Big Island Weekly on the “Win Hawaiian Home Contest”

I’m just going to simply cut and paste this here and bold a few things that I think need to be said, as I believe I am the “Blogger” that is mentioned in this article, and I don’t want any confusion about anything.  I have never contacted Sherri Smith ever!!! I have only blogged about my thoughts on this “game of skill” as I have seen it.

How does one harass another person without ever contacting them or even knowing them?

I would like to personally thank Tiffany Edwards Hunt for following up the best she was able to.  You can view Tiffany’s personal blog at Big Island Chronicle.

Sheri Smith and John Williams, both of Puna, closed their Essay 101 Contest on Aug. 11 without awarding the sweetheart cottage to one of the entrants.

The couple failed to receive 1,000 entries on the contest Web site at, and said no prizes will be awarded and entry fees will be refunded.

“We are in the throws right now and are contacting all entrants so they know what is going on,” said Sheri Smith in an e-mail. She declined to meet in person and did not return phone messages by press time. It is not known how many entries the couple received for their contest.

“We didn’t get 1,000 entries,” said Shirley Bradbury, the Web mistress for the contest site. “We weren’t able to reward prizes. We have to refund entry fees. This was spelled out on the Web site from start that if we didn’t get 1,000 entries, we weren’t keeping the money; we are returning the entry fees. So, there was nothing funny going on, and this was according to plan.”

On the contest Web site, it notes: “All entrants are winners! Everyone who entered the contest will be receiving a notification of the results in the U.S. postal mail. Please respond by 9/1/09!”

The Web site indicates that Smith and Williams will be “taking a new direction to offer the Sweetheart Cottage” for sale, for rent or for lease. The Sweetheart Cottage is the custom-built home that was to be the grand prize in the essay contest. For a $101 entry fee, essayists were to write 101 words on the Hawaiian concepts of “aloha” and “mahalo.” The Web site indicates that Smith and Williams are looking to publish “101 Finalists,” a collection of the best essays received, along with a book of love poems entitled “Ancient Spell,” written by Williams.

From its onset in December, the Smith and Williams’ essay contest had a rough go. Some in the community and in the blogosphere questioned the legality of the contest, dubbed it a “scam” and attacked the Puna couple’s credibility. Smith wrote in an e-mail that she felt “harass(ed)” and “humiliate(d)” by one blogger in particular and, having “had enough of his deranged postings to last me a lifetime,” wasn’t inclined to speak publicly about the result of the essay contest.

Previously, Hawaii County Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville told a Honolulu newspaper reporter: “The law is that any game of chance that people are required to pay money to participate in is illegal gambling. If it’s a game of skill, it’s a bit different.”

Smith said.,”Look at any contest rules (including mine) and you will see that the only provision for contest results is ‘For the list of winners, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to…’ They do not say, ‘Give us a call if you’re nosy but didn’t want to enter the contest yourself.’ Posting the contest results is relevant to those who participated, not to those who are seeking ammunition for their personal vendetta.”

6 Responses

  1. I remember seeing Ms. Smith on the morning show back in January. I was a little leery of the whole thing. People have tried this type of stunt elsewhere and it never seems to work out.

  2. So far they are not returning any entry fees. Sheri is stating “they are waiting for checks to arrive, before they can return any fees” Yep, I think we got duped on this one! I’m going to contact the local authorities, file a dispute with paypal and my credit card company. Has anyone else got a refund? The best part is that you can easily refund money back through paypal but they are obviously choosing not to go that route.

    • We did receive our $90 refund two days ago. I don’t mind losing out on the $11. After all, PayPal took a percentage and they also had to pay their lawyer.

  3. They are not returning all of the money… They are keeping 11% of each $101.00 entered.

    Technically, if 999 people entered… they have still banked $10,989 Dollars if THEY RETURN all money to those that now have about 10 more days to respond to the contest.

    My bet… is about 1/3 of the people will ask for refunds.

    So then that $10,089 could feasibly go up much higher to say even 333 people do ask for their money back that still leaves 666 people who haven’t = $67,266

    $10,089 + $67,266 = $77,355 PLUS THEY GET TO KEEP THE HOUSE!

    That’s a nice little piece of change for a “Contest of Skill”

    And folks… LETS NOT FORGET… That the entire time this contest of skill was going on… The house was also for sale… So at anytime the house could have been sold any how…. (Which was never disclosed)

    Pfft… Harassment… Nope… JEALOUS :roll:

  4. And it would be interesting to learn if they pay their taxes from their “fees”.

  5. Notice Ms. Smith and Bradbury say they are refunding “entry fees,” not the “entire entry fees.” Does that mean they are withholding the $11 (or whatever, I’m not sure I recall the exact amount) from each entrant that their “rules” allowed?

    If they are as honest and upfront as they said they were going to be, I think they owe the public some transparency here, like revealing how many entries they received and how much, if any, of the entry fees that they are keeping.

    That way we could all see “there was nothing funny going on.” After all, why should those sincerely taking part in this “game of skill” subsidize their failed contest?

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