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Like a page out of a Roald Dahl storybook, one of the originators of Jelly Belly brand is launching a nationwide treasure hunt with the help of some golden ticket-style necklaces, but you might want to read the fine print before you enter.
David Klein, who sold his stake in Jelly Belly in 1980 and now runs a company called Spectrum Confections, announced last week that he will give away a candy factory to one lucky winner who is able to locate the “ultimate treasure.” Additionally, one treasure hunter in all 50 states will receive $5,000. The contest has sparked enormous interest, with the “Gold Ticket” Facebook group gaining tens of thousands of members in just a few days and the website TheGoldTicket.com crashing from an apparent influx of visitors.
Reached by phone, Klein told Fast Company he was caught off guard by the surge. “This is the biggest response to anything we’ve ever done,” he says.
You have to pay $49.99 to enter the statewide treasure hunts, and each one is limited to 1,000 participants. As the news release describes it, “David and his partner have started going across the USA hiding gold style tickets in the form of necklaces in places they come across with an interesting story. Plans are to have multiple treasure hunts for these gold tickets in each state.”
The cost of the contest appears to have divided people on social media, with some saying the price tag is too high and others saying they’re fine with paying $50 for a little fun and excitement. (Dahl fans may recall that Willy Wonka only charged the price of a candy bar.)
Klein declined to comment on the actual value of the factory he’s giving away, citing fluctuations in the real estate market. He says the property is 4,000 square feet and located in Florida, where he lives, and the winner of the contest will become the new owner. The winner will also receive an “all-expenses paid trip and education to a candy-making university,” which Klein said was located at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The contest will take place in Facebook groups, where participants will receive riddles on a predetermined date. According to the contest rules, you have to be on Facebook to play, and that means any contest-related interaction you have may not be private.
As of Tuesday morning, the website to enter the contest was inaccessible to many visitors. Moreover, some users on Facebook reported that they did not receive a confirmation after paying the money and signing up. So if you’re determined to enter, proceed with caution.
Asked about the glitches, Klein said the website has been crashing due to an influx of visitors and that his team was working to fix the issues.
Klein parted ways with the brand decades ago, and the split was not exactly amicable. He described his exit as being “forced out” and said he was even prohibited from being in the jelly bean business for 20 years due to a noncompete clause. (You can learn all about that saga from the 2012 documentary Candyman.)
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Jelly Belly said in a statement that it wanted to clear up “confusion in the marketplace,” which apparently led some consumers to believe it was associated with the contest. “David Klein, the sponsor of the ‘treasure hunt’ contest gaining attention within the media this weekend, is not associated with Jelly Belly Candy Company, its brands, or products,” the spokesperson said.
The company also takes issue with characterizations of Klein as a founder. “Jelly Belly Candy Company, formerly known as Herman Goelitz Candy Company, has candy making roots back to 1869. It was founded by brothers Gustav and Albert Goelitz and remains family owned and operated today.”
Always read the fine print before signing up for anything. You can find a cached version of the contest’s terms and conditions here.
Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine
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