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Caller Nine! Tales From a Serial Contest Winner

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After winning a radio call-in contest in 2003, Ron Clements started a speed-dialing marathon, winning tickets to rock concerts and special events. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • After winning a radio call-in contest in 2003, Ron Clements started a speed-dialing marathon, winning tickets to rock concerts and special events.

Be persistent. Cast a wide net. Listen to hints dropped by the disc jockeys.

These are just a few tips provided by Ron Clements on how to consistently win radio call-in contests. He should know. During the last several years, Clements, a 42-year-old building maintenance worker, has won dozens if not hundreds of free concert tickets and other prizes from area radio stations. The latest: free tickets to see Elvis Costello at the Innsbrook Pavilion.

It began around 2003. Clements’ job requires a lot of commuting. So, scanning through the radio stations in his car, he decided to call into a radio station for a “caller-nine” contest to beat the boredom. “It was pretty random,” he says. He won a gift pack of Coca-Cola themed prizes. He was hooked. Then the floodgates opened. Now he trolls the airwaves in his car, he says, listening for talk of prizes he might like to win. And he does, sometimes two or three times per week.

Clements recently netted $500 from WWUZ 96.9-FM, a classic rock radio station out of Fredericksburg. Others prizes are more mundane, he says, lifting up a “Now That’s What I Call Country” CD he won a few years ago. Regardless of the haul, winning is exciting, he says, and luck runs hot and cold: “It’s a little like gambling that way.”

But how exactly does he do it? “There’s no process,” he acknowledges, only a loose set of guidelines. Most radio stations have rules that prevent listeners from winning twice in the span of 30 days. So Clements listens carefully for news of prize giveaways. “I’m not going to just call in to get anything and ruin a chance at winning some tickets to a concert I really want to see,” he says. Otherwise, Clements says the key is just to keep redialing until you get through the crush of other callers.

Rail-thin with salt-and-pepper sideburns and a soul patch under his lower lip, Clements shows off the evidence of his winnings, spilling a 3-inch-thick stack of crumpled tickets out onto his kitchen table. His longtime girlfriend, Dana Devine, recently made a collage out of tickets and photos taken during some of the more memorable, and more importantly, free concerts. There they are, posing backstage with Larry the Cable Guy, near the front row at Cheap Trick and backstage with the band Little Feat.

It’s an addicting hobby, he says, but it is not entirely without expense. As Clements points out, gas to and from far-flung venues and the refreshments at concerts aren’t cheap. But sometimes, just the ticket is enough. “You get to do something enjoyable for free that most people are paying for.”

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