WAS CSSMENUMAKER DESIGN CONTEST A HOAX? OR NOT? I hope not!

IMPORTANT! I got a new message from Russell Taylor, so this story may not be appropriate. If you read the story please bear in mind that it is maybe wrong. I have a new hope on I will get my iPhone 🙂

This post will be in English because of the audience of this topic is mainly English language readers.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME AND READ THROUGH.

Long story short: There was a design contest at cssmenumaker.com for an iPhone as the grand prize, and I won the contest. But I’ve never seen my iPhone yet. If you are interested in the full story just read on!

So here’s my funny but bitter story about a design contest held at cssmenumaker.com.

Once upon a time there was a man who had the idea to make a contest to gather some new beautiful CSS menu designs for his website whose aim was to provide designers ready CSS menus. His site was really helpful, there were a few designs which could be instantly customised and used on websites.
So here’s this site, but there are not too many designs, and we need more visitors, don’t we? Of course. So he had the idea: Let’s make a design contest! There will be a lot of designers with brilliant ideas who will attempt to win this game! And of course the number of the CSS menus will increase. But wait! Why would anyone participate in the contest? Ooh, I forgot the prize… So what do I have? A broken hard drive: not the best idea at all. Anything else? My used old speakers: no, definiately not. Some dvd films: don’t think so. Ahh! I almost forget! My iPhone! I bought it a few weeks ago. Anyway I don’t like it, I just bought it because of the hype around it… *That* will be the best prize for the best designer who participates. I will repack it, and tell everybody that it is brand new.
I was also a participant in the contest as I love to design. I’m not a pro designer, but I’m trying to do my best and always learn. So I’ve created three designs. It was very time-consuming, because the menu had to be made of just pure html and css. No javascript at all! And also the menu had to be cross-browser compatible. Which includes compatibility for older Internet Explorer browsers, and believe it or not, designing for that ?#!£” browser is a nightmare. When half of the work is designing and building the site, the other half is making it work in Internet Explorer. So I submitted my menus in the middle of September, 2007. The deadline was the end of October.
On 29th October I got this message in my mailbox:

Bognar Andras,
I am pleased to inform you that you are the winner of the iPhone contest. Your menu had a great design and superior code. Your menus are up on the site and available for download. We are based out of the United States and didn’t not expect so many submissions from other countries. I am not sure that if I bought you an iPhone in the United States that it would work for you in your country. Would you prefer that i bought you the iPhone anyways or would you like to just receive a check for the value of the iPhone ($400 USD)? Please let me know.
Russell Taylor
cssmenumaker.com

In the morning when I read this email half-awaken from my bed I instantly jumped out of my bed I was very happy that my design was the best!!! So I had the the two options: cash or iPhone. I thought that if I choose the money I will spend it and nothing will remain from the contest. I wanted to remember this happy moment when I ever take a look at my phone. So I wrote back this email:

Hi!
Great!!!
So, yes, in my country, in Hungary, iPhone is not available, so I would be pleased if you buy it for me in the US, and send it to Hungary.

Thanks very much!

My Address:
András Bognár
****************************
BUDAPEST
HUNGARY
****

Maybe, can you send it with insurance?
Thanks for the contest, it was fun to participate!
Best regards,
András Bognár

I want to say that again, I was very happy 🙂 Not for the iPhone, but for the winning itself. There were over 80 submissions and mine was the best!
Then I wrote another email the next day (30. Oct), I was so excited:

Hi again!
I’m very excited, and I just want to ask, when you will ship the iPhone? And when will it arrive?
Do you live in the USA?
Bye,
András

Russell Taylor wrote this back:

Andras,
The iPhone is on order and is getting shipped to me right now. I will let you know when i ship it. Yes, live in the USA.
Russell Taylor

At this time I still believed his words yet. A few days later I wrote again asking ho is my iPhone and on the 7th of November his reply arrived:

Bognar,
Sorry for the wait. I am in the process of getting you your iphone. The one I got had a cracked screen when it arrived, so i am sending it back and getting you a new one. Once again sorry for the wait and i am working to get you your iphone asap.
Russell Taylor

WHAT??? – I asked myself. Apple won’t ship broken iPhones. I was so sorry. But that should be my biggest problem. I will wait another week, and I will get my iPhone – I thought. But that didn’t actually turn into reality. I was a bit suspicious so I tried to get in touch with him not only in email but maybe in an instant messaging thingy. So I wrote a letter again on the same day:

Hi!
Thanks for your reply, and sorry for the iphone with a cracked screen… I’m very excited, and looking forward to getting it as soon as possible 🙂

András

No reply. On 16th November I wrote again:

Hello!
I’m just curious, if you have received the iphone 🙂
Do you have skype or msn?
Bye,
András Bognár

No hope fot this time. I waited almost two weeks. I tried the original email address of the contest: contest@cssmenumaker.com instead that I used to send messages before: rtaylor@cssmenumaker.com. So here’s my message, on 29th of November:

Hello!
I’m writing here, because you don’t get my messages at your other mailbox (rtaylor@cssmenumaker.com), or your spam filter gets them, or maybe you are on holiday 😀 I don’t know… But I want to know if you have shipped the iPhone that I won on the contest. Please send me mail, and the iphone. I hope this mail will catch you, and not filtered by your spamfilter 🙂
Best regards,
András Bognár

I hoped he will get this message. I also had in mind that he doesn’t want to give me anything at all. But that idea was in the darkest corner of my mind 😉
On the same day he wrote back this: (I was right to include that spam thing in my email, he was caught in the trap! That was a very good trick to give him a chance to explain why he hadn’t replied my messages)

