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Chase Bank Cheats at their Own Facebook Game
An Assessment of Playing Chase's Charity Giveaway Game
by Erowid
Jan 2010
Citation:   Erowid. "Chase Bank Cheats at their Own Facebook Game: An Assessment of Playing Chase's Charity Giveaway Game". Erowid.org. Jan 2010. Erowid.org/general/about/about_article13.shtml
In late November/early December 2009, the mega bank JPMorgan Chase offered $25,000 USD each to 100 charities, supposedly to be selected by Facebook members through a Facebook-only online "app". Erowid learned of the giveaway, and of the current vote totals of the apparent highest vote-getters, only 72 hours before the deadline. Despite this short timeframe we suspected that it might be within our ability to muster enough community support to win. So we charged into the competition, sending out email announcements and added messages to page headers across Erowid.org, asking visitors to vote for us at Facebook.

While vote totals were publicly listed throughout the first part of the contest, 48 hours before the declared end of the voting period, those running the contest chose to hide the totals. Then, rather than announcing the top 100 vote-getters as the winners, they appear to have selected the winners they preferred, violating the terms and spirit of their contest. They appear to have based this decision on the small-print caveat that they had a 'terms and conditions' page specifying Chase could disqualify any group "at its sole discretion". Chase chose to disqualify and exclude all psychoactive drug-related charities, such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a group that sent out a complaint email after losing this obviously rigged game. SSDP has since set up the ChaseBoycott.com website. The New York Times published an article mentioning the controversy. Others have also discussed the problems with this contest (e.g. Beth's Blog).

For anyone who participated, please remember that you can "un-fan" Chase to remove yourself from their Facebook network.

It is worth noting that charities such as Erowid Center did not need to do anything to be listed as a selectable charity in the contest. Facebook/Chase had created a database of charities eligible to receive votes and Erowid Center was already present in the list when we first became aware of the contest and started asking our supporters for votes. Facebook/Chase reportedly created the list at least partially out of the GuideStar database of U.S. nonprofits.

In an extremely disingenous statement, Chase wrote "Regarding the vote tallies, we have taken down individual charity counts with a couple of days left to build excitement among the broadest number of participants, as well as to ensure that all Facebook users learn of the 100 finalists at the same time and so we have an opportunity to notify the 100 finalists first." If there was a single thing that killed enthusiasm for voting, it was blacking out the vote counts near the end. It is unequivocally clear that the reason for their not supplying a leader board, for taking down the vote totals before the contest was over, and for not publishing the results after the end of the contest is that they selected the winners with little regard for the voting process they advertised.

Facebook was also complicit in the deceit, as their representatives were part of the Chase Community Giving Advisory Board and likely facilitated the game design and implementation on their site. Further adding to the annoyance, the Facebook/Chase voting app was poorly designed and extremely buggy. Many who tried to use it on December 10th or 11th, the final days of the contest, were treated to slow-loading pages (we timed them at up to 4 minutes) that frequently failed to load properly at all. Even when an app page loaded successfully, it required the user to visit a number of pages, some of which required the user to click their browser's "back" button to complete their vote. Every aspect of this voting app, from design, to coding, to "functionality" seemed poorly implemented. Because of these failures, Chase/Facebook extended the contest by an extra day at the last minute, and ran through Saturday, December 12th.

When we made the decision to ask Erowid supporters to play this Facebook/Chase game, our crew discussed the probability that Chase would cheat and disqualify us if we won their contest. Because we had this concern from the start, we thought we'd take this opportunity to review our decision to participate, with an eye to the time costs involved for Erowid Center and our supporters who took part.

On December 9th, after a half-day of asking people to vote for us, and at the latest time Chase displayed vote totals, we had 532 votes; votes were coming in for Erowid Center at about one per minute late in the evening when the totals were removed. We estimated that we would end with over 2000 votes on Friday evening, the original voting deadline. Because of the near total collapse of their software on Thursday, December 10th and part of Friday, December 11th, we have little confidence that our voters were able to register their votes with the system. We got numerous emails from supporters letting us know that they had been unable to get the voting app to work properly.

