Did you ever see those little cryptic numbers in the cap of your favorite soda?

We don’t call it soda here in WNY, but just to be clear what I’m talking about…

I wondered what wonderful gifts I was passing up when I threw the caps away unclaimed. So for the past couple weeks, I’ve been dutifully typing them in on the brand’s website. I won’t name it, but it starts with P, not C.

I’ve worked my way up to 60-some points and that entitles me to:

13 MP3 downloads (woo-hoo)
1 CD (Duh, I guess a dozen or so songs IS the average CD)
5 TV shows (Haven’t they heard, I have a DVR, they are already there waiting for me to watch.)
1 Electronic Item. (But when I look to see what item I can get for 60 points, I don’t see anything less than 75)
1 Apparel Item (This is good, a beach towel, a T-shirt, a belt buckle. I don’t know what to choose!)
65 Sweepstakes Entries.

I don’t know what that means. I’m not a sweepstakes person. I like the sure thing. Bird in the hand sort of thing. But compared to the rest, maybe that’s the way to go. Hold out for the big prize by entering a drawing.

I don’t know whether it’s one big drawing, or daily or weekly draws. Can I put them all-in at once, or if there is regular drawings can I enter some now or some later? The promotion goes on until fall, so who knows. I suppose I could find out if I read the web site. But after all, as I said, I’m not a sweepstakes guy.

I imagine a lot of people enter these things from work. They collect them from their co-workers (or cow-orkers as Dogbert says) or dig them out of the garbage can. Come on, you all know someone who would! They are playing this tedious game on their boss’ time.

And the numbers. They’re tiny and hard to read. They are sprayed on by one of those high-speed ink guns. I used to service some of them when I was working. It’s amazing the speed they can shoot a line of text onto a moving object and have it come out as good at letters drawn in dots can. They’re a curious code. Obviously, a checksum so that it can be validated. If you mis-type one, it tells you and you try again. If you already entered it, it tells you too. The alphabet they use is curious too. No ambiguous characters – I but not 1, O but no 0, etc. Kind of like a telephone dial.

So, I think of the time I’ve wasted entering these things and laugh. I could have downloaded hundreds of MP3s in the time I’ve wasted, and not paid a cent. The apparel items aren’t anything to write home about. They probably give them away anyway. And TV reruns? What a joke!

But I’ll go on with the experiment, at least for now. I’m kind of curious how far it will go. Will I hold out for bigger and bigger prizes, or break down and get that Trucker’s Hat? (No, it won’t fit me anyway. One size does not fit all in caps) Will better prizes be available, or will the one I really wanted be out of stock by the time I get enough points?

It’s kind of like playing the lottery, except it doesn’t suck money out of my pocket to play. Or at least money I wouldn’t be spending any way.