Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Costly Hope That He'll Hit It Big

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Costly Hope That He'll Hit It Big

Article excerpt

Every afternoon, when a retired man we'll call George takes in the mail, he divides it into three piles: letters, bills, and miscellaneous. Many people would consider the third stack junk mail, but George sees it differently. It includes sweepstakes entries, which he fervently hopes will someday yield a pot of gold.

He studies the envelopes. Some bear tantalizing return addresses, such as: "Sweepstakes Clearinghouse Prize Notification Dept." Others are stamped "Confidential," "Official Business," "Urgent Correspondence," and "Important Notification." George looks at them all, then carefully slits the envelopes.

Inside, the come-hither tactics continue, with everything from fake checks, or "credit vouchers," to "certificates of award" and "financial-freedom documents." Letters hint at possible winnings: "This is to notify you of a huge $25,000 prize our office is holding. This tremendous $25,000 award could belong to you." One letter closes with "To your prosperous future."

Although some mailings state, "Purchase not necessary and doesn't increase winning odds," George, like many hopefuls, believes a purchase - a book, a magazine - helps his chances. He wouldn't dream of buying a lottery ticket. But he does believe the odds of winning a sweepstakes are in his favor. With quiet determination he says, "Someday I'm going to hit it big."

"No, you aren't," relatives and friends could reply. But how can they convince him, or any entrant, to believe them, since envelopes clog the mailbox daily, appearing to promise riches? With no pension and only Social Security and modest savings to live on, George longs for financial security. No more clipping coupons to save a quarter on mayonnaise. No more worrying about outliving his money and ending up on Medicaid.

As contestants go, he's a small-time player. Even so, he doesn't want his name used here. …

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