Erowid Visitor Time Wasted #
We sent out two announcement emails mentioning the Facebook/Chase game. These announcements were each sent to around 16,000 unique email addresses and each message would have taken about 15-30 seconds to read. We estimate that about one quarter of our announcement list subscribers would have read the announcements completely, that one quarter would skim them quickly (15 seconds), one quarter would read just the subject line (5 seconds), and one quarter wouldn't spend any time on them at all (0 seconds). That works out to an average of 12.5 seconds of person time per announcement sent.

We put up four different header messages on the site in rotation with other donation-related messages, put a link on our front (splash) page for about 30 hours, and had a link on the main psychoactives index page for 3 days. We have a count of the number of people (IPs) who clicked on a given link and assume that each person who clicked on the link at least looked at the resulting Facebook page. Some voted, or tried to vote, and some registered a new account to try to vote. We also have a count of the number of page views served.

Because of the pathetic performance of the Facebook/Chase app, it is hard to estimate how long each voter spent attempting to vote in the game. We've estimated 120 seconds per person who actually clicked on the links, although some people reported it took up to 15 minutes to register and vote. For those who did not click on the links but were just exposed to the links on pages they viewed, we estimate one second per page-view for the splash page, because we so rarely add anything new to the front page of the site, a quarter second average per page-view for the main psychoactives index, and a tenth of a second average per display of each header message. Those estimates are based on most people not even paying any attention to such messages, since experienced web surfers have necessarily become good at ignoring page clutter. To actually read the link message text takes 2-5 seconds and probably 10-30 seconds if one stops to consider the link briefly before clicking.

Paid Erowid crew spent a total of around 10 hours on writing, editing, posting messages, and responding to messages about the contest.

LocationExposuresTypeAverage Time Per
Exposure (seconds)
Total Cost
(minutes)
Announcement 116,000Unique Email Addresses12.53,333
Announcement 216,000Unique Email Addresses12.53,333
Splash Page Link1800Clicks by Unique IPs1203,600
Psychoactives Index500Clicks by Unique IPs1201,000
Header Messages1144Clicks by Unique IPs1202,288
Splash Page Link4200Views170
Psychoactives Index49,000Views.25204
Header Messages284,000Views.1473
 
Total Erowid Visitor Time Wasted:14,301 minutes = 238 hours
Total Erowid Crew Time Wasted:10 hours


We really appreciate the many supporters who braved the truly awful Facebook experience to try to help us win the $25,000 USD grant from JPMorgan Chase. We also want to thank SSDP for taking the lead in complaining about the way Chase handled this contest. One small benefit is simply documenting that Erowid, SSDP, MPP, and similar organizations are still outside the acceptable limits for mainstream funding sources. We rely on the support of visitors and those who understand the importance of accurate information about psychoactives. Thanks to everyone for their slice of the 10 days of person time wasted on this Facebook-facilitated fraud.



Chase's Words Describing the Contest #
Facebook users nominate nonprofit organizations with operating budgets of no more than $10 million working in the areas of education, housing, the environment, health and human services, arts and culture, and animal welfare to receive a grant from Chase. The one hundred organizations that receive the most votes by December 11 will each receive $25,000 from Chase and advance to the program's second round, where they will have the option to submit a "Million Dollar Proposal" to Facebook users detailing the difference they would make in their local community with the extra resources. Starting January 15, Facebook users will be able to vote again. On February 1, the organization receiving the most votes will be announced as the winner of $1 million, with the five runners-up each receiving $100,000. In addition, a special advisory that includes celebrities and Facebook and Chase executives will award $1 million to the nominated charity of its choice, while members of the board who do not work for Chase or Facebook will receive a $25,000 honorarium to donate to a charity of their choice.
Chase Community Giving One extra day to get your votes in! Polls now open thru Dec. 12, 11:59 PM ET
  • What is Chase Community Giving?

    Chase Community Giving is a program run by Chase that will allow Facebook users to vote for local charities and non-profits, and help direct Chase corporate philanthropy dollars to eligible organizations in the following focus areas: education, healthcare, housing, the environment, combating hunger, arts and culture, human services, and animal welfare. The grassroots campaign aims to inspire a new way of corporate philanthropy.

