stock up! (26.03.12)

when: 26.03.12-11.04.12
where: sydney, australia
tools: iPhone, car, charger
treasure found: yes

Monday (Day 1)

I found out about the competition via a friend on Facebook, and so on impulse (without knowing much) decided to act on it. The last time I acted on impulse like that, it ended miserably on the first day of the Virgin bike hunt… But nonetheless, I decided to go for a $50 giftcard that appeared on the map near Hyde Park. Since it was so early in the competition, my chances were high. I had learned this well in the Virgin hunt, even thought that ended so soul-crushingly (darn you Brad!). I actually nearly got completely screwed over by buses while on this whim! It's not the first time, since buses are extraordinarily untrustworthy. And they also seem incapable of not travelling in groups.

Regardless, a bus came. And I got on it. And I watched the map very closely to see what happened as my bus approached the destination. Since the card dropped near Hyde Park (i.e. on Elizabeth St), my George St bus meant I didn't get as close as would be ideal and I had to run. Luckily I'm marginally fit, even though I'm far from actually fit. That's probably something I should work on. In any case, I got off the bus near the cinema and started running for it. There was someone nearby who had actually appeared while I was still waiting for the bus, but for some reason (poor GPS signal, maybe?) never moved from where they were. Had they moved, I probably wouldn't have got the card!

Despite having to walk a little bit due to my crappy stamina (I was also on antibiotics, for the record), I managed to cross Elizabeth St and get to the spot of the $50 card, and (since this was a blind hunt, with no previous experience to draw from) thankfully managed to grab the card! This certainly made my day, as a good treasure hunt always does. I actually spent the next half an hour wandering across Stockland Piccadilly trying to find the customer service desk before I realised it was actually the very official looking reception desk I'd walked past twice. I was the first person to claim a card (not surprisingly). The guy at the reception desk (I'll call him Jim for privacy) was super helpful and always cheery (on the three separate times I visited) - go Jim! So on Day 1, I walked away with a grin of satisfaction and a $50 giftcard.

Actually, the $100 for that day appeared not long after I got back which I was a bit bummed about, and my friends were going to go after it at Circular Quay since it sat there for a little while. We even got to the bus stop, but then someone randomly appeared and nabbed it before a bus even came :p

Thursday (Day 4)

Don't know what happened to Tuesday, but I know I was teaching a lab on Wednesday which prohibited me from going for any treasure. On Thursday, I was driving to work when I noticed a $25 treasure somewhat distant from other seekers and located in the middle of Burnett St park. I was on the M4 at the time, so I quickly decided to go for it on a whim and see if I got there first. I was lucky enough to only have one challenger, who for whatever reason gave up and didn't end up moving towards it. I parked quickly in the carpark and hurried towards where the card was, managing to grab it and be off on my way before anyone even noticed I was there. The only treasure hunting mistake I made on this day was to not pay much attention to the 72 hour claim deadline of Sunday morning. I went to collect it on Saturday afternoon, and the server was down for the weekend! I almost didn't get a chance to claim, but it was restarted which was very lucky. I guess that teaches the lesson: don't let things lie if there is a deadline!

Monday (Day 6)

By this point, there were at least 15 other seekers at any one time for any of the different Stockland malls. It varied a little bit; for example, Wetherill Park was always a no-go since there were lots of people there all the time, and Piccadilly (in the city) was usually one of the quietest and was certainly the last Stockland Mall (within distance of me) that seekers starting appearing on. Still, by the 2nd Monday of the promotion there were no longer any giftcards remaining on the map for more than 15 minutes after they were released and it was harder to get to them in time. My philosophy became one of practicality: the desirability of $100 meant that $25 was not as jumped upon by the general seeker, and so going for a $25 made much more sense.

However this theory was tested when I ventured into the city on Monday morning. The first card I was interested in dropped near Galeries Victoria on George St, and although my bus was outside Town Hall at the time, it was stuck by traffic lights and I simply watched it disappear. The second card appeared at Circular Quay, and though I headed for it on the bus (and even ran a bit), a couple of somewhat suspicious seekers managed to get to it first though the behaviour of their icons was a little bit odd. Dejected, I caught another bus (gotta love Daypasses!) back down George St. I got off at the Mac store and had a look around, hoping to maybe charge my phone as the battery was getting awfully low. But it didn't seem possible, and when a $50 appeared nearby, I took off anyway.

