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Man Wins, Then Loses, $100K Contest

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Man Wins, Then Loses, $100K Contest, Theodore Scott won the grand prize in an online contest, but was disqualified for using this to win. Winner Uses Contest Site and Loses Grand Prize, After working as a lawyer for 22 years, Theodore A. Scott wanted a break. So he entered a contest sponsored by Gold Peak Tea, a Coca-Cola tea brand, offering the ultimate respite for weary workers: a year off work and a $100,000 prize.

Mr. Scott, 60, made it to the second round for which he created a video that was voted on by Gold Peak Tea fans on Facebook. To his surprise, he won the grand prize. He and his family were elated.

“Everybody is shouting and laughing and crying and so happy,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s just like we won the Super Bowl or won the lottery.”

But the feeling was short-lived. Days later, Mr. Scott was informed that he had violated the terms and conditions of the contest and was disqualified. The reason given was that he had used an online contest forum, a Web site where people who enter crowdsourced digital sweepstakes post links to those contests and ask members to vote for them.

But Mr. Scott did not go away quietly, and Gold Peak Tea finds that it is just the latest company to try to create excitement for its brand on social media only to find that sentiment can quickly turn.

The contest, called “Take the Year Off,” was one of several this year sponsored by marketers like McDonald’s and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority aimed at downtrodden workers looking for respite in a tough economy.

An image on Gold Peak Tea’s Facebook page promoting the contest that showed a woman kneeling against a file cabinet appearing to scream caught Mr. Scott’s attention. “I get it. I see where she is. I understand her,” he said in an interview last week. In his contest entry, Mr. Scott described how his job had taken him away from his family. “I had a family. I had a home,” Mr. Scott’s letter began. “But I let my career defer them. I let my debts outweigh them. I let deadlines sideline them. I let an office, computer, phone, and e-mails crush them.”

Mr. Scott pledged to spend the year off enjoying time with his family – he has four sons, four grandsons, and has been married for more than 35 years. “I’ll enjoy simplicity. Listen to music. Read. Write. Relax. And sip a glass of iced tea – at home,” he wrote in the essay.

In his follow-up video, Mr. Scott is seen at his desk, answering calls, books stacked on his desk, shuffling from office to office.

To increase his chances, Mr. Scott became a member of an online contest forum on About.com and made his pitch to the voters there. Susan Stribling, a representative for Coca-Cola, said the company declined to comment but pointed a reporter to a statement that had been posted on the company’s Facebook page. According to the statement, Mr. Scott had been disqualified for trying “to inappropriately induce members of the public to vote for his submission, a violation of Official Contest Rules.”

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