, contests and reviews organised by them, then we deserve to be respected!

What would you think of the authenticity of a website that holds a contest and later shirks off all responsibility when the sponsor comes up with new and ludicrous rules while supposedly dispatching prizes to participants? Not too highly I am sure!

So this is what happened, I unfortunately won an iPad in a contest which was sponsored by a brand for men's safety razors and hosted by a website for bloggers. After a couple of days from the announcement of results, I received an email from a company which was looking after the dispatch of prizes from the sponsor’s end stating that I had to pay up 7.5k as tax for the prize that I had won. When I enquired as to what the taxes were about I was always given different replies. First I was told that it was gift tax which was applicable as per GOI rules. After that I was told that since it was a promotional campaign the rule is applicable for any product with an MRP of Rs 20,000 & above. Further down the line I was told that I had to pay 30% tax for anything above Rs 10000 worth including iPad. Ofcourse at times I was told it was gift tax and at times I was asked not to confuse it with gift tax! If such a tax exists then there has to be a link in the public domain. When I asked for a link to the tax rule based on which they were levying the amount, they couldn’t provide me one. I know what the Gift Tax says but it certainly doesn’t conform to what the sponsors claimed. So that was the first time I felt something was wrong as they kept wavering on figures and facts.

Ofcourse as the next logical step, I approached the host website and on the first two occasions they promised to find out what it was all about and they even assured me that they wouldn’t let anybody dupe bloggers. It seemed like the terms and conditions weren’t decided prior to the contest and the sponsor was taking decisions without informing the site that hosted their contest in the first place. I thought here is a website which is still taking the onus to find out about the contest that they so proudly hosted. But that was also proved a fallacy when they came back saying that I could go ahead and do an independent inquiry. So that was not a matter that they would further look into?

First of all it was a contest and not a promotion and it wasn’t mentioned even in fine print (atleast at that time) that prizes would be subject to taxes. Second there is something fishy when the percentage and the amount taxable keep changing with every passing day. Thirdly when a website hosts such contests, they need to be accountable throughout and not put the onus on the third party. Also, this wasn’t the first time that I had won something along the lines of an iPad in a blogging contest. Infact, around the same time I had won a tab of approximately the same amount in a contest hosted by another reputed website and money was not extorted in the name of tax from me by them. So if there was any such tax on contests then shouldn’t the same amount have been asked from me by them too?

I don’t know what to make of it except feel that I have been part of a big con! I would have even accepted that happily if it was by someone like Neal Caffery but when from websites and companies such as these it is certainly repulsive! It’s about principle. The one hosting and the one sponsoring should not behave in a manner that they are doing some sort of service to the bloggers out there. They need to be honest. Why hold contests and make claims about giving away things which you have no intention of giving? Bloggers would write and take part in contests even if there are no prizes, atleast the serious ones would, and you would still be able to make your living! So why stoop to such lows?

So I really wish I was spared from this whole sham! But since I wasn't, here I am writing a post just to let everyone out there know that such things do happen! As I write this with an iPad and a Samsung Tab next to me, I wish that I hadn’t ever won this ludicrous imaginary prize!