This was a weird one. I was headed for it, and without any obvious challengers, it seemed possible. But then it just disappeared, and I was beginning to think that this was rather pointless now. It seemed either glitchy or hacked, and both were possible given how difficult it is to police this kind of system. I headed back towards Darling Harbour, hoping for one nearby. The next card I went for was near York St crossing King St, and when that too disappeared when I got close, I pretty much called it a day.

I stopped by a Telstra store, and they kindly let me charge my phone there for a while. Ironically, despite the fact that I'd already decided it was hopeless, another card appeared at the top of Pitt St only a couple hundred metres from where I was (maybe not even that). I went for it, of course, and despite the app being snippy about me signing out and signing in (to try to get the GPS to catch up), I managed to get it. Went back to the Telstra store to thank the guy for letting me charge, and then (finally) called it a day, only narrowly successful.

Tuesday (Day 7)

Being the last week of the competition, I decided to go for a card every day. On Tuesday I returned to Burnett St Park on my way into work, and camped there briefly waiting for a card to appear. I found the events of this morning interesting because within the first 15 minutes of the competition, the $100 for Merrylands, Wetherill Park and Baulkham Hills was dropped and taken. Perhaps that lead to a lot of people feeling disappointed? I never intended to go for it anyway, so it didn't bother me too much. While I was camped at Burnett St Park, for all of five minutes, I saw a treasure drop on the railway station.

I considered whether to go for it. It was right in the heart of Merrylands, and possibly inconvenient to get to by car. Also, there were a few people nearby although not on top of it. In the end I started driving for it, and then stopped when I noticing five or more different seekers collapsing on the railway. Not something I wanted to be a part of! I parked on a side street, and started reading a journal article while waiting for the next treasure to appear. This is where I learnt another important lesson: don't park in the sun when you can park in the shade.

I had just parked in the shade when the treasure I was waiting for appeared. It was south of the town centre, near the library, and I was alerted to it as soon as it appeared. It was a straightforward drive, and so immediately I took off for it. I suspect I was halfway to it before most people even noticed it was there. One scary thing though: even though I was following road rules and paying attention, someone nearly hit my car on the roundabout because they didn't give way. It would have been their fault, but still a good lesson in paying total attention to the road even when on a hunt.

I got there, pulled up on the curb and dashed to the card. I think the app actually said "Grab card!" a few seconds before I actually reacted, but nonetheless it was a happy ending. This time, I didn't make the mistake of waiting three days before claiming the card.

Wednesday (Day 8)

This day was always going to be a stretch because I was time-limited. The competition, as normal, ran from 9am and I along with my brother needed to be back at uni by 10am for a talk (by the head of NASA, incidentally!). This severely limited our treasure options, since the general trend was one drop ever 15 minutes or so. We saw one while we were on the bus, but someone got to it well before we even had a chance. The second one appeared near Railway Square, and we watched someone move quickly from near Hyde Park down to Central. I actually very restlessly watched that one go, because it was a distant possibility that I could have made it from Wynyard via train, but we were waiting in line and so I didn't go.

By the time we got out of the queue we were in, it was about 9:40am, so it was time to head back to uni or at least think about it. We got on a bus, and were heading down George St with the acceptance that it had never really been that likely given the time constraints. However, as we pulled up near the QVB building, one card appeared on a perpendicular street. I looked at my brother, and said, "Yep - let's go for it." So we jumped off the bus and took off running towards the intersection of Castlereagh St and whichever street it was (I think it was Market St).

