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Taco Bell contest

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stabguy's picture
stabguy
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Honolulu, HI USA
Joined: 09/15/2009


Prizes I won in a Taco Bell game last month:

  • Two tickets to a Hawaiian music concert
  • Two tickets to a Rock concert
  • Four passes for box car racing
  • A pearl pendant
  • A Fitbit activity/sleep wristband
  • One auto detailing

Total value: $507

I think they only run this particular game in Hawaii. The way it works is you create an online account, earn points, and use these points to bid on various prizes in eBay-style auctions.

Here is my three part strategy:

Earning Points

I read the official rules to find the different ways to earn points and did them all. One way was to simply log in to your online account every day. That was easy enough. Another way was to use their #hashtag on several social media sites.

The primary way to earn points was to get a game card and enter the code online (each card had a unique code, like the ones on Xbox LIVE gift cards). You could get one game card with each purchase of a Taco Bell menu item and were limited to entering two codes per day. Something had to give. I could not eat at Taco Bell twice a day. Sick

My favorite trick was to visit the Taco Bell at the mall when they were busy. This restaurant gave every customer a game card whether they wanted it or not. Most customers would discard them as soon as possible. Over by the soda machine was a small bucket for straw wrappers. There were usually several game cards in there. One time I ordered a taco off the dollar menu and walked out with 16 game cards!

Selecting Prizes to bid on

Every prize with a face value would draw plenty of high bids. Even $10 gift cards for Starbucks, Jamba Juice or Amazon were going for big points. I focused on prizes without a stated cash value. You could infer the actual value from the minimum opening bid: 60 points = $1. So if the minimum bid was 6,000, that was a $100 prize.

Every day there were four or five prizes up for bids. There were about 10 grand prizes: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iPhone, iPad, trips to Las Vegas, etc. These were all scheduled for the final week of the contest. I figured that some heavy hitters would emerge that final week with millions of points saved up. My hunch was correct. All of the grand prizes went for more points than I had accumulated over the entire contest period.

Good thing I didn't hold out for a grand prize! My strategy was to win multiple medium-value prizes in the middle stages of the contest.

Proxy Bidding

You know how eBay has a built-in proxy bidding system? You tell it how high you're willing to go and it autobids the current amount plus the minimum increment until your max is met. Well, Taco Bell had no such system.

Instead, all bidding was manual and auctions ended at midnight. What ended up happening was everyone who wanted a particular prize would stay up until midnight and try to "snipe" it during the final seconds. In essence it became a blind auction because you didn't have time to observe the highest bid, add the minimum, and enter another bid. You just threw out a big amount at the last second and hoped it was enough.

So I wrote my own proxy bidder program. Innocent It was pretty easy to do with the cURL library. I'd tell the program what prizes I wanted and what my limit was on each. It would passively monitor the bidding until 4 seconds until midnight, dropping out of any auctions that had gone too high. Then it would make minimum increment bids (up to 6 times per second as necessary) until the auction ended.

I was usually asleep when my winning bids were placed. The best thing about this system was not spending more points than necessary to win a prize. Instead, the points saved went toward my next prize.

You won't even feel the blade.

Leo K's picture
Leo K
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Joined: 12/30/2009

Whatttt~! Badass! You wrote your own proxy-bidder!
That's legitimately hax, good stuff man! Favorite story/anecdote in a long time.

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
You wrote your own proxy-bidder!

Version 1.0 was a proxy bidder just like on eBay. I'd fire it up around 8pm and it would ensure that I was the highest bidder until midnight or my limit was exceeded. Then I realized that I was part of the problem. My proxy bidder was driving up prices. The snipers had the right idea!

So version 2.0 was more of a proxy-sniper. It didn't actually place any bids until 11:59:56. One vexing issue was that auctions ended at midnight server time and the server's clock was always off, sometimes by as much as 40 seconds. Version 2.1 automatically compensated for the difference between local time and server time.

I'm not including a link or the full name of the contest here so that other competitors won't Google this article and accuse me of cheating. I read the official rules thoroughly and there was nothing to prohibit the use of computers. The name of the contest is visible on the white papers in the photo above. If this contest comes to any of your states, I can help you win some prizes. Cash

You won't even feel the blade.

gerund's picture
gerund
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Wow, nice! You really have a way with computers, but you probably knew that, right?

