Nerdery, Toys

Worst Prize: And the Winner Is…

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cracker_jack_prize.jpg

?There were lots of wonderful tales of woe in this week’s contest — you know, if we’re all bitter nerds nowadays, I don’t think we need to look back further than our attempts to get these prizes, whether they be from cereal boxes or school contests. Adults made promises, used our youthful, overactive imaginations, we busted our asses, and received utter crap for all our efforts. No wonder we assume everything’s going to shit all the time.

Since virtually all the stories were excellent — and also kind of long — let me warn you that these Honorable Mentions are not really indicative of the best, it’s more of a clip show-type thing. Please, go read the entries in their entirety (there are only 100 or so, pretty light for a TR contest). Let’s get one mention of questionable honor right now:







Salty
Moobs said:

The worst thing ever was my topless
robot t-shirt, I opened the box the the smell of stale booze and nerd tears
filled my apartment, I never got my security deposit back because of that.

Also the shirt wasn’t a husky XL so it
was a bit tight.

Hit the jump for the rest.



ZE HONORABLE MENTIONS.







Jonesy
said:

it would definitely have to be my Star
Wars “death star trooper” that I got in the mail with 5 proofs of
purchase. The trooper himself wasn’t that bad, wore the standard Imperial Navy
uniform and had that spesh swoop helmet…the problem is that the
motherfucker’s head fell off just as soon as I opened the package — there was
a crack right at the top of his chest where the head connected.

Fortunately, I wasn’t pissed (I was
5)…so he instantly became my “red shirt” Imperial. That poor
motherfucker must have gotten his head blown off by Han Solo every time I
played Star Wars. Things went well, until I decided it was time for my toy
Rancor to have a snack, and it bit his head off and it went straight inside the
Rancor, never to be seen again.

Oh, headless Death Star trooper. Due to
the amount of decapitations, I guess it was a good toy after all. Shit, he was
still better than the Emperor you could get with 5 proofs of purchase…the
most evil Dictator of the Galaxy’s toy looked like an…old woman. With a
walking cane. Fuck.

 

Superoceanlad
said:

The year was 1981, I was a 4th grader
at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer school in exotic Baltimore Maryland. We were
selling candy bars to raise funds for God knows what. Probably to replenish the
wooden pointer supply as Sister Michael Kathleen went through at least one a
day snapping them on desks and occasionally fingers.

We got a pamphlet of awesome prizes to
show us what we might win if we sold the most chocolate. I was a 9 year old
Cadbury whore. I schlepped that chocolate up and down the streets of Hillbrook
Camelot, I stood in front of the drug store with a card table in my Catholic
schoolboy uniform (Strange how that fantasy isn’t a two way street. You never
see male strippers in blue chinos and a matching clip on tie. Of course, where
would the clip it, but I digress). I had a whole distribution network. Mom was
moving product at work. My crazy aunt was pushing chocolate at the N.S.A. After
a lot of whining, even dad was selling candy to the guys at the can company. I
even broke the cardinal rule of candy pushing, I got a sugar high on my own
supply. I blame that contest for twenty years of chubbiness.
Not only did I win, I beat the competition like a God fearing drum. Close to a
thousand candy bars sold. That pamphlet had a digital clock like we now have in
the future, there was a freaking toy train (!!!!), awesome stuff.

The sale ends, it’s time to pick my
prize. I got to chose between two, a blue plastic rosary and a pink plastic
rosary. That’s right, move a grand worth of product and get 63 cents worth of
string, plastic and guilt.

Hooray!

I haven’t tried since.

 

Shad
said:

I ate so many cheerios I thought I
would turn to one, just so I could get the official “Star Trek: The Motion
Picture” flashlight. I was expecting some awesome futuristic flashlight.
What I got was the same thing you could buy (for much less than the cheerios I
has eaten) at Wal-Mart. It was a plain blue flashlight that said “Star
Trek” on the side.