Someone else was heading for it coming from the east, and actually they got to the corner not very long after us! But we managed to get there first, and grabbed the $25 card. Phew! I was pretty curious about who the other seeker was, but not curious enough to stay and find out. This was very much an opportunistic grab, a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Thursday (Day 9)

The last day of the competition, and I guess I would have chosen for it to be climactic. Fortunately for me, it was! I had planned to spend a couple hours waiting for a good drop but as I neared Merrylands, a card appeared in Sydney Olympic Park. At the time I started heading for it, no one else was even close and no one made a move. So I figured I might as well try, since it was early in the morning and this would save waiting around. I made the awful mistake of getting on the M4 - despite the fact that it was around 9:30am, it was packed. I got off again and headed down Parramatta Rd, which was somewhat better but still plagued by traffic lights.

Now, I had been heading for this treasure for about 15 minutes when someone appeared near Silverwater Rd, painfully close to Olympic Park. I almost gave up then, but decided to keep going because maybe they wouldn't head for it, right? WRONG. It became a double-headed race, and it looked pretty certain that this other seeker was going to win. So much so, that I gave up and turned around when I saw that they were basically on top of the treasure. It was quite disappointing given how far I'd driven on a whim like that.

But then something curious happened. The other seeker started retreating from the treasure, and going around a big loop to get back to it from another direction. I was interested. Why did they turn around? They were so close… So I went back after it, going the direction they'd gone and retreated from. I quickly saw the issue: the Easter show had started, and the road was 'closed' and mainly available for buses and taxis. For whatever reason, perhaps because I got lucky, I was able to pull up and briefly park while I ran over to the Olympic poles commemorating the volunteers of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and anxiously grabbed the card.

I'm not sure what exactly happened to the other seeker. I guess they were turned around by a guard or something, and maybe they figured by that point that I had given up and they could take their time. I'm guessing they were pretty bummed when I got there first. I did feel a bit bad, but then, I had come a lot further to get there before they even appeared on the map. This particular day, the last hunt for the time being, was certainly climactic but at the same time I felt bad for the other seeker. It was a little bit like those eBay buyers that snipe at the last minute! This was precisely the reason that I'd avoided other seekers every other time I went for a card during the promotion.

For that reason, I do wonder about my conviction for being a treasure hunter. There is probably not a book or movie in existence that doesn't introduce a rival or nemesis when there is treasure hunting involved. There's often death, or violence, or both. There are all these risks and sacrifices that separate me as an enthusiast treasure hunter from those who are professionals. I feel like there are still so many levels between where I one day hope to be, and where I am now, that it's so far off in the distance yet still somewhat a question. How far do you have to be willing to go to make it? Can you be a treasure hunter and not compromise your morals and not have to fight against other people for the win?

I think my current feelings indicate that whatever serious hunt I ever go for, I'm not going to compete for it. We learnt that in the Pump hunt and it was reinforced in the Virgin bike hunt. Again, you can see it in the Stockland promotion. I've heard it said that there is no thought you can have that someone else hasn't already thought of. I don't believe this is true, because it is still possible to think of unique usernames on popular websites (even without resorting to user1247835). But there is a point to it. In particular, when it comes to treasure hunting, if it was going to be an easy or a straightforward find, then it would have been found already, right? So I think it would be foolish from the beginning to think that there is some easy real treasure sitting there for you. Whatever it might one day be, it will be an invested commitment.

But I sincerely hope it will not be a competitive one.

Afterword: Wednesday (Wrap-Up Hunt)

I've learnt over the hunts I've done that reading the Terms and Conditions is a vital part of every treasure hunt. This time was no different - I discovered that Thursday was not quite the end as I had thought, and that there was a wrap-up hunt to be held on the following Wednesday redistributing all remaining unclaimed prizes. These were, I guess, the prizes that people had won but forgot to claim within the 72 hours deadline, or perhaps maybe even some that were not claimed at all within the day although that seems unlikely. I read this clause of the Terms and Conditions with interest, wondering how many other people would be active on this particular Wednesday. Given that it was truly going to be the last day of the hunt, and that I never know when the next one will be, it seemed worth going for even if it turned out to be nothing. It seemed probable that there wouldn't be many competitors for this day either, even though there was a reminder on the app that there was a wrap-up hunt.

