A thrifty NHS worker who entered her first competition on a whim 26 years ago has now bagged a whopping £40,000 worth of freebies.
Generous mum-of-two Samantha Milner, 48, enjoys nothing more than dishing out prizes to her friends and family – and she is hoping to win plenty more in time for Christmas.
The veteran ‘comper’, of Chippenham, Wiltshire, whose impressive booty includes £5,000 worth of holiday vouchers, a designer sock subscription, jewellery and an LG mobile phone, spends up to three hours a day entering giveaways.
And, currently on leave from her job as a discharge facilitator – where see oversees the safe discharge of patients on a hospital gastroenterology ward – while she recovers from major hernia repair surgery, she is making the most of the extra time on her hands.
Samantha, mum to Joe, 20, and Ashley, 26, explained: “At the moment, I’ve got a bit of time off so I can spend eight hours a day entering competitions.
“It’s handy in the run up to the festivities, as I can try to win presents for my friends and family. Last Christmas, I won my nephew a £100 toy bundle and my niece a Toby Toymaster voucher for £150 worth of dolls.
“I enter about 100 competitions at a time. I just scroll through social media without really thinking about it.”
As well as Christmas presents, Samantha has been able to spoil her niece and nephew with a whole host of treats throughout the year, including a giant go-kart, toy bundles and Thomas the Tank Engine books – all thanks to entering online competitions.
Her fiancé Shane Wilson, 49, who works as a garage forecourt manager, was not always a fan of her ‘comping’ – although she has been winning him over by spoiling him with prizes.
“At first Shane didn’t really see the point in comping. He wasn’t against it, but he wasn’t bothered either way,” she said. “But he’s come round to the idea of me entering competitions because when I do win, we get to go on holiday and do nice things.
“He’s really into fishing and I’m entering lots of fishing competitions, so I can hopefully win him a fishing rod.”
When Samantha first got into entering competitions almost three decades ago, it was on a complete whim – and she never imagined she would actually win anything.
But, after entering a giveaway she saw advertised in a leaflet, she scooped £5,000 in Thomas Cook vouchers, which she spent on a family holiday to Disney World in Florida and an all-inclusive trip to the Greek Island of Kos.
And her winning streak didn’t stop there as, just a week later, she bagged a trip to Naples, a city on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the USA.
“I entered my first competition on a whim – just because I had a postage stamp on me – but I never thought I’d win,” Samantha explained.
“One week later I entered another competition I saw in a newspaper and I ended up winning a trip to Florida,” she added.
“I never thought I’d be here, devoting hours of every day to comping, 26 years later. If I hadn’t won all those years ago, I would never have carried on.”
Inspired by beginner’s luck, Samantha began entering more and more giveaways.
Now a veteran, she has noticed that the way competitions are run has changed drastically in the last 26 years.
She explained: “When I first started, there was no Internet so I entered competitions in magazines and newspapers, and everything had to be sent in on a postcard.
“I also signed up to a monthly ‘compers’ magazine.”
Samantha continued: “Nowadays, it’s all online and there are so many people entering, making the chances of winning few and far between.”
Still, despite the added rivalry which has come with the arrival of online giveaways, Samantha has still bagged a huge haul of impressive goodies.
Restricting her entries to competitions offering prizes she is interested in winning, she would never apply simply for the sake of it.
But she enjoys treating her family and friends with the freebies she has scored.
“I won a holiday to Scotland that I gave to a friend and a second prize hedge trimmer that I gave to my mother-in-law,” she recalled.
“I’ve also won designer cushions, £150 worth of vouchers for an online electrical retailer, prints of my choosing, juice drinks, whiskey glasses, a globe, clothes, watches, perfume, lots of books, toy bundles and nights away in London.”
“My friends always ask me why I don’t sell the prizes, but that’s not why I enter competitions,” she continued.
“I mostly enter to win holidays, and anything I can give away to my friends and family.”
Now, Samantha is such a dab hand that she even runs a Facebook group dedicated to sharing the best online competitions with 51,000 followers.
She has also warned against online scams that entrants should be wary of.
“Often you can spot a scam if the prize seems too good to be true,” she explained. “Another tell-tale sign is if the page has just been set up and the competition has been posted but there’s no other contact information or posts on the page.
“It can be hard to spot if you’ve not been entering competitions for very long though. I’ve tried to warn some people, but they don’t always listen, because they want to win the prize.”
Sadly, Samantha says she has spotted lots of the fake competitions floating around.
“The last fake competition I saw was offering a family trip to the cinema, and everyone who’d commented on the post won,” Samantha explained. “They then asked for the card details, including the three numbers on the back, from everyone who supposedly won the competition. I just hope no-one gave their details out.”
While some of her best prizes were won in her early days, Samantha is still feeling optimistic about bagging another big win.
“I’ve got a feeling I will win something massive. I think it’s luck – you’re either lucky or you’re not. Even if there are 10,000 entrants I could still win,” she said. “But I don’t worry about it if I don’t win.
“I really want to win a holiday to the Maldives that me and my step-daughter Sophie can go on together.”
Now a successful ‘comper’ in two different centuries, Samantha’s top tip is to always be persistent.
She concluded: “Don’t give up. A lot of people give up easily, but you have to keep trying.”