Then & Now: Gifted losers

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The Independent Online
1938: Graham Greene published 'Brighton Rock' and immortalised the English seaside treasure hunt in which the public challenged newspaper representatives with a precise form of words to receive a free gift.

'In his pocket he had a packet of cards to distribute in hidden places along his route; those who found them would receive ten shillings from the Messenger, but the big prize was reserved for whoever challenged Hale in the proper form of words and with a copy of the Messenger in his hand: 'You are Mr Kolley Kibber. I claim the Daily Messenger prize.'

'This was Hale's job to do sentry-go, until a challenger released him, in every seaside town in turn: yesterday Southend, today Brighton, tomorrow -

'He drank his gin and tonic hastily as a clock struck eleven and moved out of Castle Square. Kolley Kibber always played fair, always wore the same kind of hat as in the photograph the Messenger printed, was always on time. Yesterday in Southend he had been unchallenged: the paper liked to save its guineas occasionally, but not too often. It was his duty today to be spotted - and it was his inclination too. There were reasons why he didn't feel too safe in Brighton, even in a Whitsun crowd.'

March, 1993: Two senior executives of Hoover UK are fired after their free flights promotion is estimated to have cost the company pounds 20m in air tickets to meet the unforeseen demand.