Why a Winner Might Turn Away Your Prize & What to Do About It

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Congratulations! You’ve won! You’ve announced a text sweepstakes winner, but unfortunately that person isn’t able or willing to collect the prize. So what happens now?

Here are some of the reasons why a winner might turn away your prize and what to do about it.

“I Don’t Believe it. Sounds Like a Scam.”

Some people are suspicious of any “you’ve won” messages. You can counteract that by reminding them where and when they entered. Send a link to the entry form, attach a copy of the official rules or point out the text message they received to jog their memory. A phone call, a letter on letterhead or forms like a liability release might help as well. In the end, your professionalism and insistence should convince them your promotion is legitimate.

To help with this from the beginning, your official rules should explain how and when you plan to notify winners and how much time they have to respond.

“Wait, I Have to Pay Taxes?”

Yes, that car or trip also comes with a tax bill from the IRS. Many are aware of that at this point, but for some it might still come as a surprise. Their next question will be, “How much will I have to pay in taxes?” The winner’s tax liability will depend on the value of the prize. And while that value is known, every person’s tax situation is unique, so you can’t really answer this question.

The best you can do is tell them they’ll receive a 1099 for the prize value and recommend they discuss the matter with a tax professional. If they don’t want the prize because of potential tax liability, let them know they can forfeit it and you’ll choose an alternate winner.

“I Won, But I Want My Friend to Have It.”

In your official rules, you must state whether or not the prize is transferable. Most sponsors don’t allow prizes to be transferred, but you may want to consider offering a cash option if the winner can’t or won’t accept the prize offered.

“I Can’t Take That Trip.”

If you’re giving away a trip or tickets to an event on a specific date, be prepared if a winner can’t accept the prize. We’ve had instances where winners couldn’t travel for various reasons, including surgery, health, family or work issues. Plan for this and spell it out in your Official Rules. In most cases, winners have to forfeit the prize if they’re unable to travel.

What Do the Official Rules Say?

While you’ll never be able to anticipate all of the reasons why a text sweepstakes winner might turn down a prize, being prepared for the most common ones is the best place to start.

Make sure your official rules spell out exactly what should happen in any scenario where the winner might not be able to collect the prize.

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