WHEN YOU HEAR THE MAN SAY YOU'VE WON... HEAD FOR THE HILLS!
THE TALE OF A WINNER FROM THE PRICE IS RIGHT
TV Guide Jul 28-Aug. 3, 1962
One of the high points of the television show known as The Price is Right is the moment when the suave gentleman with gray hair (or the perky housewife with the dimples) suddenly discovers that he (or she) is now the proud owner of a Rolls Royce, a fringed hammock, a cyclotron, 862 pounds of Roquefort cheese, and emerald ring, and a new tin roof. The victor lets out a triumphant roar (or squeal), Bill Cullen makes appropriately friendly sounds, and the audience cheers with unselfish abandon. Richer by some amazing sum, the happy contestant goes home.
If you have ever wondered what went on after the initial rejoicing over a big haul was over, here’s one case history---to serve as a warning.
Sometime in March, Barbara Benner, a perky, dimpled, 21-year-old housewife, was watching The Price is Right in her aquamarine split-level house in Gillette, N.J. Her husband Robert (they were high school sweethearts) was away at work at Miranol Chemical Co. Her little boy Bret, 9 ½ months old, was napping. Why was she watching it?
“Because I like the prizes. I like to look at the nice things they give away. I sit home and bid. It’s fun!”
It suddenly occurred to her that it might be even more fun if she could win some of those “nice things” for herself. So she wrote away for tickets, applied as a contestant and was one of six people chosen out of 40.
“They test you to see how loud you can yell,” she said cheerfully. “I’m a loudmouth, so they chose me.”
On April 9 Barbara Benner appeared on the nighttime “The Price is Right.” She won a 21-foot Century Coronado boat, worth $7,624. As the highest winner, she returned again for another round. On April 16 Barbara Benner won: a breakfront ($1,500); a set of Royal Worchester china ($1,004); a giant barbecue ($1,380); 23 pieces of wrought-iron garden furniture ($1,775); 1,500 cartons of Sealtest lemonade ($345); and 100 4-pound Balognas ($360). Grand total: $13,988. Viewers who saw this show will remember that Mrs. Benner’s eyes were sparkling, her dimples were flashing---she was overjoyed.
She remained in this entranced state for several days, during which she chattered exhaultingly over the great experience. “I had a blast!” she crowed. “No stage fright at all. I was so excited I didn’t have time to get nervous. “Oh I had such a good time. You know, it’s one of those lifetime experiences. Something to tell my grandchildren about.”
Her family was almost as excited as she. Husband Robert was very nervous. (“It really hit him. He’s a little calmer now.”) Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Chirsa, were a little stunned by their daughter’s good fortune. “Imagine,” said Mr. Chirsa, who works at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. “Suddenly you’re in a class to own a boat!”
Her friends, too, shared in the joy. The telephone rang and rang. They all told me how fabulous I looked, what a ham I was, what a terrific program it was. They thought the prizes were great. They got a big kick.”
And then Barbara Benner fell off Cloud 9---and found herself staring at a somewhat unpleasant reality.We’ll have to sell the boat,” she reported disconsolately. “We decided that in our income bracket we couldn’t keep it up. We couldn’t afford the insurance and we couldn’t even get down to the shore often enough to use it.. The boat would be sitting in the water all summer. And me, I’d be sitting in the house.
“As for the breakfront, it’s Early American. I have Danish modern. Then there’s the garden furniture. So many pieces! I’d like to keep some, but I have to get rid of most of it. And who on earth needs to roast 40 chickens at a time? I’ll have to sell the barbecue. I don’t know what to do with 1,500 cartons of lemonade! Maybe I can make a deal with the Sealtest people to store it, and deliver so much a week all summer. Then there are the Bolognas. Four hundred pounds of Bolognas in my garage! It smells like a delicatessan. I’ve got to sell them fast. Then there’s the Royal Winchester china. I just love it, but I’m selling it. Five dollars a cup! If one broke, I’d cry. I wouldn’t dare use it. And finally there are the taxes. We have to sell the stuff in order to get the money to pay the taxes on it.”
As if this weren’t enough to make a girl wish she had never heard of Bill Cullen, the next problem started: Kibitzing. Good advice poured in from all sides, from concerned friends, devoted relatives, perfect strangers---advice on what to sell, whom to sell it to, and for how much. “It’s friendly advice, but it’s getting on my nerves,” she reported glumly. “It’s beginning to look as if there will be weeks of work just getting rid of these things. Oh, it will all be settled sooner or later, but…”
So Barbara Benner turned saleswoman. And after about two weeks things began to fall into place. “Well, she reported briskly, “we’ve sold the boat. The fellow who delivered it gave us the name of a boatyard down at Point Pleasant. They had a buyer for us. We sold it overnight, for $5,500.
“We’ve also sold the barbecue. My brother-in-law, he’s a policeman. He knows this fellow who owns a bakery. The man bought it from us for $550. I made a deal with the Sealtest people. They credited $100 to my milk bill and gave me $200 in cash for the lemonade.
“Selling the Bolognas was funny. My sister, she’s a clerk at Bell Telephone Company. She and her boyfriend sold the bolognas for me. She put up a sign outside her office door saying ‘Bolognas for Sale.’ They sold too. A few of the executives got a little annoyed. After all, people marching around all day with Bolognas under their arms! But it turned out all right. The Bell Telephone magazine has written a story about it!
“I put an ad in the paper for the breakfront, the china, and the garden furniture. A lady bought the china and the furniture for $600. I haven’t sold the breakfront yet.”
As of the present writing, Barbara Benner’s business operation looks something like this:
Prize/ Retail Value/ Sold for
Boat/ $7,624/ $5,500
Breakfront/ $1,500/ ---
Barbecue/ $1,380/ $550
Furniture/ $1,775/ $350
China/ $1,004/ $250
Lemonade/ $345/ $300
Bolognas/ $360/ $180
Total/ $13,988/ $7,130
As for the tax situation: “We expected to make about $7,000, and we hit it pretty close. The taxes will come to something like $1,100-$1,200.”
So what happens when you win on The Price is Right? Answer: Annoyance, drudgery, and taxes.
What else happens?
“We’ve really come out ahead,” reports Mrs. Benner, her eyes sparkling and dimples flashing once again. “Out of the boat money we got enough to pay all the taxes. My husband got a ’62 Volkswagen. And I’m getting a ’62 Chevy station wagon! We’ll have two cars in our driveway! I’ve bought clothes. I’m getting an electric dryer. We took my sister and her boyfriend out to a gala dinner with some of the Bologna money. And some money we’ll keep in the bank. We hope to save around $1,000. Some day I’d like to go on a cruise.”
All’s well that ends well.So if, as a contestant on The Price is Right, you learn that you have won a Rolls Royce, 862 pounds of Roquefort cheese, etc., etc., let out the triumphant roar (or squeal) if you must---but remember: That’s only the beginning.