"...and if I had no self-awareness, I think I'd know."

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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stabguy wrote:
  • Two tickets to a Hawaiian music concert
  • Two tickets to a Rock concert

When I won these tickets they didn't specify exactly which shows we would see. The radio station gave me several choices. For the Hawaiian music concert I chose Ho'okena and Maila Gibson with Ben Vegas. One thing I liked about this show is that it's on my birthday (this coming Wednesday).

I'm pretty excited about the rock concert. stabgal and I are going to see Young The Giant! Their official tour date for Honolulu is December 20 at venue called The Republik. I was hoping to win tickets to that show but they offered me something even better: tickets to an exclusive performance the day before at the Oceanic VIP Music Hall. This place only accommodates an audience of 25 to 30 people and has comfortable seating. The band will be about 10 feet away and may perform an acoustic set. This is going to be awesome. Star

You won't even feel the blade.

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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Fat stack

I collected 97 game cards from Taco Bell. The contest period was from September 1 through October 31 and you could enter up to two codes per day, so the maximum number of useful game cards was 122. The grand prize winners must have entered the full 122 codes to accumulate so many points.

I got about a one week late start and then retired for the final week because I had already spent 96% of my points and bids were crazy high on everything that last week. Folks who had been hoarding points for a grand prize and realized they came up short were blowing their whole wad on junk prizes like an on-air "shout out" from a radio DJ on your birthday. "Aww, too bad. Thanks for playing!"

You won't even feel the blade.

aurllcooljay's picture
aurllcooljay
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Not trying to hog the topic, but I was recently one of the winners at a contest at work. How it worked was there are about twenty baskets of stuff. Each employee is given ten tickets. Put how many tickets you want for whichever basket(s). Whoever's name gets drawn for each basket gets it. Can't win more than one, so if your name gets drawn for another they'll draw again.

With 50-100 employees entering, figured the best way to beat the odds was to put all ten in one basket. Chose one that looked great for a Christmas present, so now I have less to shop for.

Another idea I had (too late because we had about all already entered) was to make a deal with some other workers where we all put ours in the same basket and split it if one of us wins.

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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aurllcooljay wrote:
I was recently one of the winners at a contest at work.

Cool! What did you win?

My lucky streak continued at an office Christmas party. There was no skill involved. My name was drawn at random for a door prize. I won one of the four grand prizes: a GoPro Hero3 camera.

You won't even feel the blade.

Double McStab with Cheese's picture
Double McStab w...
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Sweet! Now you can wear it on your forehead to record yourself recording videos for THB!

“Force has no place where there is need of skill." Herodotus

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
Now you can wear it on your forehead to record yourself recording videos for THB!

My plan was to record myself participating in Extreme Programming. I just realized that the Stainless Steel Knife Set would have been a more appropriate prize for me.

You won't even feel the blade.

Double McStab with Cheese's picture
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If you ever want to feel like stabguy the Extreme Programmer, just go here --> http://hackertyper.com/

“Force has no place where there is need of skill." Herodotus

aurllcooljay's picture
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stabguy wrote:
Cool! What did you win?

A screwdriver set, multipurpose scissors, three types of flashlights (mini, headlamp and one with two lights), a blue tarp, work gloves made mostly out of leather and a few candies. Just like last year shopping is hurting my wallet more than ever. It's worth it though.

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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aurllcooljay wrote:
A screwdriver set, multipurpose scissors, three types of flashlights (mini, headlamp and one with two lights), a blue tarp, work gloves made mostly out of leather

So pretty much everything you'd need to commit a murder and dispose of the body. Shock

Good job. They had a game like that at my Christmas party. I also put all of my tickets in the same basket but didn't win anything that way.

You won't even feel the blade.

stabguy's picture
stabguy
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You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

http://youtu.be/Y_z75psCLzc

Here's a 30 second clip from the Young The Giant concert. We were the first ones there and snagged this comfy couch near the stage. They had moved most of the furniture out to accommodate a larger than usual audience of about 50 people.

After the show we got to meet the band. Being a drummer myself, I mostly talked with François and about how he made the transition from bass guitar with the band. He lit up when I knew his name and something about him. Drummers are starved for attention.

You won't even feel the blade.