How it feels to be a $15,000 winner — for a few minutes

When Sherrie Thomas stopped at the Boiestown Irving convenience store for a banana on her way to work, she never expected to walk away feeling $15,000 richer.

'For a minute I was rich, I was right on cloud nine,' Fredericton contestant says

Sherrie Thomas thought she was a Pump Up the Fun to Win prize winner, but then she couldn't find the sticker to prove it. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)
When Sherrie Thomas stopped at the Boiestown Irving convenience store for a banana on her way to work, she never expected to walk away feeling $15,000 richer.  

Until she received her Pump Up the Fun to Win sticker.  

The summer contest at participating Irving locations required players to collect a series of place name stickers with each purchase for the chance to win a host of prizes.

An avid player of the contest, the Fredericton woman realized she had received the final, and rarest, of six stickers qualifying her as the winner of the game's second prize — a camper trailer, or $15,000 in cash.

"I put the sticker on the place it was supposed to go and it was the last one, so I thought, 'Oh my God, did  I really just get all six of these,'" said Thomas.

"So I went back into the store, and I said to the ladies working behind the counter, three of them, I said to them, 'Can you tell me what this means?' And they said, 'Well, it means you've won the camper.'"

Stunned by her good fortune, the banana now forgotten, Thomas was elated.  

Staff crowded around to congratulate her on her win. One handed her the pre-addressed envelope that included specific instructions for Thomas to submit her winning form with stickers intact, warning her to photograph everything before she sent it to the contest administrators by registered mail.

Thomas hurried to her workplace to savour her good fortune.

Not so fast

Then, disaster.  

Somewhere between the store and Thomas's worksite, the winning sticker disappeared.  As she laid the documents on a counter to photograph them with her phone, she realized her game form now only showed five of the six required stickers.

Thomas raced back to the Circle K to retrace her steps and quiz the staff who had witnessed her win, but the $15,000 sticker was nowhere to be found.

Sherrie Thomas thought she was in line for $15,000 cash. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

She appealed to the local store manager, who even sat with Thomas and reviewed security video footage of the episode.

"It's all on the camera — where I won and me jumping up and down and fanning my face because I was so excited that I won," said Thomas.

"I wasn't jumping up and down because my banana was good.  They shook my hand.  It showed me putting the pamphlet in the white envelope as I was walking out the door. But when I took it back out [the sticker] was gone."

Thomas said it was evident on the video something was happening that delighted everyone. But nowhere in the grainy footage was there a clear view of the winning sticker.

Thomas, a contract employee for a painting and maintenance company, felt sick.

The investigation 

Sherrie Thomas was buying a banana at the Boiestown Irving the day she thought she won money in a summer contest. (Google Maps)

Unwilling to give up, she appealed to the contest administrator in Markham, Ont., pleading that the testimony of the store workers who had seen the winning sticker and the store security video gave clear evidence that she had won.   

Mike Campbell works with WSB, the Markham company that manages contests for clients like Irving Oil.

He listened to Thomas's story, had her send her ticket stubs and other game materials in for examination and had Irving security review the video from inside the store.

"We're literally in the business of trying to make people smile and make them happy and give them prizes," said Campbell. "That's what this is all about.

"We wanted it to be true. This would be an amazing success story if I could prove that she did win it."

The conclusion?

Campbell spoke with Irving security who reviewed the video but said he was told the quality of the security footage was too poor to see the sticker in question.  

He doesn't dispute Thomas's account, but one significant piece of evidence doomed Sherrie's claim.

"On the ticket stubs, there's a tracking code on the inside of each one of those," said Campbell. "I know what the tracking code would have been on that winning sticker.

"So I went through all of her ticket stubs that she had, and unfortunately no, she didn't have the tracking code that would have been on the winning ticket. … We looked at everything. The eye just sometimes sees what it wants to see in a situation like this. You know, they're excited and they want to see that sticker there."

Thomas doesn't buy that explanation. She only sent in the ticket stubs she had on hand and is still convinced she had the winning sticker and lost it.

She feels like the banana that prompted her stop that day returned, only to trip her up on the verge of victory. 

"For a minute I was rich, I was right on cloud nine," Thomas said.

About the Author

Harry Forestell

Host CBC News New Brunswick at 6

Harry Forestell is the host of CBC News New Brunswick at 6. He worked in London as journalist from 1995 to 2000 and from 2005 to 2008 as CBC's European correspondent for Newsworld.