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Spin the Wheel

This is a relatively short blog, but just wanted to share an observation that I recently made that I found fairly fascinating – would love to know if any of you has witnessed this as well.

Here’s the setting: I was working a 10×20 foot “booth” (outdoors) at the “Bike the Drive” event here in Chicago.  For those not local, it’s where they shut down Lake Shore Drive for part of the morning so that you can ride your bicycle on it.   I’m not sure what the exact count of cylists is, but it’s well into the 1000s for sure.  They start and finish near Grant Park in the City.  In the finishing “village” (or whatever they call it, lots of vendors are setup in the grass and the cyclists generally follow a path around the area and walk by the vendors, get free stuff, learn about products, events, etc.  I was there for the Bike MS event (surprised, right?) so we could promote it and maybe even recruit some riders (I did actually sign up a few).  90+ percent of my job though is marketing/promotion and giving away branded MS stuff to people.  You “win” the free stuff by spinning a wheel like Wheel-Of-Fortune and wherever you land, that’s what you win.  Basic stuff, and EVERYONE wins.

So there’s the setting – typical vendor expo stuff basically.

Now, the observation.  I’m sure what it is about a spinning/clicking wheel, but you would have thought we were giving away solid gold plated hundred dollar bills.  As the kids nowadays say, OMG!  I’ll admit that it was probably 80% kids that were doing the spinning, but there were no shortage of adults gathered around as well.  No fist fights or wrestling broke out, but we were definitely holding up the traffic pattern on the path.

So what massive prizes were these moths to the light spinning for?  1) Tube of MS lip balm, 2) small wetnap-sized packet of sunscreen, 3) plastic seat cover (looks like a shower cap), 4) a reflective “blinky light” about the size of a silver dollar, and … wait for it … the grand prize of a MS ball cap!!!   Oh yeah, and I forgot the box of Chamois Buttr packets (go ahead and that one up – I use something called Uber Lube – another good one to Google – just not on your work laptop).

So if you were lucky you got something worth maybe $2.  Those unlucky folks got the sunscreen packets that were worth maybe a nickel.

Yet we consistently had a line of people between 5-10 deep.  Every time I turned to look, there was a crowd of people waiting to spin that magical wheel.

So what’s the deal?  What is so interesting about a spinning wheel that clicks?  Is it the wheel?  Is it the clicking?  Is it the allure of something free?  Are we all just closet addicted gamblers – some with more restraint than others?  Obviously, I’m not the first one to notice this (ex – Vegas).  But at least in Vegas you can win money – maybe even a lot of it.  Yes, the odds aren’t great – but I think the quote is from the movie Dumb and Dumber – “so you are saying there’s a chance?”

Anyway, I’m not going to ramble on about this.  I just wanted to share it as I thought it was fairly interesting.  It’s also yet another strong case I have to request millions in taxpayer dollars to fund further research.



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