How Should I Run the Hilton Free Night Giveaway?

A couple of days ago I posted that I’m going to be giving away a free Hilton hotel night.

The only thing I’m waiting for is to decide how to do it.

In the comments to that thread some folks commented stuff lke

make it one entry per reader or such. not much fun for those who can enter 50000000 times.

When I gave away a travel power strip there were over 670 entries, many many from the same people. I was fine with that, but appears it didn’t play well with some of you (presumably the people who didn’t enter 100 times!).

At the same time, I gotta tell you, the easiest way for me to do a giveaway is to have each comment be a separate entry, with no limit on the number of times any given person can enter. Then I run a random number generator and pick the comment niumber that corresponds to the ensuing generated number. I’m looking to keep it easy for myself, while giving away travel items to you.

If I limit entries, I have to police who comments multiple times. Or create accounts. And de-dupe against folks using multiple email addresses. And it becomes even more unfair when I can’t do that — anyone with their own server can enter as many times as they want, generating unique email addresses for each entry (or do Imake it one entry per domain name?), while anyone without their own server can only enter one or maybe three or four times, limited by the number of email addresses you have. So limiting entries is a bit less fair in some sense, than opening it up to anyone to enter as often as they’d like.

So the bleg for this post is: how should I run this contest and select winners, offer me some ideas, while keeping in mind that I’m not a computer programmer and don’t want to make a huge investment in an apparatus or Rube Goldberg scheme to run this, I just want to offer a free hotel night to one of you (thanks to Hilton and to Boarding Area).

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. All entrants reply with “I deserve the free Hilton night because… ”

    The most creative, original and witty response (as decided by you + other BoardingArea bloggers) wins!

  2. 1 entry per email. Go with your random number generator to choose the winner but then check to see if that email was used more than once. If yes, disqualify the entry and choose another number…

  3. how about the winner is whichever idea that you get here that you like best. that way you have a way to give out future prizes but don’t have to worry about this one. also, a commenter to this post is more likely to be an actual everyday reader and someone who is willing to try to give back in a small way for all the good info you’ve provided.

    personally, i think you should do something like this “Feb 8, I will be giving away the hotel night. At some point between the hours of X and X, I will put a post up. The 1st email (or 10th email) that I receive after that point with the subject “Hilton” will be the winner.”

  4. I’m with John. Just state one entry per person. Yes people can use more than one email and cheat, but just say you will be DQ’ed if you enter more than once. We all want free stuff but appreciate all you do and I think we will be honest if you ask us to!

  5. I agree with deltaPMflyer that “just state one entry per person. Yes people can use more than one email and cheat, but just say you will be DQ’ed if you enter more than once.”

    We won’t expect that you will be using a fool-proof method to check to see if the person chosen entered more than one time, but you can just do a simple “Cntl-F” search.

  6. I was going to suggest what Lewis suggested. Another variant on this – how are you going to use the coupon. An honest and creative answer.

  7. I think you should pick a random date and ask participants to tell you when they are planning to use the coupon. Whoever picks the closest date to the one you’ve picked wins.

  8. Have people send you an email between certain period Then sort by sender (anyone who sent more than one entry from same email is disqualified.) Pick a random time frame – like 3:00 – 3:15pm and assign each email a number. Then pull from a hat.

  9. Do what you said is easiest for you with each seperate comment = entry and use your number generator thingy.
    It all boils down on our end to luck!!

  10. Quite simple. Announce that there is only one entry per phone number. Make everyone who enters list their phone number. Then select a winner randomly. Once you have selected a winner, do a “search” of the phone number to see if that winner has entered more than once. If so, disqualify and repeat random selection of winner, etc.

    Of course, people can enter once for eachphone number they have, but this will still reduce the opportunism. I doubt too many people will go to the trouble of getting new phone numbers just to create one more entry, etc.

  11. How about one entry per phone number – people have a limited number of those likely to max out at 3 or 4. That could be your mechanism to contact the winner. So an invalid phone number would not be a winner.

    If you can get the data to Excel, its rather simple to filter to only unique phone numbers and then have Excel pick a random one for you.

    Issue with email is that its very easy to have a large number of “extra” emails.

  12. I say one entry per person and hope people are honest with you. If they are that dishonest and want to spend all that effort for a Hilton night, more power to them.

    I will game companies all day long, but would never consider gaming a fellow traveller.

    I’m sure there are those that would game their Mom though.

    Whatever you feel is best. With multiple entries allowed, I think you alienate the majority of your readership, that values their time.

  13. Alright, I’ll play devil’s advocate: should a website that often highlights credit card churning, shipping coins around the country, faking foreign addresses for status matches… as legit ways to first class travel at bargain prices restrict its readers from using similar practices when it comes to give-aways?

