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Subject: Beauty Pageants Answers to Consumer Questions:

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Date Posted: 03/ 5/05 2:49:24pm

Answers to Consumer Questions:
"Who operates pageants and how do they work?"
"Will the proceeds of the pageant go to a charity?"
"How did the promoter get our daughter's name?"
"What is the sponsorship fee?"
"What other costs can we expect?"
"The prizes sound great! What's the catch?"
"Have Better Business Bureaus Received Complaints?"
Other Questions to Consider Before Entering A Pageant
Consumers ask Better Business Bureaus many questions about pageants. This report addresses these concerns and suggests points to consider before entering a pageant. Information on a specific organization and its directors may be obtained from your local BBB.

"Who operates pageants and how do they work?"

Pageants are usually operated by for-profit organizations that solicit girls and young women (some solicit boys, men and babies) by mail or print advertising, or by broadcast media, to compete for recognition and prizes from promoter. The personality, appearance, talent, civic achievement, judges' interview, and writing ability within an age group. Some promoters may also encourage contestants to sell ads for cash prizes, awards or titles at the pageant for the one who sells the most. A national pageant may run a local pageant or grant a franchise for a local pageant to be accommodations for a pageant, the company may advertise through local media for contestants-at-large. Winners of local pageants affiliated with national pageants and contestants-at-large may be entered into the next level - state or national.

"Will the proceeds of the pageant go to a charity?"

Some pageant claim a charity will receive proceeds from the pageant tickets sales. If you are solicited in this manner, be sure to ask what portion of the fee will go to the charity. According to the Internal Revenue Service, you can deduct only the share directly benefitting the charity. If a pageant is conducted on behalf of a charity, check with your local Better Business Bureau for additional information on the charity involved. Your state's charity registration office (usually located in the state capital) should be able to tell you if the charity needs to be in compliance with state laws. Check with the charity to determine if it has given the pageant permission to use its name in fundraising.

"How did the promoter get our daughter's name?"

Many pageants ask contestants on the entry form for names of friends or relatives who would be interested in competing in the pageant. Some companies may even offer a prize for the referrals.

The company might purchase mailing lists or solicit schools and civic groups for lists of names. As a result, your daughter may receive a letter stating that she is being considered as a possible contestant for a pageant with later notification of this selection. At this point, she may already be considered a "finalist" without having undergone any competition with other contestants.

"What is the sponsorship fee?"

This fee, which can vary, is paid to the pageant promoter in full or in part by business sponsors, friends and family depending on the promoter. It generally covers the cost of the pageant, hotel, rental fees, awards, printing, administrative costs, salary for company personnel and company profits. For each subsequent pageant level, a winning contestant may be asked to provide another sponsorship fee.

"What other costs can we expect?"

Consider costs of clothing, costumes, make-up for the entrant as well as travel, food and lodging for both the entrant and a chaperone, if necessary. Find out if talent competition costs extra. Photograph packages may be offered at an additional fee.

"The prizes sound great! What's the catch?"

Prizes vary depending on the pageant. At a local or county level, the only "prize" received may be recognition and a chance to represent that specific area. As the level of pageant increases, other prizes may be offered by the promoter. Typical prize items may include watches, cameras, radios, or bicycles. At higher pageant levels, cash or scholarship awards may be given. In one national grand pageant, the grand prize featured a screen test at a major film studio. Another national grand prize included an expense paid trip to Hawaii. Be sure to read carefully what the prizes are. Are tuition scholarships limited to a particular institution designated by the promoter? Are cash prizes split among the top winners? Are prizes promised orally listed in the promotional literature and/or contract? Are the "tangible" prizes presented at the time of the pageant or after the winner's "reign"? Determine what, if any, obligations a contestant undertakes in winning the pageant. Do winners need to sign a release allowing the use of their name and picture in advertising? What personal appearances, if any, are mandatory for the winning contestant? Read any contract carefully in advance of entering a pageant to understand the rights and responsibilities of the winner.

"Have Better Business Bureaus Received Complaints?"

Better Business Bureaus have cited several complaint areas with respect to beauty pageants. One Bureau reported that a promoter advertised an upcoming pageant, required advance fees, and then skipped town. At least one state has a bonding requirement for new promoters within the state to protect contestants who submit entrance fees in advance. In another pageant, a contestant claimed problems receiving a refund of her $200 entry fee after an initial conversation with the promoter had led her to believe a refund was possible. In other instances, parents claimed that activities promised never materialized, such as a coronation ball with live music. Other complainants alleged that the contestants were asked to have suitable clothing for their interviews with the judges. Additional clothing was purchased, but the interviews never occurred. One parent complained that the promised hotel accommodations were unavailable and contestants ended up being bussed between their nightly lodgings and the pageant. The same parent claimed a lack of chaperones for the event, further stating that midnight bedchecks of the contestants never took place. In another pageant, local businesses were left holding the bag when payments by a pageant promoter for services rendered were returned by the bank marked "insufficient funds".

Questions to Consider Before Entering A Pageant:
How long has the company been operating pageants? Who are the directors?

What is the total cost of pageant participation for both the entrant and the chaperone?

Can the location (place of business) of the pageant company be verified? Where and when will the actual pageant be held? What accommodations are provided for contestants? Will there be adequate supervision?

Who are the judges and what are their qualifications? Do they have any affiliation with the company?

Are refunds possible if a contestant decides to withdraw from the pageant?

How are the winners chosen? What criteria are used for selection?

What are the obligations of the winning contestant?

What do former contestants and winners have to say about the pageant?

Finally, what benefit will be derived from participating or winning?

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