 

mythbri
said:

My first job was as a sales clerk for a
medium-sized independent book store, which was not as cool in reality as I had
thought it would be, being 16-year-old bookworm. This was the year that the
awful live-action version of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” was
being released, and to captialize on that fact, the owner of the store ordered
a huge quantity of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday book. They made it a contest
among the employees to see who could sell the most copies, and the three top
sellers would get prizes.

I was excited about this contest
because one of the other employees told me that the previous year’s top prize
had been an in-store gift certificate for $25. Addicted to the written word as
I am, I was eager to get something extra to support my habit. I plugged that
little picture book like nobody’s business. I mentioned it to every customer I
assisted. I WANTED that gift certificate.

Well, I won the top prize in the
contest, but apparently, that year the owner had decided to let the manager (a
wormy, hateful guy) pick the contest prizes. The second and third place winners
received $15 and $10 gift certificates, respectively, and I got . . . a cd. Not
just ANY cd, but the manager’s solo album. YES, THAT’S RIGHT. A SOLO album! It
was called (I shit you not) “Michael’s Magical Thoughts”, and it had
FIFTEEN songs that he’d written, performed, and recorded himself. Most of them
were about Jesus, if I had to judge from the titles. I was devastated. Not only
did I feel like I’d lost $25 of free books, but also received a collection of
personal music from the one person at the book store that I loathed the most.

I quit shortly after that.

 

Zach S.
said:

So I was about 5 or 6 and the local
kiddie science museum was having a big wheel race out in front of it for some
reason. I showed up with my sweet vintage WWF big wheel and proceeded to
dominate with the Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man racing with me on my front wheel.
What do I get for my hard fought win? A stupid beanie propeller hat that I wore
for all of five minutes. It’s a science museum, didn’t they have freeze dried
ice cream or a toy dinosaur or something. To top it off my little brother was
in the picture for the local paper and came in like fifth or sixth.

 

Bill
said:

When I was a kid, my parents would
bribe me to get good grades on my report card by letting me pick cool stuff out
of the Sears catalog and they would order it for me. At least, thats what I was
told.

So, I work my young bootie off and I
get all good grades! Probably the best I ever got, overall. Now, I open right
to the toy section, obviously, and choose the action figures of the Universal
Movie Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummy, Creature from the Black
Lagoon and Phantom of the Opera), complete with this cool-ass looking monster
playset! Man, I was stoked! I was already planning the crossover potential with
my 1982 batch of G.I. Joe figures! We’re talking some EPIC shit here! I had
already begun steering my G.I. Joes adventures to include the introduction of
the Universal Movie Monsters.

The weeks ticked by. I tried my best to
wait patiently. More weeks. Then, one day I FINALLY get news on my hard won
reward for all my hard work and good grades. Sears said that, due to popular
demand, they didn’t have any more. No offer to get more, no raincheck, no
apology…just NOTHING. No monsters, no playset, nothing.

My parents treated it as a good time to
teach me the
“world sucks” lesson with this. I got no back-up prize. My reward was
my good grades. What kind of lesson is that for a kid in second grade??

I can’t begin to express how dejected I
felt.

I never bothered to get good grades
anymore after that. What was the point? The lesson I learned was, “Don’t
try too hard for anything, because you get nothing for it in the end.”

AT LEAST YOU ALL GOT SHITTY PRIZES! I
GOT NOTHING!

