Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm back from the much anticipated sweepstakes convention, and there is good news and bad news. I'll start with the good news. San Antonio is absolutely gorgeous! I had never been there before, but I definitely want to return. Dare I say that San Antonio is the London of the USA (a gorgeous city that encourages repeat visits)?

There were several members from the Knoxville UCanWin2 Sweepstakes group that attended the convention, and their company made the entire experience really great!

Larilyn, Cat, Judy, Saundra and Anne enjoy the river boat cruise

We had lots of fun in the evenings on the River Walk:

Judy experiences the dreaded brain freeze

Saundra samples the "mild" salsa

We were also able to avoid a major scandal when Judy successfully held back Saundra and Cat as they planned to storm the bar and take over dancing duties at Coyote Ugly. Yes, ladies, we know "there ain't nothing to that" and "I can dance better than that", but I believe there are certain procedures you need to go thorough to get hired on as dancers!

Now, for the bad convention news. Many of us who attended this convention were veteran convention goers. This was my 5th convention, and I was especially excited, because the people who were sponsoring this year's convention were the same ones who sponsored the first convention I attended, back in 1999. I had a wonderful time at that convention, and won many prizes, so I assured everyone that they were in for a treat this time as well.

The reality was that we were left wondering what happened. Instead of many sessions where dozens of wonderful prizes were given away, this convention only had several sessions were a few people were chosen from the audience to participate in "games." The games included a version of Deal or No Deal and a Pinata event. The prizes that were awarded, however, were nearly all donations from sweepstakes clubs, newsletters and generous individuals. Over 1000 people had paid $160 each to attend the convention, and we were under the impression that most of our convention fees would go to purchase prizes. However, that was most certainly not the case. I kept assuring the people at my table that it was good we hadn't been chosen for the games, because the "big prizes" would be given out after the games were finished. That never happened! I don't know why the convention organizers thought it would be great fun to let 10 or 12 people come on stage to play a long, involved game, while 990 others sat there, bored senseless, but that seems to have been the plan for this year. We are still left wondering what exactly our registration fees were spent on. There were 3 meals provided, which I'm sure weren't cheap, but surely there was enough left for a few iPods and digital cameras???? As Judy so eloquently put it, We Got Hosed!

There were a few bright spots in the otherwise dismal prize haul, such as when Anne won the table prize, and I got lucky in one of the raffles and won 2500 stamps (that should last a few weeks).

Final Verdict on San Antonio: Five Gherkins, for being a charming, vibrant and exciting place to explore

Final Verdict on the 2008 Sweepstakes Convention: One Gherkin, for great fellowship with other sweepers, but anemic prizes


Suzila said...

It's interesting to me, how everyone wants something different out of the convention. This was my fourth convention, and I always find it funny how people wish me 'good luck' before I go...I don't go, hoping to win a prize. That's why I enter win a prize. I go to the conventions to learn something, to meet up with people I've been talking to online, and to see a city I have never seen before.

My convention experience was much different than yours.

I was quite happy with the way the convention committee handled giving away the prizes. It was refreshing not have to sit through hours of giveaways for prizes I didn't really need. I liked the idea they put so much effort into playing games, rather than just drawing names (and I'm not usually a game-player, so it was surprising to me that I enjoyed the way they did it).

The only part of the convention that was a disappointment to me was the Thursday evening 'meet and greet'. They had too many tables set up and too many clubs/cliques ran for them, and spent time together. I didn't know 'a lot' of people and found it very hard to walk up to a table of 'friends' and just introduce myself. I liked the way Scottsdale did it better, where they played a game, we walked around until we found a matching card and introduced ourselves. Everyone was laughing and introducing themselves in that meet and greet.

