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Sandra Grauschopf

Why Are Sweepers "Addicts"?

By March 9, 2008

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It seems to me that most of the time, when the public eye falls on the sweepstakes hobby at all, it's to paint us sweepers as some kind of freaks or obsessives. For example, the Winning for a Living documentary focused heavily on people whose marriages were strained by their hobby, or who were afraid to tell their friends and family that they enter sweepstakes.

ABC News is currently running a story called Sweepstakes Addicts Win Big! that also highlights the supposed strangeness of people who enter sweepstakes as a hobby. The article starts off: "Among the 55 million Americans who enter sweepstakes contests every year, there's a small group of addicts known as 'sweepers,' who spend hours everyday submitting their forms and trying their luck. They are addicted to the chance of winning..."

To me, that's a very strange terminology to use about people who enjoy a hobby. Are people who jog regularly "addicted" to jogging? Maybe some of them, but there's a difference between an addiction and a hobby. Kimberly Read & Marcia Purse, the BiPolar Guides, define addiction as "Compulsively engaging in an activity to fill a psychological need that is beyond one's control." That doesn't sound like me, or most of the sweepers I know. I think entering sweepstakes is FUN. I think winning them is even more fun. I don't do it for a psychological reason I can't control, any more than people who like going out to eat do.

To emphasize the "addiction," the ABC article refers to one woman who spends up to 20 hours a week sweeping (and who wins a whole lot of sweepstakes to show for it). 20 hours a week is a bit less than three hours a day - which is less than I spend. I usually spend between half an hour and an hour a day entering sweeps, depending on how much time I have. But does three hours a day mean she has an addiction? When I think about how much time the average person spends sitting in front of a television each day, it doesn't seem like that much. And many people enter sweepstakes while they're doing other things - entering with their laptops while watching TV with their family, for instance.

So what do you think? Why do sweepers have such a bad reputation as freaks or weirdos? And what could we do to improve our reputation in the public eye? Maybe we should lobby for a National Sweepstakes Awareness Day.


March 9, 2008 at 12:53 pm
(1) Darla Biederman says:

I spend about 30-60 minutes a day entering sweepstakes. I have entered sweepstakes off and on for 20 years. I used to have to buy 3×5 cards and 20$ in stamps every 2 weeks. I do get hassled by family, but I intend to shut them up by winning something fabulous. I think those who would judge others for entering sweeps or for any reason need to get a life themselves.

March 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm
(2) Sandy in CT says:

My mother-in-law has been a “sweeper” for years and was constantly made fun of, until she won a fabulous all-expense paid cruise to the Caribbean, plus $5000.00 cash! Heh,heh…that shut them up!

March 9, 2008 at 9:14 pm
(3) Erin says:

I’m a little embarassed to be entering contests because of the terrible reputation given to “sweepers” portraying us as oddball wackjobs with no life. When I told my sister, she totally laughed at me. SHE’S the crazy one and she laughed at me for entering contests!

March 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm
(4) donna says:

I have just started entering sweeps a couple of weeks ago. I know I spend way too much time, probably 5 – 6 hours a day. I do however enter them while watching TV with my husband. I am retired and started the sweeps as a way to keep my mind off cigarettes since I am just quiting. It seems to work. I get interested in the sweeps and a few hours later I realize I haven’t even thought of a cigarette. So go ahead and think I am wierd if you want to, maybe I am. But I am a wierd person who no longer smokes and in my first week won my first prize.

March 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm
(5) donna says:

Oh yeah, I left out something on my previous comment. For those of you who are wondering why my husband and I would be sitting around my house even watching TV for 5 to 6 hours a day, my husband is undergoing chemo therapy. And which is another thing entering sweeps does for me is to keep my mind occupied and off of his illness as well as cigarettes. I guess my point is that it is easy to pass judgement on anyone without knowing the reasons behind what and why they do the things that they do. If entering sweeps is the worst thing that I ever do than I guess people will just have call me crazy I’m not ashamed of my behavior at all.

March 9, 2008 at 10:55 pm
(6) LuckyLady says:

Been entering sweepstakes for 7 years, started after I became disabled from a heart attack.I spend about 7 to 8 hours in the evening entering. My wins have amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in those 7 years. Trips that we would never have taken, had I not won them,gifts for the grandchildren we could never have afforded, cash for shutters for the home and my most recent win paid for an front load washer & dryer to the tune of $3,400. I may be an addict, but I am a traveling and buying addict having a heck of a great time, and not worrying about my check book or credit card bills. Luck to All!!!