 

Marjorie
said:

It’s 1994. I’m in 4th grade. My school
is holding a charity fundraiser hop-a-thon. Yes, a bunch of elementary school
kids had to get people to sponsor them and then hop for 3 minutes. For each
time you hop, your sponsor donates a certain amount to charity. The grand prize
to the kid who raised the most money? A BOOM BOX. Now, for those of you who did
not grow up electronically deprived, this may not be a big deal. But to
9-year-old me, whose only way to listen to music was a crappy cassette Walkman
from the local Walmart, the idea of getting an actual large boombox was really
fucking cool. You can bet I got my entire family and neighbors to sponsor me
and then I hopped my little heart out. My hard work and ambition paid off. I
raised the most money and won the GRAND PRIZE…

Imagine my shock, confusion, and
bitterness (a feeling I would get to know well as I grew into a full blown
nerd) when the “boombox” prize was placed in my hands. It was a
boombox all right–A BOOMBOX PENCIL CASE. Yes, a cheap, tiny, pink, plastic
pencil case in the shape of a boombox. What a scam. The fundraiser had promised
the world, but delivered about as much as the Avatar trailer. The only entity
that “won” that day was charity. A sad day indeed.

 

longbowhunter
said:

OK…I damn well better win this
one,for NO ONE can top the crappiness of my one and only win. When I was a
kid,I entered contests and sweepstakes like CRAZY!!! This was back in the day
before identity theft,plus I was like 8 anyway so it didnt matter how many
times I gave out my personal info….I never won anyway. NEVER. I was starting
to get bummed out and one day my Grandpa and I went to McDonalds…there on the
counter was a giant stuffed chicken McNugget…wearing a sombrero. It was some
kind of a promotion for Mexican McNuggets or some such crap,and Grandpa and I
IMMEDIATELY decided that I had to win it…no matter the cost. We went to
McDonalds every damn day and STUFFED that ballot box. After awhile it became a
huge joke…it was ugly as hell and I didnt really want the damn thing so…of
course I won it. I dont know why the hell we worked so hard to win something so
stupid,but to this day its the one and only thing I’ve ever won. Despite me
doing the same ballot stuffing trick years later in an attempt to win one of
those Frito-Lay Ewoks(damn I really wanted one of those). Guess I’ll go dress
up my crappy McNugget in a hood and pretend he’s Wicket….

 

LicenseToWill
said:

When I was 11 years old my elementary
school had this contest where you’d guess how many friggin jelly beans they had
stuffed into some jar. They said whoever could guess the closest would win an
awesome prize, I wanted that prize. So we ended up lining up in the library to
look at a jar of jelly beans and then wrote on these tiny pieces of paper our
name and how many we thought were in the jar. Turns out I won they called it
out in the middle of class so I ran out all stoked as I walked into the office
I awaited my prize and what do ya know it’s a water bottle(fuckers didn’t even
put water in the plastic piece of shit) …I was pretty pissed I ended up
throwing it away on the way back to class, basically fuck Granger Elementary.

 

Jason
said:

Many years ago, after Star Trek V
[shudder]came out, there was a mail-away opportunity to buy an official Star
Trek marshmallow ejector (true story), like they used at the [in]famous camping
scene in that movie. I ordered it, got it, and tried it out. I wasn’t expecting
it to solve all my problems, or cure malaria or anything, but dammit, it SHOULD
have had the ability to actually eject a marshmallow. No dice. SIGH. I had to
resign myself to eject marshmallows the old-fashioned way. Which way is that? I
dunno, it’s a stupid concept to begin with, and I was a stupid person to even
order it.

 

Lo Pan
said:

A wee third grader went round the block
Selling “Gold C” coupon books for prizes that would rock
“The more you sell, the better the prize!”
Oh the treasures that befell my eyes
There were R/C cars and even cash money
So much goodness it wasnt even funny

So I worked and sold and sold and
worked
There were some nice people, but mostly jerks
“Get out kid, I dont wanna buy your junk!”
But yet I persevered and didnt get in a funk
“I can do this!” I thought. I can sell a few more!
And so I did, going door to door to door.

Finally after two weeks time
I sold enough booklets for something divine
Turned in my money and waited and yearned
Oh what would I get with all the cash I earned??
The prize that I got certainly wasnt to me estimate
Twas a mini green Bible with just the New Testament.

