Saturday, July 12, 2008

[Shocked at the apparent non-overlap between eai listeners and Jeopardy fans, btw]

So, yes there was a prize. During the game, they announced what the 2nd and 3rd place finishers were to receive, which announcement hardly registered with me. Immediately following the show's conclusion, we were brought to the table of one of the producers and asked to sign a form saying we would or wouldn't accept delivery of said prizes. I signed, OK.

My prizes were 1) a 286 Motorola computer (this was 1991, recall) and some kind of brass "desk set". I didn't own a "regular" computer at the time, just a C64 for gaming purposes. I'd been looking into it though and knew that the Motorola wasn't one I particularly wanted but I figured I could sell it and use the cash toward getting the desired one.

The show was taped in February and aired in mid-April. (Jeopardy, for tax purposes I imagine, had valued the PC at its list price of $1,800 though a quick check upon my return home showed that you could buy one anyplace for $1,200.) My prize (I never saw hide nor hair of the desk set) arrived on Oct. 31. During the course of the preceding summer, Motorola (and everyone else) had brought out their 386 line, rendering my unwanted PC obsolete. So I didn't unpack it but looked around for a business that purchased computers and found one in midtown. The deal was, you give them a product description, they put out a notice. If they locate an interested buyer, he sends them a check and they notify you. You then ship the PC to the buyer and when he verifies receipt, they release his check to you less a 10% commission. Fine, they found someone who would pay $660 for it which I figured would cover my taxes on my "winnings". I shipped out the box to Louisiana and shortly received my $600 check.

A few weeks later, I get a note in my mailbox of a package awaiting me at the Post Office. I go over and there's my box. I see that the Louisiana guy had, without removing my return address, sent it to somewhere in South Carolina where it had apparently been refused and so the PO sent it back to me. Wonderful. Being an honest feller, I called the middleman company I'd dealt with, explained the situation. They contacted the LA guy, he sent me a check to cover reposting and I sent it out again.

Come tax time, I receive a W-2 from Jeopardy, claiming full value, natch, for the merchandise. However, i know that if I can show "true market value", which I could due to my legit sale, I can claim that income instead and did so, including copies of all pertinent documents.

Three years later...I get a letter from the IRS accusing me of under-reporting my income for 1991. Oy. I call some IRS office out in Long Island and explain the story to a lady. "Oh, you were on Jeopardy! How exciting!" etc, etc. Turns out I was correct in my approach except that they needed a letter from the company who handled the sale, explicitly stating that $660 was the market price for the PC. Fer krissakes. Amazingly enough, the company was still in business and, even more amazingly, I got hold of a sweet young girl who was willing to look through three year-old records, find a copy of my transaction and write the needed letter.

Thus, finally, ended my Jeopardy experience.

Linda was actually on "So You Want to Be A Millionaire" in 2001, but that's another story....


Robert K__ said...

I've gone through phases where I used to watch Jeopardy! pretty consistently. I stopped in the late 90s I'd say and then I went through about a 6 year period of not having access to broadcast TV. Now that I get it again I turn it on every once in a while and I have to say apart from PBS I have a hard time with it; commercials really are obnoxious. I see why everyone turned to PVRs during my absence!

Anyway it is pretty cool you did the show, made for a good story anyway. I'd never have the guts to do it myself even though back when I used to watch it I'd generally do all right. Some games I'd just nail it, but then there'd be days where I'd have nothing (this is the same reason I don't do the NPR Puzzle either - most often I do all right but some of them I'd literally have none).

Anyway glad you posted the prize story, I was going to ask. 286 whooo0!

Brian Olewnick said...

After I was on, I kinda lost interest in watching the show. The few times I've done so over the last decade, it seems to me that it's been drastically dumbed down, many of the questions containing a pair of hints, an over-concentration on pop culture, etc. I did enjoy Millionaire during its evening run and tried out for it but, despite making it through the initial quiz numerous times, never had my name drawn from the pool.

The first time someone made it through to the million, I knew every answer. I met the guy at a crossword tourney the next year--affable fellow.

Caleb Deupree said...

Thanks for a couple of great stories. Since this is as close as I'll ever come to a Real Jeopardy Contestant, the one Jeopardy feature I always wondered about is the amusing anecdotes that the contestants tell about themselves right after the first commercial break. How do they uncover these stories — is there an interview where they bring out several possibilities, or was it something that you volunteer without any input from the show? And, if you don't mind sharing one more detail of the experience, what was your anecdote?

Brian Olewnick said...

Excellent question, Mr. Deupree!

Yes, you're asked to fill out a little info card about yourself, including interesting hobbies, stories, etc. Since I didn't think talking about Braxton or Zorn would go over too well, I mentioned that I competed in crossword tourneys, a natural enough match given the show.

So, Trebek ambles over at the appropriate time and says, "Brian should be familiar with this sort of competition, since he competes in crossword tournaments."

"That's correct, Alex."

"Which daily puzzle do you consider the most challenging."

"Well, the New York Times puzzle is very good."

"Ah, I bet you're one of those people who finish the Sunday Times puzzle in 15 minutes."

"Ten minutes, usually."

Whereupon Trebek gave me a mock fist grind with a joking "why you little..." expression.

jesse said...

Trebek, what a wag!

Alastair said...

We don't have Jeopardy over here so I can't join in your reminiscing, but great stories Brian.

Richard Pinnell said...

Yes, I've never heard of Jeopardy.

This however, does not stop me from starting the campaign to get the film of Brian's appearance up on YouTube... come on now Brian don't pretend you don't have a recording.....

Brian Olewnick said...

Funny you should mention.

I did, of course, have a video tape of the event. Sometime while we we in Manhattan, though, I got to know a young doorman down the street, a big baseball and, yes, Jeopardy fan. Well, I had to fill him in on my story and he insisted on seeing the tape, which I gladly lent him.

He subsequently disappeared, maybe fired, I don't know. But my copy of the tape disappeared with him.

My parents have one and I imagine a couple other people but I'm afraid your search will prove difficult and I certainly ain't gonna help you!

Richard Pinnell said...

So who do we know that lives near to Mr and Mrs Olewnick Snr that we can send round to put the frighteners on them until they hand over the tape?