    The eligible charity receiving the most votes will be awarded $1 million, the top five runners-up will receive $100,000 each and the 100 finalists, including the top winners, will be awarded $25,000 each. Additionally, a special Advisory Board led by prominent national philanthropists will allocate $1 million to the nominated charities of its choice.

  • How long does the program run?

    Chase will use Facebook to allow participants of the Chase Community Giving program to select local causes and organizations in need of support focused on the issues that matter most, enabling those organizations to make further tangible progress toward their missions. Voting for Round 1 ends December 11. Voting for Round 2 ends January 22, 2010 and the top charities will be announced on or around February 1.

  • What is the role of the Advisory Board?

    The Chase Community Giving Advisory Board was formed to embody the spirit of giving back to local causes and the importance of community giving. The role of the Advisory Board will be to review the 100 finalists from Round 1 and the winners of Round 2 as determined by participant votes to help ensure the finalists meet the eligibility requirements and standards of the program. The Advisory Board will also choose one or more organizations, from those organizations receiving at least one vote, to be awarded a combined total of an additional $1 million.

  • Why do I need to become a fan of Chase Community Giving and provide access to my information? Will I receive e-mail communications from Chase by becoming a fan?

    The purpose of allowing access and becoming a fan of Chase Community Giving is so that administrators are able to track participant votes and to allow participants to spread the word of the program by giving users ability to comment on the charities that they vote for, and to notify friends about the program. We hope that participants will use the fan page to create awareness around the opportunity for charities to receive donations totaling millions of dollars from Chase's philanthropy fund. It has no direct tie to Chase mail or email campaigns.

  • How will the winners be determined?

    Voting for Round 1 will go from 11/15/09 until 11:59:59 p.m. ET on 12/11/09.

    Voting for Round 2 will go from 01/15/10 until 11:59:59 p.m. ET on 01/22/10.

    Winners from both Rounds will be determined once the votes have been tallied and it has been determined that all program eligibility standards and requirements have been met.

  • I am a member of the media and would like to contact someone at Chase about the program, who can I reach out to?

    Media inquiries should be directed to JPMorgan Chase corporate media relations.

Eligibility

In order to vote, Participants must allow access to the Chase Community Giving application on the Facebook Platform and follow any subsequent instructions. Charities must be available for selection through the Chase Community Giving application and be 501(c)(3) organizations and not be subject to any U.S. sanctions. A Charity that, by itself or through an affiliated entity, discriminates on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, veteran status, medical condition, citizenship, ancestry or marital status is not eligible. Other Charities that are ineligible include, but are not limited to, those with annual operating expenses of more than $10,000,000 based on most recent IRS filings or otherwise substantiated through audited financial statements, organizations designated by the IRS as private foundations, organizations not listed in IRS Publication 78, or organizations otherwise not in alignment with Sponsor's corporate social responsibility guidelines. Additional reasons a Charity may be deemed ineligible include, but are not limited to, the Charity and/or its management being subject to any investigation for fraud, financial misconduct or other criminal activity. Any organization determined to be ineligible at any time will be disqualified. Sponsor retains the right at its sole discretion to determine eligibility and reserves the right to disqualify any Charity for any reason whatsoever. All applicable jurisdictional laws and regulations apply. Void where prohibited or otherwise restricted by law.

Header Messages Displayed on Erowid Pages

Help Erowid raise $25,000 from Chase Bank!
Chase Bank is giving away $5,000,000 to non-profits through Facebook.
Vote for Erowid by visiting this Facebook page before Saturday Dec 12th.
Vote for Erowid on Facebook & Help Us Raise $25,000!
Chase is giving away $5,000,000 to charities selected by Facebook members.
Vote for Erowid here, voting extended to Saturday. And spread the word!
Help Erowid Center raise $25,000!
Chase Bank is giving $25K each to 100 non-profits through Facebook.
Visit this Facebook page and vote for Erowid before Saturday Dec 12th.
Help Erowid Center raise $25,000!
Vote for Erowid here in Chase Bank's giveaway on Facebook.