I mean cmon, I was fuckin 9! What was I
gonna do with that? Least it could have been a complete Bible with the
interesting part. Sweet baby Jesus works in mysterious ways. *nervous laughter*

 

Tank-N-Spank
said:

My worst mail order prize was a
glow-in-the-dark 7UP watch. To claim the prize all you had to do was cut the
UPC codes off of the metal can (resulting in trips to the ER for stitches), and
send in a check to cover the shipping. Green has always been my favorite color,
so I sent in my order for the regular 7UP green watch. Several weeks later I
received it in the mail. It was white, said DIET 7UP and did not glow.

Way to kill the dreams of a 7 year old
girl, give her diabetes, and scar her hands for life.

 

OGready
said:

Back when gogurt was still new and cool
they ran a contest for prizes in order to boost sales. the contest worked along
the lines of the golden ticket from willy wonka; a fabulous prize was to be
awarded to anyone that found a silver tube of gogurt filled with confetti and
instructions. the box the gogurt came in advertised cell phone quality XTREME
GOGURT 2 WAY RADIOS. i went through these things like crazy trying to win. one
day i reached for a frozen gogurt and instead of a delicious icy treat i had a
foil packet with winner all over it. apparently it was something like a one in
16000 chance of wining. i wasted pretty much a lifes worth of luck for this
contest. i sent the stub inside the tube to yoplait. 6 weeks and 3.95 shipping
and handling later there was a box on my doorstep. i tore open the box to get
my radios. they were in reality closer to plastic sculptures in the shape of
radios. no battery hatch to unscrew, no holes for sound to come out, not even
buttons that depress. even those cell phone toys for baby’s make noise or
record sound, these were the shittiest things ive ever seen. i was so enraged
that i tied one to the top of a roman candle and lit it up. in the end i got
two lumps of plastic and was short a tube of gogurt. yopliat owes me a fucking
tube of gogurt to replace that fucking foiled abomination

 

Roody
said:

I remember a while back, there was a
contest at school for an iPod. At the time an iPod was the coolest thing ever,
so my little childish mind was just about ecstatic at the idea of having
something that my parents would never even think of buying me.
So the contest was a pretty ordinary contest, stuff your entry slip in a box,
attend class on time every week (which I did anyway), and don’t miss any days.
So I fulfilled all the requirements, stuck my slip in there, and awaited the
news. Many of my friends had missed a day here or there, so I hoped my chances
where better because of this. Haha.
So finally the day arrived and I’m sitting in my desk pumped like crazy, can’t
wait. Then they read the name of the winner: not me. Some other girl in my
class. Oh well, I thought, that’s not too bad. But the girl goes up to claim
her prize AND SHE IS LISTENING TO AN IPOD SHE ALREADY OWNS WHILE SHE ACCEPTS
HER NEW IPOD PRIZE. That made me pissed. Later she told me that with this new
iPod she had, it brought her iPod total up to four. FOUR FUCKING IPODS. And my
poor childish soul (and everyone else who entered) felt awful. To this day, my
friends and I still crack jokes about “the iPod girl.”

 

Hollwedout
said:

OK set your “Yesteryear”
machine to 1982. I’m 10 yearas old and going to be a “hard worker”
for the corporate machine… that is my school was starting it’s Helen Grace
Chocolate sales drive! Joy of fucking joys!!! This year was new for every box
you sold you could get a prize… and my HOLY GRAIL was on the sell three
boxespage! For a buck you got a chocolate and almond bar but also a little
piece that was my new dream… the “turn you am/fm walkman into a street
stereo!” YESSIREEE BOB for the small price of probably $240 (yep my
parents ended up buying all the chocalte and forcing epole they worked with buy
it from them! HA!!)I was going to get my first full fledged GHETTO BLASTER
style STREET STEREO!!!! I recieved in the following months a small box that
contained my “STREET STEREO”. It was two CARDBOARD speakers that you
needed to glue together and then add some wiring that made this piece of shit
into what was a paper cup telephone!!! How was this little white boy going to
turn into a local blaster of ghettos???? He wouldn’t! That street stereo sucked
my balls two times!

