Welcome to the Secret Symbols Sweepstakes!

If you’ve read some of my past blogs, you know I’m not a fan of the cold weather! So, to help me – and hopefully you – get through these cold, dark days, we thought we’d run a new sweepstakes. This one is called the Secret Symbol Sweepstakes (it’s similar to the Mystery Phrase Sweepstakes we ran in June 2017).

Your objective is to go through past blogs and look for the six Secret Symbols. (These are all small graphics that are winter related.) Once you find these graphics, go to the link below, follow the instructions, and post the exact titles of the blogs where you found each of the six symbols.

Other important information:

  • To be eligible, you must provide the exact title of the blog posting; for example, Tips For Recording Your Holiday Shopping Trips, which was posted on December 7, 2017.
  • Speaking of tips, here’s one: Copy and paste the exact title into the response field.
  • From all of the correct entries, five winners will then be selected in a random drawing. Each winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card claim code!
  • The contest ends on Wednesday, January 31.

Go here to post your responses: www.surveymonkey.com/r/SecretSymbols

Please check out the rules: www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/NCPBlog/SecretSymbolsSweepstakesRules.pdf

If you have any questions, please contact us at news@ncppanel.com with the subject line, Secret Symbols Sweeps.

Good luck!

Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards (“GCs”) cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

Dealing With Winter

I’m not one who likes to go out in the cold weather. And it seems like a lot of NCP panelists agree: Last week’s Instant Poll on the NCP panelist website asked, “What is your favorite winter activity?”

Well, the responses were very interesting …

  • Hiking/walking: 14%
  • Sledding/Ice Skating: 5%
  • Skiing/snowboarding: 3%
  • Hibernating: 78%

Count me in with the hibernating people!

(Note: Make sure to check out the weekly Instant Poll on the NCP website, if you haven’t already done so.)

But there are some fun things you can do that might help you enjoy the season, other than the ones mentioned in the Instant Poll above.

Here are some other options, according to realsimple.com:

  • Have a snowball fight
  • Build a snowman
  • Make a snow angel
  • Build a snow fort
  • Reread a favorite book
  • Bake cookies and share them with friends
  • Make a big batch of chili
  • Kick back in an outdoor hot tub
  • Cozy up in front of a roaring fire and watch the flames
  • Take a long bubble bath
  • Complete a jigsaw puzzle

What winter activities do you like to do? Tell us all about them.

As for me, I’m just going to keep busy and try to stay warm. Just think: 66 days until spring!

PSC Closed For Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Our Panel Support Center will be closed Monday, January 15, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The PSC will reopen on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Turn Up The Heat!

Happy New Year every one! I hope you have health and happiness in the New Year.

I can’t believe how cold it’s been throughout the country. When will it warm up?

I usually do the bulk of my grocery shopping on Saturday. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to going out in the cold – just the thought of loading (and unloading) the car while braving the record low temps is not very inviting to me.

So allow me to fantasize a bit … ah, I’m dreaming of a nice, warm place to go for a few weeks.

I’d love to go to Hawaii one day. That’s been our dream vacation for years and years. What’s your dream vacation? Tell me all about it!

According to a survey from travel site TripAdvisor.com, these are the top 10 biggest dream trips:

  1. See the Northern Lights in Iceland
  2. Sleep in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  3. Admire the sunset over Santorini (an Island in Greece)
  4. Take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  5. Explore the Galapagos Islands
  6. Visit Italy’s Amalfi Coast
  7. Photograph the Big Five on safari at Kruger National Park, South Africa
  8. Take the ultimate road trip on Route 66
  9. Set foot on Antarctica
  10. Ride the Trans-Siberian railway

I don’t know about going to Antarctica right now, but Bora Bora sounds pretty good!

Happy Anniversary To NCP
This week marks the 8th anniversary of when the National Consumer Panel was formed. So, happy anniversary to us!

I hope you have a great weekend, and stay warm!

Happy Holidays And A Look Ahead To 2018

On behalf of everyone here at NCP, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the best this holiday season and in the New Year!

Speaking of 2018, there are some great things happening next year that I want to tell you about.

We hope you enjoyed the Mystery Phrase promotion we conducted this past June. Well, we’ll have another exciting new contest early next year. (Winners will receive an Amazon Gift Card claim code!) Look for more information in January.

Also next year, the panelist website, ncponline.com, will be getting a brand-new look. You’ll find enhanced content and easier-to-use navigation. Be on the lookout for more details coming soon.

PSC Closings
FYI: The Panel Support Center will be closing at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 23, and will be closed all day on Monday, December 25.

In addition, the PSC will be closing at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 30, and will be closed all day on Monday, January 1, 2018.

I’ll be away next week, so the next blog posting will be during the first week of January.

Again, I want to wish you a very happy holiday and a great new year!


