Receipt says "Fill out survey to win $100". Implies I am guaranteed $100?

I’m sure you’ve seen receipts from retail businesses where they want you to fill out a customer survey. Often they will offer some prize for doing so. They usually say something like:

Fill out a survey for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate.

But sometimes they leave off the “for a chance” part. So they say something like:

Fill out a survey to win a $100 gift certificate.

The first time I saw the latter wording I assumed that I had been randomly selected for the survey and all I had to do was fill it out to get the gift certificate. It was only after I was done with the survey that the recording said that I would be entered in a drawing with everyone else who filled out the survey. I thought this was misleading and called the store, but they said that their wording was correct and I was misunderstanding. What do you all think? From a legal standpoint, should they give out the gift certificate if you fill out the survey?

IANAL, but the use of the term “win” says clearly to me that there is an element of chance beyond my decision to fill out a survey.

Win can be used to mean getting something. Particularly when it is used to make things ‘more exciting’, like marketing and advertising often do.

The way it is worded seems to be saying “fill the survey and you will get $100”, I agree with the OP. Its misleading. It doesn’t say you MAY win $100, it says “to win” $100, as in you will win.

I agree it’s wilfully misleading by normal common sense standards. However, I’m also sure that if any legal challenge arose, they would successfully be able to argue that it means ‘in return for a chance to win’.

What would the meaning of this statement be then…

“Answer this question correctly to win $100”?

All I have done is replace “fill in form” with “answer this question”

I vote for DELIBERATELY misleading - they are trying to gull people.

I’m trying to think of instances where the term “win” implies a guarantee. Looking at the dictionary, I see “win” involves contests, competitions, great effort, overcoming an adversary, success in something, to gain through qualities or effort (love, etc), and persuasion. While it is a fine distinction, I am not seeing the dictionary definitions embrace the concept of reward for modest work, guarantee, or promise. As one poster said above, “win” does indeed make things more exciting, but it seems to me that the excitement comes from the embedded concept of chance.

My mind is far from made up. I don’t recall usages of the word “win” in the sense of, open a box of Cracker Jacks and “win” a prize. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory?

Fill out a survey to win a $100 gift certificate.

Fill out a survey to receive a $100 gift certificate.

The first implies a chance, the second doesn’t.

The phrase:

“Get 1st place in the local pie-eating contest to win $100.”

Doesn’t imply that that you’ll be entered in some sort of chance drawing after winning 1st place, it implies that you’re guaranteed $100, following a 1st place finish.

Similarly , “Fill out this survey to win $100” implies the receipt of $100 following the successful completion of the survey.

I disagree, because in the pie-eating example the contest is clearly evident: eat more pie than anyone else and you have satisfied the sense of competition that accompanies the word “win.”

In the survey example, there’s nothing competitive about filling out a survey, so I don’t believe the spirit of competition is fulfilled unless there is a drawing after completion of the survey. Yes, the competition is implied, but to me, there’s a reason the word “win” was chosen rather than “receive.”

Let me put it another way: it is entirely possible to win a pie eating competition without receiving a prize. I do not think it is possible to win “filling out a survey.” Therefore, I believe that the phrase implies a contest after filling out a survey.

There are many examples where “win” doesn’t necessarily mean a competitive contest. Anyone who can complete the task will get the prize:

  • Fill the bucket to win a prize
  • Knock the pin down to win a prize
  • Make a basket to win a prize

The implication is that if you do the task you are guaranteed a prize. You’re not in a competition with anyone else to do more of the tasks. All you have to do is complete the task and get a prize.

I’m also sure they have something at the bottom of their receipt or the website that you visit to fill out the survey that say that you are subject to the terms and conditions of the contest/competition/survey/drawing/etc.
To answer your question, it depends on the presence of the aforementioned “terms and conditions”. if there is no such thing, and I highly doubt there is, then you could conceivably get them to pay out if your belief that all you had to do was fill out the form and collect your $100 was reasonable. (and I doubt it’s reasonable, fwiw)

barring the absence of the “terms and conditions” thing, then your only other option is to claim that you were damaged by your reliance on the promise of a $100 gift card in exchange for filling out a form. Again, that reliance would have to be reasonable; and I doubt you were damaged by this reliance.

Fill out a survay for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate.
Unambiguous. You’re entered in the contest; you may or may not win the certificate.

Fill out a survey to win a $100 gift certificate.
*Ambiguous. Do you receive the certificate, or do you have a chance to win it? I’d say you receive it, but others say otherwise. I suspect this wording was chosen deliberately to obscure the real meaning. *

Fill out a survay to receive a $100 gift certificate.
Unambiguous. You will get the certificate.

I loathe this kind of deception. It’s just like those junk mail envelopes that are dressed up with all sorts of official-looking markings and codes and instructions.

This is why people need to pay more attention to language.

I am not trying to debate on this point, only to clarify my previous point: I use the term competitive to mean that there is a chance of failure, whether due to another’s efforts or by chance. For example, “knock down a pin to win a prize” to me assumes that one cannot simply walk over to the pin and push the pins over and one gets a prize; rather that one would have to throw a ball, and by skill or luck, knock the pins over. That’s what I meant when I referred to “competitive,” the element of chance, skill, or luck.

ETA: And I agree with Sunspace’s three examples.

In the common law, the ambiguity of the phrase (as per Sunspace’s post) would probably rule out any chance of winning a case against the store. In order for something to be a legally binding offer it has to be absolutely clear and unambiguous and leave no room for any other interpretation. The store could also make a plausible argument that people couldn’t realistically expect them to intend that they would be obliged to give a $100 certificate to everyone who took the survey.

But, as in all cases, the laws of the jurisdiction may vary.

The context matters, which is why all the above examples are inapposite. You can’t just replace parts of the sentence with other situations. “Fill the bucket and win a prize” is clear, because it’s a well known type of carnival-game situation we’re all familiar with. “Fill out a survey and win a prize” isn’t, because everybody knows that you don’t just get a hundred bucks for filling out a survey; ergo, the inclusion of “win” denotes the element of chance.


In fact, your sentence suggests receiving a prize as a consequence more strongly than the OP’s even does, since you’ve used the word “and”, implying cause and effect (which is then denied by the word “win,” not to mention “prize,” as you correctly point out.)

The OP’s sentence says “…to win $100.” That to me says that you must fill out the survey in order to win the prize, but does not say the prize is guaranteed (as you and others say, that’s what “win” connotes). In other words, “to” means that the survey is necessary, not that it is sufficient.

Contrary to what you say (but not your argument), though, it’s plausible that someone could obtain $100 for filling out a survey (e.g. as part of a focus group). To my mind, this all the more strongly suggests that “win” means “by chance” – if they didn’t mean “win,” they wouldn’t have said “win,” they would have said “earn” or similar (since, anyway, this would provide a much stronger incentive for filling out the survey!)

But if you make enough of a fuss, you may get an apology and $20 gift certificate just to make you go away.