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Haiku Maven: Contests & the Case of the Monetary Mishap

hm_logo Dear Haiku Maven, I recently discovered that a small check I had received for winning second place in a haiku contest has bounced, incurring a larger fee from my account. The organization is legitimate, although apparently suffering from a severe lack of funding. This has never happened to me before. How do I go about approaching the organization? Or do I just chalk it up to experience and move on? Out of Cash

Haiku Maven does not believe that contest winners should subsidize haiku contest organizers for their monetary mishaps. If you were charged a fee to enter your haiku in this contest, the bank fee charged to you for the contest’s bounced check is doubly egregious. Please write to the contest organizer(s) and include a copy of the fee charged by your bank in your correspondence. At a minimum you should be reimbursed by the contest for the bank fee. Although you could “chalk it up to experience and move on” Haiku Maven advises you to sound the alarm. Doing so will provide the contest organizers with the opportunity to reimburse you and possibly save a future contest winner from a similar unpleasant experience. The contest organizers also will be in a better position to decide if the contest should run this year. Perhaps a hiatus for this haiku contest is called for until the contest coffers are replenished.

Haiku Maven offers advice about awkward situations involving haiku poets. The word maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, meaning “one who understands.” Please use our Contact page to send a question. Haiku Maven will select a pseudonym for you based on your question. Click this link to see the Haiku Maven archive. Feel free to leave comments.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Some contests do say that, in the event of insufficient entries, the prize monies may be cancelled or reduced. That seems fair, and you enter the contest knowing that might happen. If a contest doesn’t say that, and chooses not to award prize money, then rightfully all entry fees should be returned. But to break even, it’s the organizer’s responsibility to do enough publicity to ensure enough entries — those who enter shouldn’t take the hit for an organizer’s inexperience, insufficient publicity, or ineptitude. As best as they can, they should honour their commitment to the prize money. And when there are special circumstances, the rest of us should do our best to be understanding.

    These days, with so many haiku contests out there, the number of entries for each one has generally decreased, it seems to me, so it’s harder for each contest to break even. So organizers of new contests should think long and hard before promising prize money.

    I see most contests as a way to promote haiku, promote the organization that runs it, and to raise money, in that order. The most prominent contests do make a bit of money (but not much), and I when I enter it’s more to support the organization than anything else. But I also like to remember that the larger goal is to promote haiku itself, plus each organization that runs the contest. In that context, I usually see my entry fees as a sort of donation more than anything else. I do expect the organization, however, to be ethical in handling the entry fees and duly awarding prizes. If an organization is new, though, you should enter with your eyes wide open to the fact that you have no way of knowing how reliable or solvent the organization is. While nearly all haiku contest organizers are trustworthy, you might just well assume that your entry fee money is always a donation.

  2. I once held on to a contest cheque, planning to bank it when I had a couple more foreign currency ones to do (thus incurring only one bank charge, not several) – by the time I got to the bank, the payer’s account had been closed.

    I contacted the person who had emailed me with the news of my second place to see if there was anything that could be done. However, the contest was changing organisers and was just then between homes. I am still touched (and amazed) that this woman who was just a name on an email sent me a card with $US20 inside, money that came from her own pocket. The contest, a reputable one, continues and I make a point of entering and paying the fee each year as a way of saying thank you for the kindness of a stranger.

    And bless the advent of PayPal.

    Then there was the new contest that appeared with a substantial cash prize … and was free to enter. I won (hurrah) but then came a tedious exchange of emails over the course of a fortnight trying to wrinkle my money out of the organiser, who always had some excuse or other for not transferring it into PayPal.

    The person who was placed second was also left in the same boat and when she contacted me to see how I’d got on was having less luck than I.

    I have heard of a contest offering nice cash prizes but not receiving enough entries to cover the prizes and calling on “friends” to write a cheque to cover the shortfall. You wouldn’t last long in business like that.

    One of my pet peeves is the oft-heard “we’re only volunteers” when something goes wrong. Sorry, but volunteers need to be professional too and if the contest is a legitimate haiku contest (ie, not a beer-ku or a Britney Spears haiku contest) then the debt must be honoured. End of.

    Approach them politely, explain what has happened and see what can be salvaged. Maybe you’ll meet someone who makes you glad to be on this Earth.

  3. Well, this can pertain to a publication folding, yes, haiku too,
    to some charity sport advent that raise monies into the 100s
    of thousands. I remember my ex getting crossed with me
    when a $25.00 check bounced after i gave her 15k in cash. I was
    short a dollar or two in my account.

    Things happen. If the organization plans to continue, i’d look
    for a refund.

    Within the community, most things are done by volunteers, and
    this could be something as simple as a bookkeeping error.

    Good luck!

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