Just Her Luck

Linda Harney of Flat Rock is a winner.

Linda Harney of Flat Rock is a winner.

Could you use a little luck in your life? If so, you may want to spend a little time with Linda Harney of Flat Rock, because she has had so much luck in her life that it seems she’s got plenty to spare.

Harney was recently named as the national grand prizewinner in a sweepstakes organized by Ricola and Rite Aid. Ricola is the world’s leading supplier of herbal cough and throat drops. Headquartered in Switzerland, its natural herbal products are exported to some 60 countries around the world. The company is perhaps best known for its commercials featuring a man standing in the Alps yodeling the word “Ri-co-la!”

Harney’s prize is a five-night trip to Switzerland with free airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

Her path to Switzerland started with a simple visit to a drugstore on Spartanburg Highway. “I got the entry blank at Rite Aid. I was contacted in mid-April and told I was the winner,” she says. “I’m really excited about it and looking forward to it.”

Winning an all expense paid trip to Switzerland might sound like a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, but for Harney, this is nothing new. In fact, she’s grown accustomed to winning all sorts of prizes. A rundown of her haul sounds like a single episode of The Price is Right. There are trips to Tahiti, Disneyworld, Disneyland and New York that she has won through various contests and sweepstakes. She’s also walked away with money, televisions, bicycles and even a new car.

Some people spend their spare time collecting stamps or baseball cards. Others may knit or garden. For Harney, entering contests is her passion.

“I won a Nissan Pathfinder. Ingles had an entry box, and the car was given away by General Mills,” she says. “When the boys went off to college, they had new bikes I won. It’s sort of a hobby of mine. Sometimes the contest involves skill, like writing a limerick or a story.”

It’s a hobby that has paid off.

Harney says she has always been fascinated with contests and the prizes they offer. She considers herself a competitive person and enjoys prevailing over the many people who enter a particular contest. When she was at her most active, Harney estimates she was sending in 100 entry blanks a week. Today she spends only about 10 minutes a day on her entry forms.

Her devotion to contests and sweepstakes has made her something of an expert on the fine art of sweepstakes. “Sweepers, as we’re called, have the 3 Ps: patience, persistence and postage,” she says. “I allotted myself a certain amount of postage.”

Fortunately, technology has made it a bit easier for Harney to indulge her passion. Much of her work today is done online, and she even has a favorite website where members keep other enthusiasts notified of what’s available in the world of contests and sweepstakes.

Harney recently shared some of her more memorable contests and victories. A putting contest she aced proves it can be better to be lucky than accomplished. Ultimately, four people were selected to test their putting skills against each other in Hilton Head, SC. Harney says as the days leading up to the challenge came and went, she figured she hadn’t made the cut, shrugged her shoulders and began to look for the next contest. The day before the competition, her phone rang, and the person on the other end said one of the pcontestants had dropped out. “I was the fifth person picked, so they asked if I could be in Hilton Head the next day,” Harney says. “I said I’m sorry, I couldn’t. I talked with my husband, and he said, ‘Of course we can be there.'”

Harney made it to the contest, but she still had one minor problem. “I really don’t play golf. We had a half-hour to practice,” she says.

Her first practice putts didn’t go so well, some missing the hole by more than a few feet. As luck would have it, a man happened by and gave her a few pointers, and soon she was sinking putts like a pro. The man turned out to be a coach for professional golfer Bernhard Langer. She nailed an 11-foot putt to take home the $5,000 top prize.

Sometimes, it takes more than luck. A bit of extra research helped her win a trip to Palm Beach, where she stayed at the luxurious Breakers Hotel. The contest, sponsored by a grower of honeybell oranges, simply asked people to create something involving the honeybell. Harney made a scrapbook with songs, puzzles and images of nice, perfectly round oranges. Before sending it in, she decided to do a little digging.

Good thing. “The honeybell is more pear-shaped, so I had to go through and amend all those pictures,” she says. “If I hadn’t done that, I’m sure they would know I didn’t know beans about honeybell oranges and I wouldn’t have won.”

So what’s the secret to her winning ways? There’s really no secret at all, she says, just the drive to spend a few minutes filling out an entry blank. She says she only bothers with contests or sweepstakes that have a prize that catches her eye. Most people, she says, make the mistake of assuming they can’t win. That kind of attitude guarantees you’ll never experience the thrill of victory. “A lot of people say I’m lucky, but I think you make your own luck,” she says. “People will often say, ‘I never win anything.’ You can’t win if you don’t enter.”

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