 

CapnHulk
said:

I won a very large, stuffed Tony The
Tiger toy in a raffle when I was 5 or so. The thing must’ve been twice as big
as me from what I can recall.

The worst part is that it looked like
someone had tried to have sex with it. There was a taped up hole in the rear to
keep the beans from spilling out.

 

X-Porter
said:

I collected enough Star Wars figure
proofs-of-puchase to pre-order a Boba Fett figure with a spring loaded missile
launcher on his back. BEFORE Empire was released, and A GODDAMN SPRING LOADED
MISSILE LAUNCHER!!
Sadly, some doof-clown must have choked on one of the missiles because I got
one with with a fixed missile pack.
Some nights I wake up and weep for what could have been…

 

Lincolnparadox
said:


I remember working my ass off for Cub Scout shit prizes, Happy Meal
transformers, and mailing in UPCs for some Silverhawk that was on one episode
of the short-lived show.

Today, I have a boy of my own. When he
starts begging me to buy another 6 cases of popcorn so that he can get a
glow-in-the dark frisbee, I put it into perspective:

Those 6 cases will cost me $50. If you
stop asking, I’ll blow $25 on you at Nobbies (“Your Ultimate Midwest Party
Superstore”), no questions asked.

Not only does this strategy get me out
of buying popcorn and candy bars, but it even keeps me from waiting in line for
skeeball ticket prizes at Chuck E Cheese.

Plus, I even picked up a little
something for myself: a knock-off Sword of Omens shaped like a Walrus. I’m not
sure if there ever was an anime about the Lightning-Pinnipeds, but I like to
imagine the adventures that SeaLion-O and his companions have had fighting the
evil Peruvian despot “Chinchorro.”

 

Tommy
Two-Tone said:

Wow reading these brought back some
memories of things i wanted as a kid. See I grew up in a large family and we
were what most people would call poor.

Well I remember when they would put
records (remember those?) on cereal boxes. Being the sci-fi Star Wars nerd I am
i about freaked when I saw that C-3POs cereal had a special Star Wars related
record on the box I begged my parents to let me get the cereal instead of our
usual bag of “puffed rice” So I finally convince them to get me the
cereal and I rush home to listen to the record. I cut out the record as soon as
I got home and placed in on the turntable….only to learn that you cant really
make a music record out of cardboard…..the part that made it even crappier
was i had to pretend to my parents that it worked and was a good record so they
would not realize they spent the money on crap.

The winner’s after the jump.

—-

You ready for this? I wasn’t.








babar.jpg

?

Poopenshaft
said:

This requires a bit of backstory to
fully appreciate. I was in Third Grade at the time.

Back when i was a kid, my school held a
reading contest where everyone got into teams to read the most pages of books.
You didn’t get to choose your team, but you could read whatever you wanted. The
winners got “The Big Mystery”, which was kept secret throughout the
event. Only the winners were even allowed to know what they were winning. Also,
everyone, regardless of whether or not they won, got a free Arby’s Kids Meal.

The allure of “The Big
Mystery” got the better of my fragile young mind. I had to know what it
was, and it dropped me to new lows I had never knew I was capable of. After
skimming through everything even remotely interesting, I took to reading books
well below my age level. then I “borrowed” books from other teams.
then I jusyt outright lied about the number of pages in the books I read. It
certainly brought out the worst in me.

Of course, none of my teammates knew
about this, they thought I was just a supernerd (Which I was not at the time.
My nerdiness came later. I was just an evil little bastard back then). We won
the reading contest by a landslide, and could finally find out just what
“The Big Mystery” was. We were all very anxious to see what it was.
My team was led into a hallway by some teachers. We were about to find out what
we had won.

