Hi Carolyn,
I have three questions for you regarding contest rules:

  1. How flexible are companies hosting contests? i.e., If they request you to come and pick up a prize  in person, but you prefer prizes mailed due to time constraints, obstacles physically getting to location, etc.
  2. Are most travel wins expected to be taken within a specific time frame, even if not specified in the rules? If the time is specified, is that time frame ever flexible/negotiable?
  3. How often (if ever) are prizes eligible to be taken as a cash prize instead or transferred to someone else?


Let me start by saying contest rules are written for the sponsor and not the entrant. All the clauses favor the sponsor, and therefore, the sponsor has the right to stick ‘hard and fast’ to the rules or bend them a bit.

Prior to 2020, I had never seen a company mail out a prize when it clearly states it must be picked up. If you could not easily pick up a prize, then I recommended you don’t enter. This was mainly found in local contests such as newspapers, radio, and television stations.

All awarded prizes must be picked up by the named recipient from our offices on 608 Moody Ln in Temple, TX, open weekdays during regular business hours. Prizes may not be mailed. In order to claim your prize, you will be required to fill out a W-9 tax form and provide your social security number.

NOTE: In Canada, you generally only need to show a photo ID.

Since then, most prizes are now either mailed out or sent via email. There still may be the occasional one you need to pick up but it seems to be farther and fewer between. Where I see it now is mainly on Instagram, where a small local business is hosting a giveaway.

Again, if you are unsure, ask.

It’s rare for a travel time frame not to be included in the rules. It is either specific travel dates tied to an event, such as a concert or sporting event or must be taken within a year (blackout dates are usually also mentioned). If you cannot make those travel dates, you forfeit the trip.

Although they are brutally long, here is an example of the clause regarding a timed trip win and the limitations of such a prize. Notice the repetition of: determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.

7) PRIZES/APPROXIMATE RETAIL VALUES (ARVs): FOUR (4) GRAND PRIZES A trip package for three (3) to a 2015 Stanley Cup® Final game (game selected by Sponsor in its sole discretion). Trip package includes round trip coach-class air transportation from an airport near winner’s home (determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion) to an airport near a 2015 Stanley Cup® Final game host city (the “City”); two (2) nights’ accommodations at a hotel determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion (single room, quad occupancy); three (3) tickets to a 2015 Stanley Cup® Final game (game and seating determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion); and $1,000 CAD spending money to the winner. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of each Grand Prize ranges from $7,900-$11,200, depending on location of Final game. Total ARV of the Grand Prizes is $38,200.

Grand Prize trip package anticipated to occur around the following dates: May 20, 2015-June 20, 2015. All details (including but not limited to game selection and travel schedule) of each Grand Prize shall be determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Travel must be round trip. Sponsor will determine airline and flight itinerary in its sole discretion. No refund or compensation will be made in the event of the cancellation or delay of any flight. Travel is subject to the terms and conditions set forth in these Official Rules, and those set forth by the Sponsor’s airline carrier of choice as detailed in the passenger ticket contract OR OTHERWISE.

All expenses and incidental travel costs not expressly stated in the package description above, including but not limited to, ground transportation, meals, incidentals, gratuities, passenger tariffs or duties, airline fees, surcharges, airport fees, service charges or facility charges, personal charges at lodging, security fees, taxes or other expenses are the responsibility solely of winner and their travel companion(s). Unless child of winner, travel companion(s) must be eighteen (18) years of age or older as of the date of departure or a sibling/friend of winner with the appropriate parental permissions and releases (as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion) and must travel on same itinerary and at the same time as the winner. Travel companion must execute Declaration of Compliance,  Liability, and Publicity Release forms prior to issuance of travel documents. Winner and travel companion(s) are solely responsible for obtaining valid passports and any other documents necessary for travel between the United States and Canada. Travel restrictions,  conditions and limitations may apply. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute ground transportation in lieu of air travel to the City if winner’s location is less than 500 km from the City. Sponsor will not replace any lost, mutilated, or stolen tickets, travel vouchers or certificates. Sponsor is not responsible if any game is delayed, postponed or cancelled for any reason, in which event that portion of prize is forfeited in its entirety and no substitution will be provided except as in Sponsor’s sole discretion. Game tickets may be subject to Sponsor’s standard rain-check policies and procedures.

By accepting game tickets, winner and travel companion(s) agrees to abide by any terms, conditions and restrictions provided by the ticket. The Sponsor is not responsible if winner does not use tickets on day of game.  Actual value may vary based on airfare fluctuations and distance between departure and destination. Winner will not receive difference between actual and approximate retail value. The potential Grand Prize winner must confirm travel availability within three (3) days of being declared a winner or the prize will be forfeited and may be awarded to an alternate Entrant in Sponsor’s sole discretion.

Cash prizes are only an option if stated in the rules. It’s more common in the United States as they pay income tax on their winnings. Otherwise, there is usually a clause stating no substitutions are allowed (by you).

From the same contest rules:

FOR ALL PRIZES: No substitutions or transfers of the prize by winner permitted. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute prizes of equal or greater value, at its sole discretion for any reason.

Have you ever gotten a sponsor to change the rules for you?

If you have a sweepstakes, contest, or giveaway question, please email me.