A contest gone awry


Last week, I showed “How to feed the hungry and fly for free.”  In that post I showed how to donate 74 boxes of fruit or nuts from 1-800-Flowers to a food charity (Food Gatherers) in order to help others and earn enough Southwest Rapid Rewards points for a Companion Pass

I wanted to participate in the food donation fun, but I knew that I wouldn’t get much value from the points or the Companion Pass since I rarely fly Southwest.  Instead, I decided to give away the points to someone who could really use them.

I spent much of the day yesterday developing a contest. I wanted to find the person who could put the points and the pass to best use. I wrote up the rules of the contest, who could enter, how to enter, etc.  And, at the bottom of the post, I wrote “What could go wrong?”  There, among other things, I wrote: “1-800-Flowers could stop allowing the promo code, RR57, to be used.“ 

Between writing up the contest and updating Cyber Monday deals, I also had an email conversation with my accountant.  Would the contest winner be taxed on this prize?  If so, by how much?  I learned that I would have to issue a 1099-MISC to the winner.  We decided that, for this purpose, the points should be valued at the amount that they could be redeemed for gift cards (e.g. 1 cent per point).  Since 111,000 points would be awarded, that would be a taxable prize value of $1,110.

Immediately after reading one of my accountant’s last messages on this topic, I noticed a comment on my prior post on this topic.  Christina wrote:

Hi Greg, I just tried to place an order for the cashews and also for the fruit basket you specified in the article, both times using RR57. I received the following message both times: \We are sorry, the promotion code RR57 you entered is not valid for any items in your cart.\ On the Rapids Rewards website, it states that 1800flowers.com is not a provider in the program. I’m really hoping it’s a Cyber Monday glitch but it looks like 1800flowers.com has (temporarily?) pulled the promo?

Uh oh.

I tried to duplicate Christina’s findings.  In my case, the website explicitly said “The promotion code you entered has expired.”

I tried both online chats with 1-800-Flowers and phone calls, but everyone confirmed the same thing.  The promo for 1500 Southwest points per order expired as of 11/30/2014.

I tried explaining to everyone who would listen that the email for this deal clearly said that it was good through December 31 (details here).  It didn’t matter.  The email was issued by Southwest, not by 1-800-Flowers, so they wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) honor the deal.

Where that leaves us

For now, the 1-800-Flowers deal is dead.  And so, the contest is on hold unless or until a similar deal comes along.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this deal reemerge for the upcoming holidays.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll make a cash donation to Food Gatherers instead.  And, yes of course I’ll donate with my US Bank FlexPerks card that gives me 3X points for charity…

Happy Giving Tuesday (#GIVINGTUESDAY).

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