The morning came, and I got into work super early so that I could leave for the hunt and be gone for a little while. I left about 8:30am and headed for Merrylands, since I figured having a car and knowing the area somewhat gave me more of an advantage than being on foot in the city, despite how well I might know it. The whole drive I was questioning whether I really should be going for this last hunt - I'd already won enough, and I didn't know how many people might be there or even if there would be any leftover treasure. It seemed an awful gamble, more than the previous hunts. But I decided that it would be a good experience, no matter what happened! So I kept going.

I was at the junction of Burnett St and Merrylands Rd when 9am hit and the treasures dropped. I was faced with quite a quandary! There were two treasures, and maybe five other seekers. From the junction where I was, there was one to the left and one to the right. I quickly decided to go left, but realised this was a poor choice when I saw about three people start to converge on the treasure. There was only one person near the one to the right, but for some strange reason they headed in the opposite direction and then disappeared. So on a whim, I decided that the right was the proper treasure to go after and signalled to get into the right lane.

This was actually a bit of a lesson for me, since I have a long history with hating on cutter-innerers. You know - those people who know the left lane ends but want to try and get even just two cars ahead because surely that will shorten their trip, or the ones that deliberately try to jump queues! They drive me mad, since I often see them do exactly that. It is so dangerous the way some of these people drive… I hate that. Well, anyway, so in my attempt to secure this treasure, I seemingly became one of these people. And the most surprisingly thing of all, was that the white car right next to me actually slowed without hesitation and let me in, and I managed to get through the light. I was very humbled by this experience, given my general reaction to people who cut in, and so I've tried since then to be a little bit more understanding and giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to mergers. As a bit of a side note, later that morning I actually did let someone in but they turned out to be one of the jerks. Can't win them all, I guess! :p

So back to the treasure hunt - once I rounded that corner, it was pretty straightforward to get to the treasure and I'm sad to say I didn't even have to get out of the car for this one. No physical effort whatsoever. I simply pulled up to the corner of the two roads, and grabbed the card, and that was that. Not even any competition, so far as I could tell! Needless to say, I was super pleased with myself since it was 9:03am and I already had one of the two remaining treasures. I got a little bit down when I realised that this was the treasure that someone else had rightfully won but forgot to claim or couldn't claim for whatever reason… but I figured this is probably a minor case of what really happens when it comes to ownership of treasure. Another lesson perhaps.

Oddly enough I couldn't claim the treasure right away because a power failure in Granville meant that the mall was completely shutdown as they tried to fix it. So I went off on my way and came back later, claiming what would be the final giftcard of this treasure hunt. It's been a fun two and a half weeks! I've enjoyed having a treasure hunt like this where there is so little you can do to have an advantage (since it is rather focused on being in the right place at the right time, or being able to get there quickly) and also where it is much harder to cheat. The clever people behind this app did put measures in place to check for people cheating, and while a few might have slipped through I felt like overall it was quite a fair contest and didn't experience too much of what looked like cheating. So cudos to Stockland and Snepo for a great promotion, and definitely looking forward to the next one!

Treasure

We went shopping for treasure on the Easter weekend, and actually were surprisingly practical about what we bought. The following photos show the haul that has so far been acquired from the giftcards. I felt so disgustingly practical that we stopped at an antique store on the way home and I bought a worn but pretty tramp-art cigar box from the late 1800s to store treasures in :) Actually I'd been hoping from early on that I could use the treasure accumulated to buy my brother a new pair of Vans (his have holes in them) but none of the shops sold them. Still, since I had been quite lucky in many of the hunts, I felt like it was the right thing to put this treasure towards practical things that also benefited other people. Karma, or so. I gave two cards to my mum as well, but she hasn't spent them yet - the condition of receipt was that there be a "treasure" photo as a result!

Summary

In short, a quick recap of the key treasure hunting lessons that became apparent in this hunt:

1) Be alert - a treasure hunt could hit you from anywhere, at anytime, and the quicker you react, the better your chances of winning! To this end, the first day of any promotion is by far the best time to act if you really want a chance at a prize as the number of people who participate seems to grow exponentially either through marketing or word of mouth. Similarly, you have to act fast when a treasure appears! The quicker you react, the further ahead you are of everyone else. This was certainly the case when I won a card on Day 7 of the promotion. Similarly, on Day 8 when we jumped off the bus immediately to go after that treasure, it was only a matter of seconds that separated us from another seeker grabbing the treasure.