Having A Little Wine With Holiday Dinner

My family has a lot of holiday get-togethers coming up in the next few weeks. When we visit someone we usually bring an adult beverage to be consumed at the party.

As can be expected, with the holiday season upon us, sales of these beverages always soar.

For instance, according to The Nielsen Company, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the biggest holidays for wine sales in the United States, accounting for 69% more dollar sales than the average two-week period in 2016, ringing up more than $1 billion in sales in the two-week period alone.

To be specific, sparkling wine sees a jump in sales between Christmas and New Year’s, with sales climbing 272% during the two-week period, according to Nielsen. But table wine sales also jumped 47% during the two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s Eve last year, with red table wine outpacing white table wine.

Remember to record your wine or beer or any other type of alcoholic beverage! If you’re picking up a bottle of wine or spirits on your way to a party, jot down the UPC barcode number on the receipt so that you can scan the purchase when you get home.

Have a safe and healthy holiday season!


Tips For Recording Your Holiday Shopping Trips

How are you doing with your holiday shopping? I’ve started to make a dent, but I still have a long way to go. Good thing it’s still early in the month!

I went a little crazy on Cyber Monday – ok, let’s be honest, I’m still going crazy with buying things online. You can’t really beat the convenience!

A lot of people feel the same: According to a report from Adobe Insights, Cyber Monday purchases reached a record $6.59 billion, which is a 16.8% increase from last year. This makes it the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, according to Adobe Insights.

Also, more and more consumers are using their mobile devices to make purchases; according to Adobe Insights, mobile sales on Cyber Monday reached $2 billion for the first time.

From Nov. 1 through Nov. 27, $50 billion has been spent online thus far, which puts online sales on track to reach $100 billion by the end of the year, Adobe reported.

FYI: Adobe Insights measures 80% of online transactions from 100 major U.S. retailers.

I know we recently discussed how to record your online purchases a few weeks ago, but I just wanted to review some things that will help us make better use of the data you provide.

Please note: Panelists should be receiving similar information via email. In case you miss it – or just prefer reading this blog (yeah!), here’s the info.

Multiple Shipments
Sometimes online purchases come in one or multiple shipments and don’t always include a packing receipt.

  • Consider printing out your email/order confirmation so you can refer back to it for each item’s price when reporting them.
  • If your items do come separately, please scan the purchases as you receive them.

Covered UPC Barcode
If an item arrives with the UPC barcode covered by another label …

  • Try carefully peeling off that label and scanning the UPC barcode on the item.
  • If the UPC barcode is damaged, manually type the barcode number in to the scanner or the NCPMobile App, depending on what you use.

Online Or “On Line”?
If you buy something from the website of a retailer that also has a storefront …

  • Report the trip as an online purchase, and not using the retailer’s “storefront” Store Name. For example, if you order something from Target’s website, select “target.com” when you record the purchase (whether the item was shipped directly to you or you picked it up at the store).

Store Names And Store Type
When recording any shopping trip, be careful to choose the correct Store Name.

  • If the name of the store you shopped at is not on your store list, select the appropriate Store Type. For example, if you shopped at a local drug store that is not on your store list, just select the “Drug Stores” store type to record the purchase.

Thank you for your cooperation.

I hope you have a very pleasant shopping experience, whether it be online or “on a line.” Have a great day!

“Sweeping” Changes To The NCP Sweepstakes

We all like to win things. I know I do! That’s why I enter as many promotions as I can, whether it’s a lottery or some other contest. You never know, it just might be my time!

NCP has made a few changes to our Sweepstakes program for 2018, which take effect  on December 3.

As an NCP panelist, you don’t have to remember to enter any of our sweepstakes. All you have to do is scan and transmit each week and you’re automatically in. That’s all it takes!

We’ve renamed the sweepstakes to make it easier to know what each one is about:

  • $25 Weekly Sweepstakes (formerly Lucky Weeks)
  • $200 Monthly Sweepstakes (formerly Monthly Mission)
  • $20,000 Cash Giveaway (formerly Grand Prix)
  • $500 Super Scanner Sweepstakes (formerly Super Scanner)
  • $500 Panelists of the Year Sweepstakes (formerly Panelists of the Year)

We’ve also increased the number of winners: Now there will be 50 winners of the Weekly Sweepstakes, and 30 winners of the Monthly Sweepstakes.

In addition, we’ll continue our Pick ‘N Win Sweepstakes, where you can use your gift points to win great prizes. (FYI: The prizes change every month!)

All you have to do is go to the online gift catalog (www.ncponline.com/panel/US/EN/Rewards/ViewOrderGifts.htm).

  1. Then go to the Pick N Win Sweepstakes page.
  2. Select the sweepstakes that you want to enter.
  3. See how many points you need to enter that particular sweepstakes.
  4. Choose how many entries you want to place into that sweepstakes.

