Over the weekend, The New York Times published the latest edition of its fun consumer complaint resolution column, The Haggler, and this installment deals with an 81-year-old Price Is Right contestant who had trouble claiming her prizes. Allison McKay won a Nissan Versa, a bunch of Michael Kors bags, and a few other goodies when she appeared on a Price episode that aired in February. But a couple of months after the show, she still hadn’t received any of the merchandise that she earned, fair and square, by vaguely approximating its retail price:
“I think I called 40 times,” [McKay] told the Haggler during the first of a handful of conversations. She also left at least one message for a woman named Kim, a sort of liaison to prizewinners. She left additional messages on the machines of other “Price Is Right” employees.
All of this puzzled the Haggler. Because if “The Price Is Right” were in the habit of keeping the cars, trips and merchandise, we’d know it. The whole goal of the show, which made its debut in 1972, is giving things away. Finding out that “The Price Is Right” keeps prizes would be like learning that the Jolly Green Giant hoards peas.
The Times writer, David Segal, sets up a conference call between himself, McKay, and Price executive producer Mike Richards to resolve the dispute, which was apparently the result of a bureaucratic oversight. The whole saga is worth reading for the details it offers about Price’s purportedly precarious prize process—for instance, contestants apparently receive a “tax letter” that totals up bill they have to pay before they can claim any of their winnings. Since McKay didn’t return her tax letter, she never got her prizes:
There are contestants who never send that letter back in, Mr. Richards said, because they’d rather keep their money than pay taxes to collect their prizes. But since 2008, when he became executive producer, he couldn’t think of any Showcase Showdown winners who declined their prizes.
That last sentence gets at the problem with this otherwise splendid column. Allison McKay did not win her prizes in the Showcase Showdown (and Mike Richards would know this, so he was certainly misquoted). She won them in the Showcase round. Yet in both the body of the article and in the headline, the Times refers to her “Showcase Showdown” prizes. What’s the difference? I explained the distinction in a review of a Price episode earlier this year:
It’s a common misconception that the final act of a Price episode is the Showcase Showdown. In fact, the final act is the Showcase round. Showcase Showdown is the name for the two rounds in the middle of the show where they spin the wheel.
That said, it’s easy to see why people make the mistake. Showcase Showdown would be an excellent name for the final act, which does after all involve showcases and a showdown. Furthermore, there is no reason that the actual Showcase Showdown shouldn’t be called what everybody does call it, the Big Wheel. But that’s not how it is. I do not decide these things. I simply decide that they are important.
While I don’t care when members of the general public get the Showcase and Showcase Showdown confused, it is another matter to see the error reproduced in the Gray Lady, the closest thing we have to a paper of record. Future generations may look back on this fluffy consumer affairs column and conclude, wrongly, that The Price Is Right concluded with the Showcase Showdown. Surely you will agree that such an egregious falsehood in our popular history cannot be allowed to stand. If The New York Times cannot correctly identify the Showcase round, why even have journalism?
You’re probably wondering how the Times could make this monumental blunder that will haunt it for years. Well, McKay herself writes that she won the “Showcase Showdown” in her letter to the Times, so Segal probably followed her lead. And in fairness, it is possible to win cash prizes in the Showcase Showdown if you spin exactly $1.00 on the wheel, so if McKay had been a lucky spinner, it could have been accurate to say that she wanted to claim her Showcase Showdown prizes. But I checked: McKay won her Showcase Showdown by spinning a total of merely 60 cents on the wheel. They don’t give you shit for spinning 60 cents, not even 60 cents. McKay earned almost all of her prize haul in the Showcase.
I alerted Segal to his mistake on Twitter. Hopefully my tweet didn’t come off as too prickly. I meant “FYI” in the “just so you know” sense rather than the “smarten up, dipshit” sense. But there is only so much politesse you can get across in 140 characters, and my paramount mission was to convey the important facts. Segal replied in short order:
Segal is a class act, and his friendliness is much appreciated. His endearingly antiquated reply, however, dodges the question of accuracy in game show journalism, and the column remains uncorrected. While I don’t wish to create more hassle for such a pleasant and helpful journalist, I must insist on a truthful accounting of Price Is Right events, for the sake of posterity.
Thus I am enlisting you, the dozens of readers who have made it this far, to help me cajole The New York Times into issuing a correction about what the final round of The Price Is Right is called. Yes, the Haggler column was an amusing piece, but it would be even funnier to read a correction in which A.V. Club readers force America’s fussiest daily newspaper to explain the difference between the Showcase and the Showcase Showdown. So please pitch in by writing a brief, polite email to the Times requesting a correction—just use the form provided by the paper’s public editor. My own plea to the Times is below. I will, of course, update you if our campaign to right this grievous wrong proves successful. Godspeed.
A request for a correction in The New York Times:
Article Headline: A ‘Price Is Right’ Winner Let Down by a Showcase Showdown
Date Published: August 16, 2015
Web or Print: Both
Phrase in Question: “Showcase Showdown”
Your Concern (please limit to 300 words):
Dear The New York Times,
I am writing to alert you to a staggering misapplication of journalism in the Haggler column you published over the weekend. It is available at this online internet web address, or you can look for it in the Sunday edition of the printed newspaper, if you haven’t thrown it out already.
In the column, your talented writer David Segal remarks that Allison McKay won prizes on The Price Is Right during the Showcase Showdown round. This is incorrect. Ms. McKay actually won the lion’s share of her prizes in the Showcase round at the end of the show. The Showcase Showdown is the round where they spin the big wheel. Ms. McKay did win her Showcase Showdown, but this victory simply earned her a spot in the climactic Showcase, a cavalcade of fabulous prizes that inspires wonder in the hearts of all Americans.
I understand why Mr. Segal would use the incorrect term “Showcase Showdown.” It’s fun to say, first of all, and The New York Times is nothing if not fun. Also, it allowed for the headline “A ‘Price Is Right’ Winner Let Down by a Showcase Showdown,” which is only a half-pun, but okay, it works.
Catchy headline or not, though, the fact remains that it is false to say that Ms. McKay won prizes in the Showcase Showdown, and the Times is not in the business of printing false things, most of the time. Thus I am writing to request that the article be corrected to read “Showcase” instead of “Showcase Showdown.” Then it will accurately render the nomenclature of The Price Is Right, one of our nation’s proudest broadcast institutions. Thank you for your attention.
Signed sincerely yours with love and warm regards to whom it may concern,