A Millarville woman initially swamped with letters from people wanting to win her million-dollar home is now bombarded by threats.
After running her Write a Letter, Win a Home contest from Jan. 5 to July 5, homeowner Alla Wagner is receiving accusations and threats from people as she attempts to refund the approximately 4,000 valid entries she received after the contest failed
The Millarville homeowner invited people to write about what owning her custom-built 4,000 square foot two-storey 2011 home would mean to them. One person from the entries would be selected to win her home.
The contest conditions state for it to be a success Wagner must receive 68,000 entries at $25 each. That would have covered the house’s $1.7 million asking price.
Wagner extended the deadline twice, first to May 5 and then to July 5, to allow more time to organize the submissions and for more people to apply.
While Wagner said she’s refunded about 1,000 contestants to date, it’s not fast enough for some people.
“I’m sitting all day long at my desk, sending refunds,” she said. “That’s what’s making me angry is the fact that I’m working so hard to do this properly and they are attacking me for nothing. I’ve collected these letters for six months now. Give me time. Let me work on it.”
Wagner said it takes 15-30 minutes to process a refund, which she’s doing via e-Transfer and cheque. She is refunding $21.75 ($21.25 for those requiring postage) after deducting bank fees incurred during the contest, as per the contest terms and conditions.
“What people don’t understand is it’s a bookkeeping process,” she said. “I have to keep proper books so if there is problems I have to prove that I actually sent the refund. I’m sitting here and doing this as fast as I can to get this all done.”
Some comments on social media accuse Wagner of keeping people’s money, making interest on the submissions she’s deposited and having no intention of refunding the money.
“People are making accusations without any basis,” she said.
Of those complaints, many are threatening to report her to the police. In one case, Wagner said she received a death threat.
She said the accusations are hurtful when the whole idea of the contest was to do good.
“The money is not worth for me to ruin my reputation and turn my life upside down,” she said. “I do not need this to affect my reputation, my business, my life. I just don’t need this poison.”
Wagner said the contest was a way to downsize and simplify her life, mostly due to her failing health.
She’s been confined to an office chair in the upper level of her home following a back injury a year ago, prompting her to put her house up for sale so she could move into a bungalow.
When she received no offers for her home, she came up with the idea of the contest to cover the cost of the house and give five per cent of the proceeds to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
“It’s not greed that made me do this, it’s because of my condition,” she said. “I wanted to downsize. I didn’t want to work as hard anymore.”
Throughout the contest, Wagner’s health deteriorated as she spent hours reading letters and ignoring her worsening condition. She now has a home care nurse, but hasn’t been able to get much-needed x-rays.
“I’m not able to go down the stairs,” she said. “My back is getting worse. I’ve been sitting too long.”
Wagner said she will soon relist her home, dropping the price to $1.39 million, with hopes to move on with her life.
“At this point I’m concentrating on trying to refund everyone,” she said. “I’ve got to get this done so I can go on with my life.”
Wagner said approximately 500 contestants asked her to accept their entry fees as a donation. Wagner said she will donate money people don’t want refunded to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
Once Wagner is finished refunding the contestants, she said she’ll post a financial statement showing how much money went into the account from the submissions she deposited, fees incurred, amounts returned and the amount donated to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter on her website, writealetterwinahome.ca