Other than that, this convention was very good for me, and I wasn't chosen to win a prize. So, like I said, we all get something different out of going to a convention.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why holiday weekends are now the thing with the conventions. The next one is on the 4th of July. When they got up on stage and told people to bring there families I kind of laughed. I dont have that kind of money. I agree with you on the prizes at this convention were not very big. I dont know what they spent the money on either. Most of the prizes were donated. I think they spent most of the money on the cash for deal or no deal. which only involved 5 people. Which one was the hosts daughter who picked her own name out of the barrel. They did give 10 people $200.00 each they drew names. I did get picked for the pinata game and was pretty dissapointed in my prize. Not to be greedy but it was a few envelopes some post cards and stickers and a best buy gc. $25.00. My daughter got picked for the key turn game and won 2 rolls of stamps post cards and a mug. The big prizes were a computer a lap top, a wii and a xbox360. a dvd player I doubt it was blue ray I did like the Christmas theme. I also won the table prize a christmas ornament. Some people didnt like them and left them on the stage. Gwen made a note of that. I guess my daughter and I were lucky we got picked. I think where we got hosed was a Fiesta Texas.We went on Saturday after the lunch. It cost $15.00 to park and $10.99 for a hamburger and fries not including the drink, which was $3.50 for a small. You had to pay $1.00 for a locker for 2 rides. Anyway I think I was upset about the banquet when there was over 1000 people that payed $160.00 to go and that was the best prizes they could come up with {donated ones} Cortney

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You bet we all were HOSED. I've been to conventions giving out 3 times the prizes San Antonio did and that was to half the attendees.

This convention spent our money on the set (e.g., stage coral, boots etc.) just to make themselves look good.

Anonymous said...

Maybe their group made a lot of money for their selves. I would think since the people pay for the convention that it would not be a money maker for the hosts.

Anonymous said...

No I don't believe that they kept any money. But I do believe that they DID over spend on FOOLISH things like that stage, the fence, boots, and other decorations only to "set the mood"

They also didn't negotiate very well which surprises me because they should have known what they were doing hosting previous conventions. They should have received the ballroom and vendor rooms for free bringing all the business to the hotel. The hotel needed the convention to sell their rooms. I was told by the front desk that they only had 20% of their rooms reserved for the rest of the week after our convention.

I've been to 11 conventions and hosted one. I have to honestly say that this years convention was the worst one I've attended. My favorites in no certain order were: Moline, Kentucky, Arizona, New Orleans, San Diego, and Baltimore (last one).

Anonymous said...

In a way, I think everyone, including our hosts, got hosed - by the hotel. I have a feeling, based on some of what I heard, that the hotel charged so much for the facilities, etc. that there was very little left over for an actual convention. I think the hosts did the best they could have with what was left, but it wasn't enough.

I've been to several other conventions and in all other cases there was a much larger percentage of the attendees that won at least a small prize. This convention awarded a very small number of prizes in relation to the number of attendees.

There were also very few learning opportunities at this convention. We had one speaker (twice), a total of 3 breakout sessions (which lasted 45 minutes each), and one "get to know the newsletter editors" Q&A. A lot of people come to these conventions to learn, but this one really disappointed in that regard.

I heard from a number of first time attendees that this was their first and last convention. It wasn't worth the time or the money spent for what they got.

It's a real shame that in an apparent attempt to show that Texas could do it bigger and better, the attendees suffered. Yes, they got the bigger part down, but it wasn't better by any stretch of the imagination.

I hope that future hosts learn from this experience and keep in mind that the people who pay good money to attend these affairs are the ones who need to go away happy. And when it comes to sweepstakers, happy equates to a combination of wins and knowledge gained. A lack of either is a disappointment. A lack of both is a travesty.

Gail Is This Mutton? said...

Great report...sorry to hear you were hosed! It wouldn't happen in England :-)

Anonymous said...

I thought the convention was okay, and San Antonio was fabulous! I was dissapointed however, that more prizes weren't given away.

A little too much time was spent on games, although they looked fun (my husband and I were not chosen).

I thought the guest speaker was great, but my husband thought he was a waste of time. I learned a couple of things from him that I've always wondered about... of course, I thought of several questions I should have asked, AFTER we got home. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I don't like leaving my family on Holiday weekends. Also on holiday weekends it is harder to get better hotel rates, use miles or points for airline tickets. I would have been in San Antonio if it was not on a holiday weekend.

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