One of my uncles (by marriage) loves to gamble. He doesn’t bet the mortgage payment at the horse track or anything like that, but if there’s a possibility to win money, his eyes light up. One of the meanest presents I’ve ever given was a fake lottery ticket I put in his stocking. After scratching it off, he stood up, held the ticket in the air and shouted “I won $50,000!!!” Funny, but quite evil of me. He said after I told him what it was that he felt like he’d just lost $50K.
I meet people who get a real thrill out of buying lottery tickets and taking trips to Las Vegas. To me, when I see that over time the house is going to win (be it a casino or the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) I’d be willing to be the house but I don’t want to be a player. As the saying goes, “Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math”.
I’m open to taking calculated risks, such as starting a business or investing in equities, but I’m not interested in something that I KNOW the risk/reward is against me.
More and more, I’m seeing promotions where they offer you the chance to win something to get what they want. We bloggers do it when we run contests and reward links, signing up for newsletters or commenting. My alma mater has been doing it recently trying to get me to sign up with their “affiliate partners” for insurance (“This is my chance to save and win! Get a car insurance quote. Get a home insurance quote. Win $50,000 in cash.”), my ISP (Rogers) is badgering me to fill out a survey about their service and potentially win a $100 credit to my account and McDonald’s does this with their “Monopoly game” stuck on their food.
The argument might be made that these promotions are more “fun” than offering someone a discount or a small gift. I think it’s more a way to sucker people by paying far less, per person, for an incentive. I’d fill out the Roger’s survey for a guaranteed $5 credit to my account. I wouldn’t fill it out for a $0.50 credit to my account (they say it takes 10 minutes to fill out). Everyone sees the $100 and thinks “that sounds good, maybe I’ll win it!”, but chances are definitely against them. Assuming 1000 people fill out the survey (a pretty conservative estimate, given Roger’s LARGE customer base), having a 1/1000 chance of winning a $100 credit is worth $0.10. Is my time worth more than 60 cents / hour? Yes it is.
Because these promotions have taken off in recent years, I think people must be responding to them in an irrational way.