I have several friends who have made something of a hobby of simply trawling the web, looking for sites that are offering giveaways, entering them, and then looking for the next one. After finally spending a couple of afternoons doing this at the behest of a couple of them, I find some good things – and some bad things – about doing this.
It is an inexpensive hobby. In the end, you’re just filling out web forms and clicking submit. There’s no cost involved with these giveaways (aside from the time, which I’ll touch on later), the minimal electicity used, and the internet access used (which is already paid for). Activities with little or no out-of-pocket expense that bring enjoyment are superior to the ones that require a steady influx of money.
Personal information sharing is a concern. As I’m filling out all of these forms, I can’t help but notice that lots of companies and organizations now have access to my personal information. Most commonly, it’s just my name and address, but I’m still not sure how I feel about sharing that information widely.
What about email addresses? One of the first things you need to do before you participate in drawings is to use an address that’s just for those drawings. That way, the spam lists that you’re inevitably signed up for by participating send their emails to just the “drawings” address, not your real one.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never check your “drawings” address. You have to, to see if you’ve won anything.
Do I really want the item? Some of my friends simply enter every drawing they come across, regardless of whether they want the product. I guess I’m wired a little differently – I can’t see the point of entering a drawing for a fairly low-cost item that I have no interest in owning.
Take cosmetics, for example. I don’t wear any. Sarah only wears cosmetics on rare occasions. What do we need with a big bundle of cosmetics? Simply put, we don’t need them. So why enter?
At least with items that have significant value on their own, we could easily re-sell the item and make some pocket money. With small-value items, it’s very difficult to re-sell them, either individually or a bundle.
Is there something more valuable I could be doing with my time? As I was filling out the forms, I couldn’t help but ask myself if there wasn’t something more useful I could be doing with my time. The drawings I entered were almost entirely for things that I wouldn’t mind having, but there were very few drawings that were for things I actually wanted to any significant degree.
To me, that’s just the accumulation of stuff. Again, if I stuck with just entering drawings for items I could re-sell easily, I’d still be in good shape, as I would earn pocket money from the sale. Many of the items, though, could only be re-sold for $5-$10 on an internet auction site, a gain that, for me, isn’t worth the effort as an individual item. By the time I fill out the form to win the item, claim it, get it home, package it for auction, deal with the eBay or Craigslist hassles, and then deliver the item, I’ve put in more than $5 worth of effort.
It burns time, but it doesn’t pass my “pastime” test. As I mentioned above, it’s a nearly cost-free hobby, but it’s really repetitive. I just fill out forms with my name (and/or address) and email over and over again. Sometimes, I have to look through their website to answer questions of some kind, but then I’m usually just learning about a product I don’t really want via marketing materials.
In short, I don’t really feel like this is a worthwhile “pastime.” It’s not personally fulfilling to me, not in the way that reading a book is or playing with my kids is or playing a board game with close friends is. It feels like something I could fill fifteen minutes of downtime with, but spending an afternoon doing it feels … empty.
If this is a hobby that you get personal enjoyment from, by all means, go for it. My only suggestion is that you avoid sharing your main email address when filling out these forms. Open a new Gmail account to collect the inevitable spam emails you’ll get.
For me, though, I may occasionally enter drawings for high-value items (like an iPad) or items I particularly want (like a game), but entering drawings for the sake of entering drawings doesn’t feel like a high-value proposition for me.