2) Know the area/search where you know - it was of benefit to me to go for cards in Merrylands or the city, because I somewhat know the areas. Moreso than say, Baulkham Hills or Wetherill Park. While I probably could have coped looking for cards elsewhere, I did in the end find it was far advantageous to be familiar with the area in advance because it gives you good clues about what a reasonable distance away is and how accessible a particular location may be. While obviously it is impossible that you will know a true treasure hunt location, adequate research in advance is clearly necessary to give you at least a bit of an advantage.

3) Know when to quit - I am really bad at this. But of all the days I hunted, I really should have called it quits on the Monday hunt after chasing ghost cards all over the city. I was lucky in the end to have a card drop so nearby, but realistically this was a dead hunt and I should have recognised it sooner. It is also important to make good judgement calls on when a treasure is realistic or not. I recognise now that trying to get to Olympic Park before anyone else (during the Easter Show!) was a stupid idea given the distance and a whole lot of other factors, regardless of how it turned out!

4) Don't go completely tunnel-vision for a treasure - I'm also pretty bad at this too. But luckily, I wasn't so keen on Day 7 to ignore the idiot who didn't stop at the roundabout when he should have. It was a good lesson for me in being careful, despite what's at stake. I mean, how crap would it be if you were on your way to a golden treasure and then slipped and fell to your death because you were too hasty? Pretty crap, is the answer.

5) Don't give up - this one is a hard one. My general policy with these kind of hunts is one of avoidance; I still haven't quite figured out the alliance/nemesis thing yet. So when I saw the person reach the treasure on Day 9, I pretty much gave up and turned around. Even though I paid attention and saw them retreat (for whatever reason), I shouldn't have turned around so soon, not until I saw the treasure disappear. That said, though, I wonder looking back if my obvious retreat had anything to do with them not rushing for the treasure and whether it was an unintentional psyche on my part :p I realise it's a bit of a paradox to say "don't give up" at the same time as saying "know when to quit", but realistically it is a balance between the two and if you're close, you might be close enough! I'll leave that judgement call to you.

6) It's not all fun and games - well, actually for now it is, in these practice hunts. But in the real world of treasure hunting, and in life or death situations, it really does become every person for themselves and people will probably do just about anything to win/not die. I'm obviously not prepared for that yet, and that is why I'm still only an enthusiast treasure hunter (still better than the novice I was to begin with though!). The reason I bring this up is because over the last few hunts it has become pretty clear that it doesn't take much for people to get desperate. In the Pump hunt, for example, we saw people running red lights and even nearly running others over just to try to get to best time. It's a scale, I guess, and competing for real physical prizes is where the scale starts to climb and people care a little bit less about the fun of the hunt.

7) Give people the benefit of the doubt - this one obviously doesn't apply in a real treasure hunt. But in everyday life, I guess it helps a little to give people a chance to prove you wrong. I'm trying to do this… but driving in peak hour traffic doesn't help with that resolution so much. It's sad because so many drivers are actually alright and do the right thing, but then some just are morons. Oh, another thing that annoys me is when people merge and you give way to them and they DON'T WAVE! It's basic politeness people, and it's not that hard plus it makes people happy. So wave! People will then be much happier to have let you cut in. Sorry, rant. But in honesty, I do find that assuming people are genuinely alright until proven otherwise does seem to be a decent approach to life.

8) Aim practically - a large part of my success in the hunt (other than Day 1, when there wasn't much competition) was to stay completely out of the way when it came to the $50 and $100 giftcards. I'd read the Terms and Conditions, so I knew that there were only one $100 and two $50 giftcards per day, while there were ten $25 giftcards. Probability there is pretty obvious, especially since everyone else wanted to get their hands on a $100. Even the $25 were hard to come by in the end, but still a much greater chance than the higher value cards. In terms of applicability to real treasure hunting, I guess this suggests don't go for a treasure that everyone else is after. Because there will likely be smarter and/or richer people on the hunt there, which means you're at a disadvantage from the start. Be satisfied with the small things, at least at first.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License