The more entries you make, the more chances you have to win!

Also, we’ll be continuing the Survey Points or Prize Sweepstakes.

For this sweepstakes, on select online surveys you may receive, you’ll have a choice of how you’d like to be rewarded for answering the survey! After completing some surveys, you’ll be asked to choose whether you want to receive your regular survey points OR an entry into a monthly drawing for a $300 Visa® Prepaid Card (if you choose this option, you’ll still receive 50 points for completing the survey).

If you choose to enter the sweepstakes, you’ll be entered into the drawing for the month in which you completed the survey. At the end of each month, one winner will be randomly selected from all survey respondents who chose the sweepstakes option for all select surveys completed in that month.

We hope this year you’ll be a winner! Thanks, and have a great day.

Hitting The Road For Turkey Day

Like millions of other Americans, we’ll be traveling this holiday weekend to spend Thanksgiving at my cousin’s home in Goshen, NY. (It’s in the Hudson Valley, not too far from West Point.)

Apparently, everyone else will be traveling this holiday weekend! According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 50.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year. This year’s holiday travel volume will be the highest since Thanksgiving 2005, with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year, said the association.

The vast majority of those traveling for the holiday – 89.3% — are planning to drive to their destination, according to AAA. Automobile travel will grow by 3.2 percent this Thanksgiving, with 45.5 million Americans planning a holiday road trip.

If you are going somewhere and need to gas up the car, don’t forget to record the purchase. Just use the Gas listing in the Barcode Reference Booklet (Barcode Reference Booklet) if you use one of our handheld scanners, or if you’re an NCPMobile App user, use the Non-Barcoded Items list in the app. (NCPMobile people: Please do not use the Barcode Reference Booklet! Thank you.)

Note: Use Gas Trip Only designation if you just purchased gas during a trip to the service station. Use Gas With Purchase when the gasoline is purchased along with other items from the gasoline station’s convenience store. Only enter the price paid for the fuel. For all other items with a barcode, please record them as usual.

Also, let us know if you’re going to be away for a while by contacting the Panel Support Center at 800-962-6700. (If you have the NCPMobile App, you can use it while you’re away!)

Finally, I want to remind everyone that we are closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, Nov. 24. The Panel Support Center will be open on Saturday, Nov. 25, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Have a very happy and safe holiday!

What’s Your Favorite Hobby?

I always get super stressed during this time of year. Thanksgiving is coming soon, and not long after, will be the gift-giving holidays, whichever one you celebrate.

One thing that helps me is having a few hobbies, which keep me centered and functioning! My favorite things to do are yoga, hiking, and baking.

Hobbies are great for relieving stress, helping us develop new skills, and also they often create a bond with others. Having a hobby or two can enrich your life and give you a different perspective on things.

What are your favorite hobbies? Let me know!

According to notsoboringlife.com, here are just a few of the most popular hobbies:

  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Watching movies
  • Hunting/Fishing
  • Gardening
  • Exercising (Walking, running, biking, golfing, swimming, skiing, dancing, etc.)
  • Cooking
  • Listening to music/Playing a musical instrument
  • Entertaining/Socializing
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Crafts
  • Writing
  • Volunteering

There are obviously dozens, if not hundreds, of other hobbies that people enjoy!

Veterans Day
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Let’s make sure to honor the vets for their service. If you are a veteran, or if you know a vet, please make sure to take advantage of the many free or discounted meals and services for vets. Just go here and see all the offers that are available:


Have a great weekend!

If You Bought Something Online, Let Us Know!

I can’t believe it’s already November! Where did this year go???

And what’s making time seem like it’s really flying is that I’ve already seen commercials for holiday sales!

Before you know it, Cyber Monday will be here. I usually buy a lot of presents online (there’s nothing better than shopping in your jammies!), and I know many others feel the same.

So I just wanted to remind all of our panel members how important it is to record your online purchases – whether it’s for the holidays or anytime of the year.

NCP wants you to know that the items you purchase online are just as important as the ones you bring home from a store. One of the vital parts of the data you send to us is where the purchases were made.

For example, if you purchased an item from a retailer’s website, such as WalMart, you would select walmart.com as the store name to record the shopping trip. Be extra careful to choose the “.com” store name when recording online purchases and not the physical store name. It’s very important that the store information is accurate. If the store name is not in your store list, choose the “online shopping” store type to record the purchase.

When you place an order online, save the email confirmation receipt and/or check for an invoice in the box when the item arrives. If you use a scanner, as soon as you receive the shipment scan the barcode on the product (if there is one) and choose the specific online store name.

If you use the NCPMobile App, please indicate how you received your online purchase when entering the purchase information (see graphic below):

And lastly, as promised, some of the many cute dog photos submitted by our readers! (I want to again thank those who took the time to submit a photo.)

I hope you have a great weekend!