Armstrong Garden Centers has repeatedly told me that they are taking the badly botched Rose Garden contest as a learning experience, but I’m not sure what they learned.

On 18 February 2013, they wrote to me “We will use this as an opportunity to improve.” How can they improve when their PR person still doesn’t know what they did wrong by April 2013?

Armstrong Garden Centers hosted a love story contest in February and unfortunately, we did award a winner that was over the word limit of the contest. A secondary winner was awarded based on our oversight. We would like to apologize for this mistake and know that on any upcoming contests, we will take every precaution to make sure the contest rules are followed and awarded fairly. We would also like to apologize to any contest entrants that felt cheated or that we had misrepresented the contest rules or our obligation to follow them. If you have any questions or additional comments, please contact Stephanie Butkus, Marketing Manager for Armstrong Garden Centers, Inc. or 626-914-1091

During our talk, Ms. Butkus insisted that:

  1. The contest had not violated Facebook policy.
  2. Armstrong Garden Center had not banned anyone from commenting on their Facebook page due to comments regarding the administration of the contest.
  3. The rules were not taken down due to my email questioning the validity of the original award. This was their general policy.

The problem with all of these statements is they are false and seem to show that Armstrong Garden Center has no intention of improving or learning from this experience.

First, you can check out the Facebook promotions guidelines and see:

v.    You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

Butkus insisted that they have followed Facebook policy and did not bother to respond when I sent her the above link and quotation. I think they were wrong. I sent the same link and quote to the person at in February so Armstrong Garden Center had plenty of time to go over this but did not. I contacted Stephanie Butkus on 15 March 2013 and didn’t speak to her until 10 April 2013 so she had nearly a month to check out my claims, but did not.

Second, the ban from Facebook is obvious because while this FB user can “Like” the Armstrong Garden Center FB page, the user isn’t allowed to comment. I’m guessing this is why people like Leni, the person who was in second place, declined to directly comment on the questionable win of Sandi Norton of Murrietta. There was no profanity used, but the feeling we get at this end is that Armstrong Garden Center wants to cover up this Rose Garden fiasco. For some reason, despite the violation of three rules, Armstrong Garden Center really wanted Sandi Norton to win. And despite having violated three contest rules, Sandi Norton really wanted to win and felt she deserved to win. Not sure what that says about her since I haven’t met her.

The third problem, as I noted to Butkus and wrote in my article, the two contests run last year were still up as were all the rules to those contests. Further, California state law requires that the rules be posted somewhere that they are easily accessible to the public.

Butkus noted that Armstrong Garden Center is a small company, but they aren’t exactly a mom-and-pop family operation.

As a result of my complaint the rules were re-posted, but somehow, looking at them, it seems that Armstrong Garden Centers has learned nothing. Perhaps they will have learned how to cover their tracks better next time, but I won’t enter another contest and I doubt if they would let me.





Note a few things. First, the word limit which was originally very prominently noted, isn’t there. The actual rules said that the contest ended at 11:59 p.m. on 13 February 2013. They didn’t bother to even check the grammar. “Participants cannot vote for their own entry each person may vote for an entry only one time.” If you post this link on FB, you’ll get the following summary: Tell us your love story in 150 words or less we will publish them on our facebook page for a vote. The winner will receive a rose garden kit valued at $500 on Valentine’s Day. That disappears, however, when you go to the actual page.

Do you think they were in a hurry to get this on and out? That very run-on sentence refers to two (out of three) things that Sandi Norton didn’t notice, but everyone else except for one other contestant did.



I think the above original photo shows just how important that word limitation of 150 words was. It was noted in the email newsletters and in two different places on the Facebook webpage for Armstrong Garden Centers until I sent a private email to the contest administrators.

Armstrong Garden Centers also fails to note that the person who placed second, Leni, also turned in an essay that was over the 150-word limit. She was allowed to enter more than once instead of being eliminated. By the rules, both Sandi Norton and Leni V. Boe should have been eliminated, but who knows what really goes on behind the scenes of these contests?

I’m not sure what Armstrong Garden Center means by their “misrepresentation” of the rules or “their obligation to follow them.” I interpret Armstrong Garden Centers official statement to mean that if they really want someone to win, they will not enforce the rules or, at the very least, the rules don’t apply equally to all people.  If you want to enter a contest that is “fun and fair for everyone,” I’m not sure if that contest would be run by Armstrong Garden Centers.