A long while ago, there was this one major instant win contest.
Every hour for two weeks, they would give away a nice prize. All you had to do, is to choose the time in the hour to try your luck, go to the website, click the submit button, and you could win a fabulous prize.
On my favorite sweepstakes forum, we had a forum thread for this contest. It was an extremely popular thread – at the end of the contest, it had ~75,000 views and ~1,500 replies.
I went to read this forum thread every hour. Contesters scouted the web for the info, at what times people have won, and then we strategized at what time we should enter the next hour. We also discussed the prizes, talked about the odds of winning, congratulated winners, etc. Every hour, every day of the contest, I tried and tried and tried, and no luck.
Then, I noticed that one of the forum members, let’s call him Lord Soth, was leaving suspiciously knowledgeable comments. Some of his comments were: ”What would happen if I posted all the questions and answers?”, “The way time seeds work here, is they are set to the second. Closest click to that second wins.”
I studied Computer Science at school. So I had a hunch that this guy broke in to the contest site database. Then I sent Lord Soth a private message, asking him, “How do you know all the questions? Did you get into their system?” He replied: “Not here. Let’s talk on encrypted private chat. Here are the details..”
Ahh.. me and my curiosity.. I should have known better and shouldn’t have gone to talk to him then.
When we met on his high-security enabled chat, Lord Soth told me: ”I have all the answers to contest questions, as well as exact times when the prizes will be won. They had a flaw in the database system, and it was a piece of cake to look it up.” I said: “You broke in?? You’re crazy!” He replied, “Do you want that 42″ TV? Try at 11.45.12 am, tomorrow morning.” I was stumbled. I didn’t ask for this information. What was I supposed to do with it now? I didn’t want to know it! I didn’t want to be involved in this! …. I told him “Not sure.” and said goodbye.
My brain went wild for a while. I felt that it was a bad thing to do, but I wanted to win that TV. I hesitated a lot around this, and couldn’t decide. Generally, I leaned towards not taking the bait. Just for the peace of mind.
Then I asked a friend for advice, told him everything, and said, “Even though I can win this 42″ TV tomorrow, I am not going to do it.” He said, “Are you crazy? Who cares about feeling guilty, just take the damn TV!”
Lol, that wasn’t helpful. That was devastating. I went to sleep with uneasy mind.
Many of us know, that when you go to sleep with a question, you wake up with an answer. The next morning, I got up and I knew it. I wasn’t going to do it.
I logged into the private chat, and told about my decision to Lord Soth. He was like, “Who would skip on a free TV? Are you a cop?”. I explained that I didn’t feel it was right to cheat, and felt uneasy about it. He said, “Well, you don’t have to take the biggest prize. Take the one for this hour, the external hard drive, at 10.15.48 am.” I couldn’t believe this guy!! He did it again! I just told him that I didn’t want to sin, and he offered me another apple! …
But for this one, I had no time to think. 10.15 was only a couple minutes away. Lord Soth kept talking, “Just watch the time on your computer, and click the button two seconds before..” I was captivated with the dark aura of his, or something, but with a sudden rash impulse, I clicked the button at 10.15.46…
The screen flashed and popped the message, congratulating me of winning this fabulous prize. I couldn’t move. I just sat there, immobile, staring blankly at the screen. What have I done!! Lord Soth kept piling the messages, “Did you get it? Did you click it on time? Hello?” Oh my… An awful, dreadful feeling. This was not me. This was some other person, some cold blooded cheater, a criminal!..
There was never a happy “I won!” feeling there. There was only guilt. Dark, uneasy feeling. Damn you, Lord Soth.
I even considered not sending in the release form. But, to my regret, I sent it. And when I did, even worse happened.
Lord Soth called me to the private chat again. This time, I didn’t want to go, so I ignored him. I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. The contest was still going, and there was a 40,000$ prize to be won. I didn’t want him to tempt me anymore. Then he sent me an encrypted message, saying, “There’s a van with dark windows outside my house. I’m scared shitless.”
I am not lying here. This is a true story. I got scared too – I thought, omg, I’m a criminal’s accomplice! He has told me about his other break-in to a different contest, and he probably broke in to many others. If he gets arrested, I will get into big trouble. I never had to deal with police, except for a few parking tickets. Noone in my family had to deal with police. My life will be ruined, I thought. I will become ‘the criminal’ in the family. That is sooo not how I want my life to turn out. I am too scared and too rookie, and too good of a person to deal with the crime punishment!.. I’m too frightened, too shocked, too… oh why did I ever agree to this?
I regret my actions so much. I would never ever do it again.
Lord Soth later notified me that the van was gone, and he was ok. I cut the communication channel and blocked him off. When my prize came in, I didn’t use it. I felt too guilty to do so. When my husband mentioned that he will be buying a hard drive for his Tivo, I offered it to him immediately.
Now it sits there, watching me from the dusty shelf under TV, reminding me of my sins, staring at me loathsomely. I should’ve never cheated to win. It’s simply not for my personality. I like to go through life doing good for others, and this guilt burden is not for me.
“I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating.” (Sophocles)
Would you have taken a free 42″ TV? What would you have done in my situation? Feel free to leave comments, or express how you feel about this controversial topic.
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