Suddenly, a guy who smelled like rotten
cheese in a Babar outfit jumped out. “Why don’t you kids play with Babar?
He loves to dance.” My teacher said. “The Big Mystery” was a
dance with fucking Babar, the lamest motherfucking elephant anyone had heard
of. I shouted, “NO!” at the top of my lungs, punched Babar in the
gut, and ran like hell. I wanted nothing to do with “The Big Mystery”
anymore.

I still feel bad about punching Babar
to this very day.


Don’t, Poopenshaft. I’m officially decreeing that you got the worst prize in the bunch — worse than any physical item any of the other entrants came home with (at least a plastic rosary has mass) and certainly worse than nothing. Of course, I’m also partially giving you the win because you punched a beloved children’s book character, which delights me to no end.

But we’re not quite done! See, all though many of you proclaimed how you were perenniel losers who’d never known the joy of winning a contest, you didn’t do it quite as emphatically as Kayla:







Kayla
said:

God damnit, I’m stumped.
Reason? I’ve never won a prize.
Never. Not for lack of trying. I would fund-raise the shit out of school, but
would always come up fourth. I would dress up like it’s nobody’s business, but
there’s always a Mobster Girl or a Slutty Nurse or some shit and dudes love
their whores. Plus, back then, nerdy girls weren’t cool. (One year, I may or
may not have dressed up like a D20, which was later recycled to become a
Katamari for cosplay).

I hate to say it, but the shittiest
prize I’ve ever worked so hard to win, but has yet failed, would be a TR
t-shirt. NOT to say that a TR T-shirt is shitty, but compared to a motorbike, a
scholarship, PS3, $50 gift certs to Value Village (like US’s Savers) during
grand openings, hell, even a DQ icecream cake from the radio when it’s your
birthday, this one takes the cake. I can win, but I can’t win anything
involving prizes. Like, I can win games and stuff for bragging rights, but
nothing for a prize.

And I doubt this will be the tipping
point to for me in my loser-nerdgirl scale. Rob, please take pity on a sad
little nerdgirl!

It wouldn’t have, but Kayla also wanted to point out her cereal prize-bereft childhood in a second comment later.


Kayla
said:

It should be noted that I also have
never gotten a prize out of a cereal box. I am an only child but think of it
this way: You know Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory?” How he has
fiber cereal and all that healthy crap? Yeah. That was my parents. No Lucky
Charms, no Frosted Flakes, not even god-damn Count Chocula. Shreddies and
Mini-Wheats.
Please God, Baby Jesus and the Giant Castle Fucking Squiddy with the Facebook
Fan Page, let me win.

I remained unmoved. Kayla, somehow sensing this, went for my weakness — drunken begging — in post #3.

Kayla
said:

You know what Rob? I’m going to say it.

It may be the 75percent moonshine talking….
but the absolut (haha!!) shittiest prize I ever gotten wsas my ex boyfriedns
number.

You hear that! yeah, that’s right./
Wow, new low? Drunk-TR-commenting? sorry but I’m drinking away the pain of not
winning a TR shirt coupled with the memory of not ever winning a prize ever.

Thanks Rob. Now to go and drink more
from the Moonshine Lightening bottle. I don’t care if that makes sense or not.
It’s 11:13pm and I’ve been drinking since noon. Be thankful I’m still a little
coherent.Sadly, I know I’ll remmeber this in the morning. Expect an apology
comment.


Oh, Kayla. Your pitiful, drunken begging has touched my heart. Now, it would be unfair for me to give you a shirt, since you didn’t technically win the contest, but I think a Special TR Prize for Most Pitiful is warranted here. Your honorary crappy prize for the Crappy Prize Contest is this:
Photo 13.jpg?
My Indiana Jones Adventure Spoon. It still lights up. My it shine forth and lead you to happiness, Kayla. It did jack-shit for me.

About Author

Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.