Grab.com, an e-mail marketing company that made headlines last October when it launched a $1 billion contest on its website, recently sent a press release to reporters who cover the sweepstakes beat. The headline:
GRAB.COM DOESN’T GRAB A BILLIONAIRE, BUT SITE MAKES OHIO WOMAN ONE MILLION DOLLARS “RICH”-ER
You might as well hang it up. Tell the kids to forget about college, cancel your champagne wishes and caviar dreams, because according to Grab‘s release, nobody won the billion bucks. Though a woman in Ohio won a measly million.
The funny thing about Grab.com’s release is how sincerely crestfallen its managers sound at not having the opportunity to give out a billion.
“We were disappointed that we didn’t have a $1 billion winner and we’re still desperate to make someone a billionaire,” the company’s CEO, Andrew Warner, says in the statement. “We’re already in discussions with our insurance company about launching our next $1 billion contest, so stay tuned.”
But among the press, the fact that nobody won the big prize wasn’t the kind of man-bites-dog item that makes headlines: the odds of grabbing the billion, you see, were a teensy-weensy 1 in 2,404,808,340. A person has a greater possibility of contracting flesh-eating bacteria (1 in 1 million).
In an interview, the 26-year-old Warner did say that he was indeed disappointed about not giving away the big prize. Warner has always said this, and there’s ample reason to believe him, especially since the billion wouldn’t have been coming out of his company’s account anyway.
In the event that someone had picked the same series of seven numbers that Grab.com picked on Dec. 28, the money would have been paid out by an insurance division of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway company.
Grab.com paid Buffet’s company some large sum – something in the millions, Warner says – to back up its prize, and Buffet’s company had taken the bet because the odds were so attractive. Warren Buffet didn’t get to be a billionaire by writing a lot of checks.
Though the publicity of actually paying out the billion would have probably been a lot more valuable to Grab.com – that would have been man-bites-dog – it seems that merely offering a billion-dollar contest, even one that was effectively unwinnable, has caused the site to skyrocket in popularity.
According to the Web traffic-monitoring company Nielsen/Netratings, almost 4 million people visited the site in October, and 7 million followed in November.
Nielsen did not yet have December figures, but its weekly trend data showed that Grab.com remained popular through the month.
Warner said that such high traffic numbers surprised him. “Ten million people entered the contest,” he said. “That far exceeded our expectation.”
Incidentally, all of Grab.com’s entrants were automatically entered into a million-dollar contest that did guarantee a winner; that prize was won by one Colleen Rich of Carrollton, Ohio, who told Grab.com that it would “certainly make a wonderful addition to (her and her family’s) lives.”
Other prizes recently awarded by Grab include a Chocolate of the Month Club membership to one William G. from Fayetteville, North Carolina (“This is really exciting!” he said); a cell phone to Wendy M. of Wingate, North Carolina (“I am so glad I won!”); and $1,000 to Roy L. of Little Current, Ontario, Canada (“This is the first time I have ever won a major prize!”)
Warner said he’s glad he can make so many people so happy. He said that many people who came to the site looking to win the billion thought that they could never win that big prize and turned away, but many thousands have said that they love entering the smaller contests.
“It’s the darndest thing,” Warner said, explaining that this fact – that people like the small prizes – would sustain his site for a long time, even without a billion in prize money.
“We didn’t expect to be the No. 1 contest site!” Warner beamed, as if he had just won a chocolate of the month club membership.