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Publishers Clearing House: How do they choose who will win prizes awarded?

Prize Patrol team member Danielle Lam of Publishers Clearing House.
Prize Patrol team member Danielle Lam of Publishers Clearing House.
PCH Facebook

Publishers Clearing House will award a million dollar check this week to someone, somewhere in America. And they chose to air the win during commercial time for NBC Nightly News on Friday, February 28. That's probably a smart move, since NBC recently captured the highest ratings of all the networks thanks to their Sochi Olympics coverage. But aside from all that, have you ever wondered how the direct marketing magazine and more company determines who will receive their big check prizes?

Publishers says their winner selection process is random and unbiased. And that it is done "under the strict control of independent auditors and giveaway supervisors." According to PCH, they use two methods to determine the winner of their super prize sweepstakes events. First, they have independent auditors select a winning number. And that becomes the SuperPrize winning number for the sweepstakes being advertised, like the February 28, 2014 sweepstakes event, for example.

Second, Publishers Clearing House employees assign numbers to outgoing sweepstakes notification bulletins (mail and online) that could contain the winning number selected, but they don't know if it does or not, because the whole winning number selection process is so secret and guarded--and no one but the auditors know the winning number.

And that's why they may or may not ever receive back the winning number entry. In fact, that's why they are not awarding a million a year forever prize this year, because the winning numbered entry was not returned (or ever mailed or made available online). And when that happens they have to do a second-chance drawing to find a winner of a secondary prize instead.

And that leads us to the third step in the selection process: random drawings. This is actually a two-step process, which involves entry pre-qualification.

What does that mean? We know it doesn't mean that Publishers separates entries coming from people who are ordering their products versus entries coming from people who do not, as that would violate the settlement agreements they reached with a number of states (including Georgia) years ago. In those agreements, the company promised that ordering their products would not give anyone the advantage over those who did not order, so people would not think they had to order magazines in order to be able to win.

PCH says that their pre-qualification step consists instead of either using raffle cages manned by specially trained contest judges (to separate the entries that will be eligible from the ones that will not) or pre-qualifying entries electronically by using a computer. What is not shared is what the deciding factor will be that determines which entries will be "eligible" and which will not, unless one considers the obvious: entries received past the deadline will not be eligible and entries that are duplicated are not eligible. All other entries can potentially win.

On drawing day all eligible entries are then given a new number, with all the eligible entries numbered sequentially (1,2,3,4...) and placed into a bingo cage. A winning number is drawn randomly from that cage at the appropriate time, and then the winner's life will be changed forever when the Prize Patrol pays them a visit on the designated award date.

That's the steps followed to find out who will be the next PCH millionaire or other super prize winner from this direct marketing company. And in just two days the latest Publishers Clearing House winner will be named and visited by Dave Sayer, Todd Sloane and Danielle Lam in one of their biggest televised promotions of the year, and one shown specifically on NBC. And if you miss it, you can check out all the details about the PCH winner here.

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