I must admit, I've always been drawn to those Publishers Clearing House ads that show the Prize Patrol surprising some happy family with balloons and champagne, and promising riches for life. So what the heck? I responded to a mailing early last year giving me a chance to enter their famous sweepstakes. One and done? Hardly.

On that first solicitation, I also placed an order for some jewelry and an alarm clock, done in three easy payments. But after receiving the rather cheap products -- not really nice enough for gifts -- when the next solicitation came, I declined to order. Under the law, you don't have to order to win, so I entered the sweepstakes again.

And then: I entered again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Mailings were multiplying faster than rabbits. I have no idea how many times I would open the mailbox to find a new solicitation. But it seemed they were coming about once every two weeks. Once I started, I felt I had to continue in order to keep my name eligible.

I started to get annoyed. Entering the contest is time-consuming and complicated. Stamps needed to affix to the "official" entry form were placed in hard-to-find places within the pages and pages of products for sale.

But I dutifully completed each entry form as it arrived and put away my proof of entry lest I win and the Prize Patrol would ask for the receipt and I couldn't produce it. Yikes, that was too terrible to contemplate.

My husband would kid me about all I was spending on postage and joked that Publishers Clearing House was single-handedly keeping the U.S. Postal Service in business and maybe the paper industry, too. But I couldn't stop. As the calendar turned to 2013, I felt relieved. My New Year's resolution was to never, ever enter another Publishers Clearing House contest.

Then about two weeks ago, I received a business-sized envelope from the PC's "official" comptroller. In a few more days, I would receive notification that I was among those on a list to win $5,000 a week for life.

It came, and I thought, just one more time. After all, it said POSITIVE WINNER IDENTIFICATION. That was still waiting for me, enticing me, when another envelope arrived: FINAL STEP REQUIRED.

Really? OK, just one more time.

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Pamela Huey is a Star Tribune copy editor.