Remember the person who cancelled the $30 million lottery ticket? How could you forget! The media had a field day with this, piling on story after story about the hapless soul who lost out on the jackpot.
I almost let this one slide by, without comment. But yesterday, I spoke with two people who raised it first, and their opinions were even stronger than mine.
Belated though it maybe, I need to state on the record that this was one of the biggest non-stories of the year. (That is, a lot of fuss made by media over something that really didn't merit the attention.)
Most stories I saw had a mocking tone to them, expressing either pity or mild derision for the person silly enough to not buy the winning ticket. The Telegram broke the story on June 3, in a brief story that I will reproduce here:
Someone shopping at the Corner Store in Goulds recently changed their mind about buying a lottery ticket that could've netted them a cool $30 million in the Lotto Max draw.
Atlantic Lottery Corp. spokeswoman Jennifer Dalton said the ticket had been printed but the sales clerk voided the ticket at the request of the customer.
When the draw was held May 21, the printed number matched those for the jackpot of $30 million, she said.
Dalton didn't know why the customer rejected the ticket, but she said sometimes people don't like the numbers which are chosen randomly by the lotto computer.
Sometimes when a ticket is rejected the clerk buys it because it could be a winner, but Dalton says the correct course of action is to void the ticket. Dalton hasn't heard of too many voided tickets turning out to match the winning numbers for a large jackpot.
It's one of the biggest, if not the biggest ever, she said of the Goulds voided ticket.
When we all heard about it here in the office, to have a $30-million winner in Newfoundland and Labrador, it would have been such a huge celebration for us. We would have loved to see that come here.
She said each month there are about 52,500 cancelled tickets throughout Atlantic Canada.
Contacted for comment about what transpired at his store, Corner Store owner Shawn Noel just laughed and said, I don't want it to come out.
He referred media inquires to the Atlantic Lottery Corp.
This sounds almost like a legitimate story, because it doesnt explain the reason the purchaser rejected the ticket. It speculates that sometimes people don't like the numbers which are chosen randomly by the lotto computer.
Of course, that wasnt the reason. Later that day, a Canadian Press story reported that the customer asked for a $10 ticket, but rejected it when the cashier printed a $27 ticket by mistake.
Can you blame this person for saying, No, thank you to an item that cost 270 percent more than expected?
I spoke to someone last night, who said they have rejected lottery tickets several times because the cashier included the $1 Tag option. I didnt want Tag so I said no, give me a new ticket, this person said. And I ask you: is that such a big deal? You have a right to take what you ask for; to not accept the clerks mistake.
Media coverage also revealed that 52,500 lottery tickets are voided every month, for any number of reasons.
Finally, one of those voided tickets matches the winning numbers.
And the media goes nuts.
Now, if the person had rejected the ticket because, as suggested in The Telegram story, they didnt like the numbers, that might be newsworthy.
But not this. No way. The shopper was being overcharged. They quite rightly refused to pay $17 more than planned. If fault must be assigned, its to the cashier who screwed up. No media story made that point.
The store owner, to his credit, tried to play down the incident, telling The Telegram that he didnt want the story to come out.
ALC, on the other hand, was all about it. Their spokesperson said it would have been really great to celebrate a $30 million win in this province. However, their eagerness to talk about this incident suggests another motive: to make more money, by reducing the number of voided tickets every month. That could be inferred from this quote in a CBC online story:
It's always their choice whether they want to continue with the purchase or not, (the ALC spokesperson) said. However, she acknowledged that the jackpot that got away may make some customers think twice when they see a set of numbers that don't meet their initial fancy.
I'm sure there's going to be lots of people out there reconsidering whether they want to cancel tickets, she said.
The net effect of all this media coverage, intentional or otherwise, was to make this unlucky patron look like some kind of fool; a patsy for the rest of us to mock and pity.
The message, implied over and over again, was that people should not cancel lottery tickets even when it costs almost three times what you had intended to pay.
I repeat: the unidentified shopper did nothing wrong.
And the only patsies here were the media, who played right into ALCs strategy to reduce the number of voided tickets.
I have received a couple of notes offline, from journalists and communications people, pointing out that ALC did not initiate this story. I didnt say they did, but nor did I say they didnt. What Ive been told is that word spread out through the community, possibly through a store employee, and the media picked up on it from there. However, that doesnt change the way ALC reacted when reporters came calling, particularly the quote about lots of people out there reconsidering whether they want to cancel tickets.
Some reporters have defended the story, but I dont think it had merit. More than 50,000 tickets are voided every month. That one of them finally wins is not such a big deal, especially when the customer rejected the ticket because they were being overcharged by 270 percent.