Sunday, March 11, 2007

A rant about raffles

Raffles are strange beasts. At social occasions, there are frequently far too many prizes and the process is often poorly planned. Consequently, the draw takes far too long, the punters get restless and it dampens the atmosphere of the proceedings.

Another thing that needs to be considered is the psychology of the punter. (I use the word punter accurately here, as a raffle is a form of wager and a punter is a UK colloquialism for either a Customer of a business or a gambler).

Raffles are nearly always for fund raising, sometimes charities, sometimes simply to bolster funds. However, the organisers often think that people will blithely hand over their money because it is for a good cause, when the truth is much more complex than that. Some people are too mean, opposed to gambling, uncomfortable with the cause or just plain disinterested to buy raffle tickets at all. Others will happily hand over a sum they are comfortable with and aren't too bothered how many tickets they end up with. Others will be influenced by the perceived value of the prizes and the chance they have of winning.

A cardinal sin at this point (in the Grey value system) is to sell strips of five then not actually seperate them in the tombola drum. This way, the punter feels cheated- they assume that they have five chances and could possibly win five prizes but the reality is that they only have one chance.

Another cardinal sin is not widely appreciated in the UK- it is illegal to offer volume discounts, i.e. 25p a ticket, £1 a strip of five. (Raffles will come under the Gambling Act 2005 as of 1st September this year & partially from last month, whatever that means. The rules now look much more complex!)

Society lotteries have a permissible maximum ticket price of £2 and many assume that this is the best price to set. (This is what happened last night, £2 a ticket, £10 a strip).

However, this isn't true in practice. Many people who are otherwise prepared to give a Fiver, decide to buy two tickets, so the raffle only gets £4. (Some will simply hand the fiver over anyway though). When you only get one bit of paper for your £2 coin, you pay much more attention to what the prizes are. Then you get awkward people like the Greys who say sod-it on principle and don't buy any at all, no matter how noble the cause. (This is much more honest than sneaking off to the bar or the toilets when the collectors come round to your table).

Raffle tickets are really, really, cheap. The best approach is to make the ticket price low as well, say 50p a strip. You maximise the sales and all it has cost you is a bit more time in dealing with more tickets into the tombola drum.

I once saw something rather amusing happen on-stage at a raffle during a Football benefit show at Newcastle City Hall. Jasper Carrott was the Star Turn and when he was asked to draw the raffle, he did the unexpected. He dipped his hand in the box, threw a couple of handfuls of tickets on the floor rather camply, scooped another handful up, threw them up into the air and grabbed one of them fluttering down to hand to the announcer. When some others panicked and started to crawl on the floor, he casually said "don't worry about those ones lads, they haven't won..."

Now this was a bit of a shock, but on reflection, it did make sense and was very, very funny. It is the job of the organisers to ensure every ticket gets into the drum at the start. The ones removed and abandoned are actually no worse than the ones left in the drum after the prizes have gone. No-one knew whether their tickets were in the drum or on the floor so it made no difference.

I've always fancied pulling this particular stunt myself but have never had the bottle to do so, or if I have been up for it, I have sensed that the mood of the audience wasn't right at the time. One day, though, it will happen. Whether it would get a big woof or go down like a lead balloon I don't know, but I'll blog about it when it happens!


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

An entertaining post. Yes, do blog about it when it happens! Having had a father who was a compulsive gambler [though a wonderful man as well] I hate being made to feel "compelled" to buy a raffle ticket in a good cause. If you join gamblers-anonymous, you are not supposed to buy a ticket as it is, after all, a form of gambling which could set you off again. I have often wondered how many sellers are aware of this when they try to "persuade" people to buy. I'd rather just give a cause a fiver and have done with it myself, having observed that in raffles, as elsewhere in life, "money goes to money"! [I am a miserable sod of a "welshcakes" this evening!] Like the new look of the blog, btw.

Ian said...

Welshcakes, it does you good to be grumpy now and again.

I find myself getting more and more cynical about many good causes, particularly ones that hire chuggers and go cap in hand to the public sector for handouts.

Colin Campbell said...

I have not won a raffle, despite many opportunities for the universe to align. It reminds me of my mums parents, who played the pools all their life and never won a tot. Miserable stuff.