Theatre tickets, latest fashions, overseas travel – they’re just some of the regular prizes for competition addict Stephanie Bailey. ELISSA FRIDAY goes into the draw with our empress of entries.
Finding “25,507 unread emails” on her mobile phone is business as usual for Torquay’s Stephanie Bailey.
“Some people say I should have set up another email address for all the newsletters and things I have subscribed to,” she giggles.
The full-time chef spends a couple of hours daily on her other enjoyment – entering competitions for “adrenaline rushes”.
Regularly signing up for newsletters as a condition of entry and filling out competition forms has become a breezy past-time for the 30-year-old, who says she wins “at least one competition a week” on average.
Stephanie won her first prize aged just 10 when she entered a competition she spotted on a Wheaties cereal pack. She won a 12-month subscription to an AFL football magazine from a scratch-and-win card.
Stephanie won her next prize – dinner for two and tickets to a local exhibition – at 13 when she entered a colouring competition.
“The competition was run by the Independent and Geelong Doll and Teddy Show and Exhibition,” she recalls.
From then on Stephanie began logging her wins in scrapbooks. She now has an impressive collection of around 10 display folders full to the brim, showcasing all her prizes.
The folders contain congratulation letters and notifications of winnings, chocolate-wrapper entry forms and used tickets from glamorous events.
Her prizes range from electronic equipment, clothes, concert tickets and social events to hotel accommodation, VIP passes and dining experiences, even airline flights and movie passes.
Stephanie counts as one of her best wins a trip to Los Angeles with five nights accommodation on Rodeo Drive, $1000 spending money and a Napoleon Perdis make-up experience.
Another highlight was a trip to London to see a West-End show, with two tickets, flights, transfers and four nights accommodation.
The London memory prompts Stephanie to recalls the inspiration for her interest in competitions.
“Mum, I think, started me off. She told me that when she was little she won tickets to the Beatles.
“She won tickets on a radio promotion where she had to call up when you heard a Beatles song play.
“They only played one Beatles song all day, so she sat there all day listening to her little wireless in the room,” Stephanie giggles.
“When I was little and would go grocery shopping with mum I’d just walk past and grab products off the shelf. Mum would say, ’What are you doing, we don’t need two packets of that’.
“Then I’d say, ’But you have to buy two products to enter to win this’.
“Poor mum, I remember one year she had 12 packets of prunes because I wanted to win a car.”
But 1998 was “a big one” for Stephanie, winning AFL grand final tickets to watch her team, Adelaide, play North Melbourne.
She won the coveted prize after answering a trivia question on the ring-pull of a Coca Cola bottle.
“So that was two tickets to the grand final, two nights accommodation, spending money and breakfast with the Adelaide Crows – it was huge,” Stephanie gasps.
She took to Melbourne her mum and sister, also an Adelaide supporter, so they could serve as her guardians because she was still aged under 18.
But Stephanie’s passion for competition is about more than just prizes.
“It’s about winning, the adrenaline and sharing experiences with other people who may not be able to do that,” she says.
Stephanie takes the sharing part literally. She recently won a family pass to Adventure Park but gave it to a friend with young children so they could afford a day out.
“I thought, ’School holidays, here you go, it’s unlimited rides for the kids and a food voucher, so they get drinks and popcorn while there’.
“She’s really excited and the kids are over the moon, so that’s what I get out of it, too.”
In particular, Stephanie enjoys sharing hospitality packages – drinks and food et cetera – with different people each time.
“I’ll take people ranging from my hairdresser to my sisters’ friends to my brother’s friends and people at my work.
“When I receive a win I then give it to someone else.
“The part for me is that I won; the winning, the adrenalin.”
Even just three weeks into January Stephanie had won around 20 competitions, with prizes including passes to various events, lunches, theatre shows, hotel accommodation for New Year’s Eve celebrations, seats at a grand final luncheon and six pairs of expensive ladies’ jeans.
Stephanie wins a competition and is straight onto the next but remains “grateful” for any prizes, often posting thank-yous, photos and messages on her social media to the suppliers.
“I can remember writing a letter to Coca-Cola and showing them the photos of us at the grand final,” she says.
Stephanie once won six competitions in a single week from the same company.
“When it came to collecting all these prizes they suggested changing their terms and conditions”, she giggles.
Stephanie’s regards her greatest win as $20,000 from a radio promotion.
To go into the draw, she had to hear a particular song on the radio then head to a display-home venue where she met a lady with a bucket of 50 keys.
Contestants retrieved a key each and whoever’s opened the door was the winner.
“I took mum there with me at 4am,“ Stephanie remembers.
“I was 10th in line and pulled out key-ring number 17. That key, sure enough, opened the door.“
Stephanie put the money to good use with her soon-to-be husband.
“It gave us a honeymoon in Bora Bora.
“Even though my marriage didn’t work out, that $20,000 gave us the wedding we wanted and more.
“I literally remember walking into flight centre and saying, ’I don’t know where this is but I watched it on a TV show – glass bottom overwater bungalows’.”
Stephanie was initially “sceptical” that adopting her husband’s surname could affect her winning streak but was relieved to find her luck unchanged.
She went on to win many more prizes including a spa worth $7000 when she picked out the winning ball from a selection of 200 ping-pong balls.
Stephanie acknowledged her luck but says the “skill” is in winning 25-words-or-less competitions. First, she advises, is reading the terms and conditions for “a better idea of what they’re looking for”.
“I think my real secret is that I just spend a lot of time on it, seeing what’s out there and I investigate promotions online.”
Stephanie dedicates a couple of hours every Monday after work to her “hobby”, scanning websites for competitions.
Happily, her time and effort actually enhances her social life.
“This is my social life,” Stephanie explains.
“I go to events because I’ve won something.”