March 10, 2008 at 11:39 am
(7) Contests says:

This is what really mystifies me about these negative comments in the media. Lots of people spend as much time on their hobbies or more as we do – with less to show for it. Donna’s got a way to relax with her husband and take her mind off of some negative things in life. LuckyLady’s had a host of experiences she never would have without entering sweepstakes. But people who spend their time knitting or playing video games are considered more “normal.”

Although, I sweep AND play video games (and cross stitch, too :D ) so I guess I must be really “out there!”

March 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm
(8) valera says:

I’m not really sure why people laugh when I tell them I enter sweepstakes? Has always made me wonder why they don’t enter. I love to enter sweeps I spend a small amount of time doing it a day less than an hour I get tired entering them so I don’t spend too much time. I have won small items and I’m happy happy happy every time I win. My husband doesn’t say much to me about entering but he does think it’s a waste of time. I can’t wait till I hit the big one, then I’ll be the one laughing! It’s fun,easy and free to do thank God for the computer no more mailing entries in hip hip hooray!!!

March 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm
(9) Contests says:

Valera, I think there are a lot of spouses who have been converted to sweepstakes fans after the first big win! I hope yours will come soon :)

March 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm
(10) valera says:

That would be nice then we would have double chances to WIN!! :)

March 10, 2008 at 1:36 pm
(11) Lisa says:

I sweep 1-2 hours a day usually, during my lunch hour or while watching tv at night. I admit, I keep my sweeping to myself for the most part. I told my mom who is always excited to hear about my wins and a friend who acted like I had lost my mind. I say we let them think we’re strange – when they don’t enter the odds are better that we win!!

March 10, 2008 at 4:18 pm
(12) lisa schiffman says:

This is probably me, overthinking things, but what the heck: it seems to me that our love, as Americans, for sweepstakes and contests really represents a core aspect of the American character. We always feel like we might make it big. We love games of chance. We love games, period. Just yesterday, I listened to a whole radio segment on the fixation we Americans have with crossoword puzzles (online and off). Talk about addictive!

Anyway–I told you this is me, overthinking. But I believe there is an element of truth to it.

I say: let’s go for it! Forget the naysayers!


December 12, 2008 at 8:50 pm
(13) Jeff Gedgaud says:

Addiction: an obsession, compulsion, or excessive physical dependence or psychological dependence. It’s really simple to many, an addiction is an obsession or compulsion that you cannot control until you come to terms with what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. A hobby is something you do for fun while an addiction is something you have to do. You may not understand why but here’s a good clue to a problem instead of a hobby. Can you go for a week or more wihtout doing your sweeping without having any problems. Try it and you will be able to tell for yourself if it’s a problem or a simple hobby. If you can leave it and not have problems then have fun with your hobby and don’t worry about what those others say, everyone has something weird about them, have fun with your oddity, and your winnings.

March 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm
(14) Kit says:

OK I must admit I do joke about how my husband will need to put me in rehab if my computer crashed. BUT that is only a joke because I don’t do my sweeps every day. It is a fun hobby that I enjoy. I am happy my husband is happy. It cost nothing we get rewarded. I could think of a lot worse things in life to be “addicted” to.

April 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm
(15) June says:

It’s no surprise that Sweeping is an American phenomenon. There is nothing to be gained but something “material”, that which can be achieved by applying the least amount of physical effort or mental demands. It also patterns and reinforces the mindset to perceive that there is something better “out there” to be gained and what is “here” is missing something. It is a game of Hope & Fear which has long term psychological impacts which are completely aligned with gambling. The activity “takes” more than it “gives”. It takes time that could be used for an infinite number of other far more productive and mind enriching activities that not only benefit self, but may even be of benefit to others. Reading, playing board games with other family members, organizing a closet or drawer or maybe even doing it for an elderly person who could use the help, etc. etc. etc. Sitting lethargically in front of a computer with an unavailable mind (you might be IN the room with family but are you mentally PRESENT?) only contributes to the disconnected communications this society as a whole is suffering from. To try and defend such a waste of time activity by saying that winning a cruise or a DVD justifies it is assuming that there is a common desire amongst people for material gain. Time with my family, volunteer work at the local animal shelter, cooking a meal for an elderly neighbor, or taking my dogs for a long well deserved walk are far greater rewards to those of us who care about developing a less selfish society and creating a world worthy of leaving to the generations to follow. Sweepstakes and similar “time killing” endeavors are nothing more than an addictions that fill the hollows of empty spirits with nothing more than air spun sugar paste.

