Buddy has been declared the handsomest cat ever after winning the KingPet cat contest!
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t enter him in the contest. Didn’t upload his photo, didn’t make a profile for him. I’m merely declaring him the winner because the people behind KingPet wasted 2.5 minutes of my life by enticing me with a Youtube ad to visit their “pet contest” site.
What is KingPet? Here’s how the site’s owners describe it:
KingPet is a Free Photo Competition for dogs, cats and all sorts of other animals! Participate and vote to win up many gifts each month!
You mean we can win up many gifts each month?!? Why haven’t I been told about this before? Many gifts! I’m in!
That bit of mangled English is just the first indication that something shady’s going on here. On the front page I saw a photo of an adorable kitten with zero votes, so I upvoted the little one and was immediately taken to a page that gave up the goods.
My first vote was free, according to the generous people who run KingPet, but if I wanted to keep voting past a certain point I’d have to buy vote packages ranging from $3.99 for 150 votes all the way up to $189.99 for 20,000 votes.
Now you can see where this is going:
- Join the site and enter Fluffy in the contest.
- Get upset because no one’s voting for Fluffy, without realizing that because you haven’t paid any money, Fluffy’s photo is just sitting on the KingPet server, not being displayed to anyone.
- Indignant that lesser pets (!) are coasting to the grand prize of “winning up many gifts,” you exhaust your free supply of votes on Fluffy, reasoning that everyone else probably upvotes their own cats and dogs. (Of course they do.)
- That failed to move the needle! Okay, let’s make a purchase — just a small one! — to get Fluffy moving up the charts. You can by 150 votes for $3.99, but 2,000 votes for only $12.99! Who wouldn’t do that? You’re saving money!
- Now things are moving! Fluffy’s up from 2,612nd to 579th! Now you’re trading votes with other people who have been sucked into the competition, making IOUs until your next vote purchase and running up the charges on your credit card.
- OH SHIT. Look at how adorable Little Princess is! She’s ranked 4th, her profile says she was found crying in a gutter, and she’s probably going to die soon because she needs risky veterinary surgery to fix a condition you’ve never heard of, but are totally sure exists. How are you going to compete with this sob story? Might as well give up now, which is a shame because you’ve already purchased $92 worth of votes this month.
- Wait a second. Mr. Socks was also found in the gutter as a crying kitten and needs life-saving veterinary surgery? And Oreo just wants to win this contest until he’s put down? If you didn’t know better, you’d swear there was a trend: All the top pets are suffering from dangerous or untreatable conditions, have been photographed professionally, and belong to heartbroken humans who just want to win to have a great memory of their pet before it’s time to lead them to the Rainbow Bridge. Pass the tissues!
- Okay, screw this! You’ve purchased the $189.99 vote package, you’re locked and loaded, and you need a new profile for Fluffy to compete in the sympathy vote category: “I found Fluffy when he was four weeks old. His fur was matted, he was covered with fleas, and he was crying as dogs bullied him and a bigger cat took away the only morsel of food he could find. The doctors tell me Fluffy has only weeks to live after he was diagnosed with COVAIDS-19. Fluffy told me his dying wish is to be declared King Pet. Vote for Fluffy to make his dying wish come true!”
What happens from there? A review on SiteJabber fills us in on the endgame, courtesy of a user named Rozina B:
“I shared the link on social media and to my family and friends, i told them to keep voting 10 times a day. My brother bought votes for my kitten and she ended up in 1st place.
Everything went down hill after that. The second place person bought votes and became 1st again. They were trying to get money for their poorly pet but they were using their own money to buy votes so it made no sense, plus i dont like people trying to get sympathy votes there is a vast amount of people with luxury cats that they apparently found and was about to die etc all for votes basically. I then bought votes and we both ended up in this race to win, i bought votes they bought votes and it continued to the last minute of the competition till they gave up. I just wanted to be 1st for once as the 2nd place person had already won 1st place with their other cat. It was unfair. I must have spent a good £500 or more and they must have too.”
Five hundred pounds is the equivalent of $615 USD at the moment, for my fellow ‘Mericans reading at home.
So KingPet has the top five or 10 vote-getters, who have already opened their wallets, in a credit card arms race to boost their cats to the top of the list, along with an indeterminate number of other users spending lesser amounts to climb the charts. (It’s also possible that the “2nd place person” in the SiteJabber review was an account operated by the site’s owners, leapfrogging the others in the votes so they’d feel compelled to spend even more money.)
And that’s just for the cats. The same thing is happening simultaneously with dog owners determined to win a meaningless contest.
For what it’s worth, KingPet’s Facebook page is followed by almost 800,000 people, and a thread promoting the contest has 21,000+ auto-generated comments from people who entered the contest via Facebook.
The site’s About page says it’s part of a New York-based company called Playground Inc that runs half a dozen online contest sites with a combined 2 million users.
Here are some of the other reviews of KingPet courtesy of SiteJabber:
Not fair.People have to buy 10,000 votes to put their pet at the top, seriously? What’s the matter you don’t have enough confidence in your pets beauty that’s real nice. You have to buy votes or trade votes with people?can’t this contest just be one on sheer honesty and your pets beauty?
total scam on King Pet contests … im in the cat contest was leading all along and someone who won the prior contest come out of NOWHERE and buys up 30,000 votes every time a freind would buy more the 1st place cat suddenly buys 10000 more … either they are very rich or this is a total scam and rigged you decide ive spent more than enough !!!!
You people are running a scam. My mother is an elderly lady that is spending her lifes savings on your scam website. I have reported you to the Department of Justice for elder abuse. I have documents to back up my claims.
Notice also that many reviews complain that KingPet allegedly failed to reward prizes or cash to contest winners.
To be clear, I’m not saying KingPet is illegal, and I’m not saying it’s a scam. The FTC and courts would make that determination if enough people complain to trigger an investigation. (And from the site’s reputation scores and reviews on external sites, it certainly looks like there are lots of complaints.)
What I am saying, however, is that KingPet is a waste of time and money that employs a strategy of pitting users against each other to generate revenue. KingPet isn’t providing any value by selling meaningless votes for a contest that allegedly hands out prizes only sometimes. It exists to enrich its owners, preying on the insecurities and obsessions of the people who get caught up in it.
The good news is there’s a great way to feel good about your pet, it doesn’t cost any money, and it will mean a great deal more to your kitten or cat than an email saying he/she won an online contest: Spend time with the little one! Set aside time to play, surprise them with a random treat or a bit of catnip, and give them a little extra affection.
If you still feel you need recognition, print out a certificate declaring your cat or dog the winner of a pet contest. It’ll be just as “official” as KingPet and you’ll save yourself at least $500.
And so, in the spirit of all things Buddy, I once again declare Buddy the King of all Pets, or the King Pet, if you will. And it cost me nothing!