    I say leave it open and may the best hacker win.

  14. Gary,
    Here you have some power to do good, so why not capitialize on that? I mean, do any of us every have something that over 670 other people want? I suggest that you provide a paypal link to an account you control, and ask each entrant to put in a dollar–as if for a raffle ticket.

    Then, after all is collected, do the random generator thing and pick someone. But with the $600+ make a donation to Haiti relief or the Red Cross or something. You would feel good, and we would feel good in return!

  15. Another take on the PayPal idea…

    Everyone who wants in PayPal’s you $1 with the requirement that you must have a PayPal account and one entry per account. Upon completion of the giveaway, you can use the PayPal API to mass-refund everyone their dollar.

    PayPal may hate you, though… 🙂

  16. I’m not in favor of anything that requires a talent. I’m severely lacking 😉

    Seriously, I was in favor of #14 Bikeguy and similar, on the assumption that we’re still small enough to be “family”. But that was before #15 Oliver.

  17. Just give it to whoever has the most comments on your blog for the last year. This way, your most loyal reader gets it.

  18. Let all entries write a brief explanation of why the are seeking the comp night. Choose the top ten and pick one out of a hat. Cheers to you all !

  19. How about requiring people to post a helpful comment on Flyertalk in order to enter? They can include a link to their post and enter as many times as they want, as long as they link to a new post each time. That way, if people are entering more than once, they’re adding value to the community.

    “Helpful” could be loosely defined as a review of a hotel, or restaurant; posting a trip report; or answering a question that another poster asked, excluding questions asked in Omni.

    You don’t need to screen all the posts to see if they meet the criteria- just the one chosen by your random numbers generator. If you don’t think it meets your criteria, generate another number and pick a different winner.

  20. While I think many of us will do what it takes to get a deal on a flight hotel, etc, I do find that we’re also pretty honest when it comes to our “own”.

    I know that given the requirement of 1 entry per person I will just enter 1 time, it’s a free hotel night; we all travel alot, we all have them here and there, not like it’s a million dollars.

    Ask people to be honest and if they aren’t, maybe KARMA will cause them to miss some of their upgrade opportunities.

  21. Have each entry donate $5 to a charity using a service such as PayPal linked from your site. If a person wants to have multi entries, at least it will cost them and do the public some good.

  22. Try my approach. Either in email or comments pick a time preferably PM so the west coast readers get a shot at it and the email or comment that hits your mailbox first at that time wins.

    I had 26 the last time hit at exactly 3PM EST, but only one hit the mail box first. No fuss and no muss.

    good luck


    PS How could 670 people want a power strip?

  23. Most people who read your blog are pretty savy and have the ability to earn their own free nights and more!

    Why not offer the hotel night to a charity like Make-a-Wish or something similar? Also, many non-profits have trimmed travel budgets who’s staff emmbers may not be able to attend conferences, etc.

    I would rather see the free night go to something like this rather than win a ‘contest’ for a free night.

  24. If you have readers in other countries then requiring an email to be sent at a particular time (assuming it would be daylight hours in the US) would put those in other timezones (think Asia) at a disadvantage.

    I say just give make every comment a separate entry.

  25. Make it a hotel night in South Africa, so I have a place to stay for the World Cup ! 🙂

    Actually, I will be remanded to my quarters at home to watch matches on the tele. How about giving the winnings to the wife, so as to limit the interruptions during the broadcast ? Hey, just an idea !

    See, I am generous after all ……

  26. Like lewis says in comment #1, I think it should be a substantial entry (one per person) that gets voted on …except…

    I think that you and your designated group of judges should narrow it down to the top 5 or ten, then launch a poll and have your readership vote on the best entry.

    The benefit of this method will be that everyone who’s a contender will email all their friends and ask them to vote, thus giving you exposure to those who havent heard of your blog, and thus potentially more future readership.

  27. If you’re worried about legal issues with a raffle ticket type thing, I hope you don’t go for the idea of having to click on your computer at some exact time because there are people who work at all hours or are in the car, etc and a contest of wits might be more fun and be open equally to all.

    But if you decide on having people write creative stuff, it would be more noteworthy to the blog readers if you had a contest on the most useful travel tip or something that you could compile into an interesting list. At least that would interest me more than how someone might want to use a night in a hotel!

  28. I think one entry is enough as well.

    I think an easy way is that you pick a number before you list and write it down (up to 1000) and the one who gets closest, get the ticket.

    I think it is simple and fair to those who are not talented etc.

  29. I like one entry per person. It keeps it simple but we all know one entry per person will be peoples dogs, cat’s, cactuses…ect. You know this crowd…….

  30. Hey, a free night anywhere would be an amazing
    win for so little effort. Just pick who is the most innovative.

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