August 20, 2011 at 3:36 am
(16) LAMusing says:

June – Judgemental much?
I am only part time employed due to medical issues. I also care for my elderly mother who had chemo and radiation last year. Although the cancer is in remission, she is 80 and quite frail and has other medical problems.
Because of my loss of income, we can not quite pay our bills (especially with a pile of medical bills every month). I cannot work more hours. SO I ENTER SWEEPSTAKES as a part time job.
It is not to fill my empty spirit with sugar paste. It helps put food on the table (I usually win at least $200 a month in VISA or grocery cards.) It allowed us to have any Christmas at all last year. The Walmart and Target cards buy our clothing. The free food coupons also help feed us. The pet product wins allow us to keep our cat. The occasional restaurant gift card or movie tickets I win are the only entertainment or nights out we can have. And by the way we do read (Books I have won that I then pass on to others in tight financial circumstances or donate to the senior center), we play board games, and take walks on the beach. Unfortunately we can spend little time with friends UNLESS I WIN A GIFT CARD so we can afford to meet for coffee and/or put gas in the tank to go visit or buy groceries to make a meal to invite friends to.
As far as winning a cruise goes – I don’t spend time on those because I am trying to win things we need to survive, but it would be a great blessing to be able to take my elderly ill mother on a vacation where we could spend a few days just enjoying each other and not worrying all the time. But I gather that makes me a materialistic and selfish.
Your post was offensive and small minded and ungracious in the extreme. And why are you “time killing” by posting here? You have some empty spirit to fill with telling strangers on the computer how invalid their choices are?

April 12, 2009 at 8:24 pm
(17) Jason says:

It’s down right offensive for people to call my hobby an addiction. It’s a perfectly healthy hobby. Plus, how many hobbies do you know of that can make a person a Millionaire.

How dare they!

February 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm
(18) Patricia Loverink says:

I think they’re all jealous that we have a hobby that brings in such wonderful surprises. I’ve been entering sweeps for 26 years, and I have won so many great things that NOBODY laughs or makes fun any more.

June 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm
(19) Debi says:

June, June, June… I have to say that you’re being a tad judgemental. I began entering sweeps because I became unemployed. Not to mention that besides looking for work I spend a lot of time helping out my family and friends. I help out my aunt quite a lot with cleaning, organizing, and doing household repairs. She’s also 74 years old. In fact, just last week I painted her garage. With anything in life there needs to be balance. You can let ANYTHING get in between your relationships between your family and friends. Please save your preaching to the choir and look for the good in others. Sweepers are not criminals. Believe it or not winning sweeps has helped to make ends meet. However, I don’t rely on that. It keeps me busy and away from TV while my loved ones are at their jobs.

December 4, 2010 at 6:32 pm
(20) Anonymous says:

I have no problem with people who enter contests on their own, but I’ve been getting really annoyed with those who enter contests and require others vote for them to win. In particular, a friend of mine on an unnamed popular social website is constantly sending out requests for this contest, than another, and another. She’s won tickets to shows for her child multiple times this year, and most recently won a trip for her and her daughter and a friend who entered them. That’s fine by me and I’m glad she won, but what irks me is the fact that 99% of the time, the contests she enters are the voting kind. So dozens of times in a day, on my feed page, I see all these posts asking anyone on her friend list to vote. And even worse, most of these contests require you to sign up in order to be counted. I don’t think she realizes it, but that’s more or less spam, and it’s annoying as h-e-double hockeysticks!
And believe me, it’s not just here and there, it’s been a constant past time of hers since about August, and she only keeps entering more as each month goes by. She’s a wonderful person, and I would never dream of deleting her off my list, but I have to figure something out… anyone else know what I’m talking about? :S

October 8, 2013 at 11:14 am
(21) Teresa S says:

My family thought I was crazy when I started sweeping 2 years ago but once prizes started showing up and the gift cards that made them start to enter a few here and there. I am committed though to entering 2-3 hours a day and do have my limits as to what I enter. I keep away from voting contests and anything you have to submit a picture for. I have no other hobbies so I think it is a nice productive activity that offers real rewards.

October 10, 2013 at 5:41 pm
(22) Sandra Grauschopf, Guide to Contests says:

Teresa S, I totally agree with you!

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