RadioCarla - Media... and Life Observer

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How Twitter Saved Our Vacation

I've always been a sweepstakes person. When I was about twelve or so, I remember reading an article with sweepstakes winners detailing the tips and tricks of the trade. At that time, you had to cut out the entry blank or write your information on a 3x5" index card. Each entry set you back the cost of the envelope and stamp, not to mention your time. Oh, how sweepstakes have changed! Fill out a web form, hit "Submit" and you're done. Web sites like EZsweeps make it even easier by finding the sweepstakes for you and prefilling the form for you sometimes.

Over the years, I've won several small things. The best I ever won was $250.00 from Hormel. Until now...

I can vividly remember the day I got THE email message. The subject line was "Congratulations - You are a winner in the Dream Suite Sweepstakes". My immediate thought was that it was either a scam or a phishing attempt. But something made me read closer. The email went on to say that I had won the Grand Prize in Sandals Resorts Dream Suite Sweepstakes. Then, it clicked. I remembered that I had entered that sweepstakes!

Being a academic, I immediately started doing research on the whole thing. The email was from a company called ePrize and a quick web search found a Wikipedia entry that said "ePrize is a Michigan based company that creates promotional campaigns ranging from online sweepstakes to points-based loyalty programs." Okay... that's a good sign. But, I needed more verification. There were attachments to the email that included an affidavit to be filled out and a set of the contest rules. In those, I found the name of another company - Unique Vacations, Inc. Another search revealed that Unique Vacations is the parent company of both Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Holy cow! This win may be real!!!

Tom and I filled out the forms and sent them back to ePrize (FedEx with confirmation, of course). Then, we waited for them to verify my eligibility (and waited and waited). I became very superstitious and didn't want to tell anyone about my win until it was verified. Finally, in late July, I received my claim letter (their term) from Sandals and it was time to make my choices. I had won seven nights in a suite at any Sandals resort. Since airfare wasn't included, I chose the one with the least expensive airfare from Cincinnati: Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau. I also had to pick my dates which were tricky with my school schedule. Once it was filled out, I scanned the claim form (just in case) and sent it back to Sandals (FedEx with confirmation once again). Then it was time for more waiting and waiting and waiting... The official word was that Sandals could wait until 30 days before the trip to notify us. Ugh!

This is where Twitter comes to the rescue. I started becoming addicted to using Twitter about a year ago and since then, I've met some wonderful people thanks to it. Because my bio on Twitter states that I'm a travel agent, I get some interesting people and companies following me. On October 21st, I got notification that Sandals and Beaches Resorts were following me. I decided to send a direct message to the Sandals account and see if the person updating it was actually in the corporate office. Luckily, they were. A flurry of direct messages began. I explained that I was a winner in one of their recent sweepstakes and that I was anxious to hear if I had gotten the time period I requested since I didn't have much flexibility there. Lydia, the delightful person I was Twitter-chatting with, started checking for me and told me that Pedro would be the person contacting me with that information. However, as she was checking into things, she discovered my claim letter was missing! They had record of the security guard signing for it, but no sign of it after that! ACK!!! Just as I was about to go into full panic mode, I remembered that I had scanned the filled out form and I asked if that would work if I emailed or faxed it to them. It would! Hallelujah! I sent it to both Lydia and Pedro as soon as I could. They said again that I wouldn't know for sure until December. By then, I was so relieved I didn't care so much. Vacation was saved and this was all taking place on Twitter!

Just nine days later, my phone at work rang and it was Pedro from Sandals. He asked if I wanted to hear about my vacation details and I just about jumped out of my skin. We got the resort we asked for in Nassau and my first choice for the dates too. I thanked Pedro profusely and hung up the phone. I sat there for a good long time so thankful that Sandals decided to follow me on Twitter and that I decided to send them a direct message. And that's how Twitter saved our vacation!

You can win too! Sandals is running another round of their "Dream Suite Sweepstakes" right now. You can enter at http://www.sandals.com/dreams/


Good luck and happy Twittering!


Carla

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