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HyVee baby contest

Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest. But when prizes are at stake – suddenly, things can get ugly. And it may get even uglier before it’s over.

That’s what the Iowa-based Hy-Vee grocery chain discovered, after it innocently launched a “Cutest Baby and Toddler Contest” on its Facebook page earlier this month. More than 2000 people entered, but critics soon began crying foul, that some weren’t following the rules. And it got even more contentious, when some questioned whether it was really about whose baby was the cutest, or whether it was more about who could come up with the most emotional story designed to play to people’s sympathies.

All this for a year’s worth of free diapers, wipes and baby food. Even “Toddlers & Tiaras” isn’t quite this controversial and competitive.

The rules stated that entrants had to submit “an original, homemade photo”. But some entries appeared to be from professional photo shoots, and other submissions consisted of a collage of photos. “Will those photos be removed for disregarding the rules?” one Facebook commenter asked. “I don’t want to vote for people who disregard the rules.” Others were more blunt: “A cheater is a cheater. Everyone needs to protest this ‘contest’ and withdraw.” Still others complained that some entrants played up their babies’ medical issues, to earn sympathy votes.

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Hy-Vee yesterday tried to defuse the situation. “We apologize sincerely for any aggravation our contest might have caused,” it posted on its Facebook page. The arguments, it said, “have turned a fun contest into something contentious and, frankly, not very fun at all.” Hy-Vee pointed out that it was using a Facebook application to record votes, that’s designed to “assure accuracy and thwart digital ‘ballot stuffing’.”

Other, similar contests have gone awry in that way. Earlier this week, a British baby photo Facebook contest had to be stopped and relaunched from scratch, after concerns that some were using multiple email addresses to submit votes. There are also organized groups designed to manipulate Facebook contests – “Facebook Vote Exchanges” allow users to connect, and vote for each other in whatever contest they’re each entered into.

There’s no indication that any kind of ballot-stuffing is going on in Hy-Vee’s contest. It’s already controversial enough as it is. Voting will continue until March 4, and the winner, Hy-Vee pointed out, “is required to sign a legal document stating that his or her photo complies with the rules of the contest.” Which raises the possibility that a top vote-getter that appears to be violating the rules, will not end up the winner at all. And that could ultimately make an already contentious competition, even more so.

“Honestly, aren’t all babies cute?” Hy-Vee later posted, hopefully. “No,” several commenters responded. “They’re precious but not cute,” added another.

When it comes to cutest baby contests, sometimes you just can’t win.

3 Comments

  1. I think its wrong when you put 2 pictures up and one is of a sickly baby what is that- thats not a cute or precious picture..thats playing dirty and going for sympathy votes… I feel if she wins the 2nd runner up should get the same prize!!!!!

    • The photo you are talking about was sent to the people running the contest prior to it being posted, to make sure it was ok for the contest. It is sad that grown adults have gotten so out of hand over this little contest.

    • Yes, playing dirty is exactly what her parents had in mind when she was born over 3 months early and shouldn’t be alive. They planned to almost lose their baby and go through unbelievable emotional pain and financial stress, just to win a contest.
      Way to have compassion, you complete twit.

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