Bognar,
Hey sorry about that. You were right the spam filters were blocking your emails to the other address. Here is the deal with the iphone, I purchased a unlocked brand new one for you off ebay. When i received it, it had a crack in the screen. I have been fighting with the seller to receive a refund and have had to involve paypal. It is taking a while to figure this mess out but i promise you I am trying to get it settled asap. Thanks for your patients.
Russell Taylor

So he explains that he got the iPhone off from ebay. The contest was originally about a brand new iPhone. So he tried to get a bargain and buy the phone from eBay. And he is excuses him from buying a new one until he gets back his money from the seller. I was very, very happy, you can imagine. But I had some hope yet, and waited. I wrote a message to him, to avoid another confusing situation:

Hello!
You don’t have to buy me unlocked iphone on ebay, I want to unlock it 🙂 Just buy it at Apple, and it will be fine. Please don’t unlock it, I want to experiment with it. Thanks 🙂
András Bognár

The answer arrived soon:

no problem. thats what i planned on doing i just need to get the money back for the cracked iphone. I will keep you updated though
Russell Taylor

On 6th December I wrote him a letter again, because Apple did a memory upgrade, and they didn’t increase the price:

Hi!
I’ve just wondered about the difference between the 4gb and the 8gb iphone in price. And because for me getting an iphone is a “one time in a life” experience, I thought that it would be a very good thing if I got the 8gb one, because I have a lot of music. And then I went to the apple.com website, and found out that they don’t sell anymore 4gb iphones, and the 8gb iphone has the same price as the 4gb one when they sold it. The 8gb iphone is 399 dollars! So please, if it is possible choose the 8gb version for the same price for me, and maybe if you cannot get it for the same price, maybe I can send you some money to complement the difference if there’s any. I hope you can get it for $399! And please don’t buy an unlocked one, and please don’t unlock it. Thanks for your patience, and inform me about the availability of the 8gb iPhone.
Best regards,
András Bognár

On the same day he answered my letter:

plan on getting the 8gb. One directly from the apple store once i get the broken one returned a refunded. It will not be unlocked.

I responded:

Thanks a lot 🙂 I hope you get back your money soon. They don’t want to pay it back?

On 10th December I wrote another message:

Hello!
I’m waiting for the iPhone very much, I was announced one and a half mondths ago, and still no iPhone, I’m very sorry… Please tell me when can I expect the iPhone? I’m very sorry about your accident with ebay, and a broken iPhone, but independently please buy one from Apple. I would be very grateful for it. Please try to send it before Christmas, because that would be my greatest present.
Bye,
András

And on 12th another:

Hello!
I cannot imagine why you can’t get my messages… (Spam filters again?) I’m very disappointed that you have not sent the iPhone that I won on the contest. It is now one and a half months!!! It is almost Christmas, and I got nothing… I’m very sad. Independently from the ebay prblem that you’ve bought a broken one, please buy another from Apple directly, and send it as soon as possible. I hope you have already bought the iPhone. Sorry for the lot of messages, but I’m getting a bit disappointed about this whole thing. I was very happy, that I won the contest, but I got nothing. Please write back, or provide me another email address, where my messages are not caught by silly spam filters. Or we can communicate on MSN or Skype.
I’m looking forward to the iPhone.
Regards,
András

Okay, I admit, maybe I wrote too much letters, but I was waiting so much. The story cotinues on 17th December, I wrote this:

I don’t know what happened to you, you have disappeared a week ago… I hope you don’t have a problem. But when you read this email forunately soon, please send me that iPhone, because I can’t wait…
Best regards,
András Bognár

Then he finally replied:

Bognar,
I extremely sorry for disappearing on you. A family member has been sick which required my attention back home. I am also sorry that it is taking so long to get you your iPhone. I promise I am working my hardest to get it to you. I am still fighting to get the broken iPhone exchanged and at the moment i do not have the funds to purchase a second one, or else i would. thanks for your patients
Russell Taylor

I felt sorry for him, and my tons of messages, so I replied him:

I am sorry. Hope your family member will get better.
András

I waited almost 2 weeks this time and on 26th December I wrote this:
Hi!
Have you managed to get back your money for the broken iPhone? I hope you got it back… But if you cannot get it back anyhow, please purchase me another from Apple. I’m waiting very much 🙂 🙁
Thanks,
András

And the same letter on 29th Dec. And no reply since then. Now it is March, and still no reply. I tries sometime to contact him:
On 2nd Jauary:

Hi Russell!
Have you managed to get your money refunded for the broken iPhone? I hope so!
If you get your money back, please buy mine from Apple! I’ve been waiting for so long….
Thanks in advance.
András Bognár

… on 16th January:

Hello Russell!
It’s me again. Now it is two and a half months ago, since I won your contest. I can’t wait anymore, please understand. Also you haven’t replied my messages. Is it the spam filter? Or you just ignore me. A lot of visitors of my website is from your site. Some of them ask how is my iPhone, and I have to answer them sadly, that I hanen’t got an iPhone, because you haven’t sent it. So please. Or is this a joke? I don’t know what should I think about this whole contest. Please buy me the iPhone today. At Apple. And please send it to me as soon as possibe.
Sorry if I’m a bit angry, or confused, but imagine yourself in my place.
Regards,
András Bognár

… on 19th January (a bit shorter):

What should I do to make you respond to my tons of emails???
András Bognár

… on 25th January:

Russell,
I accept that at the moment you don’t want to buy me the iPhone, but do you think that is the correct behaviour to just ignore my “praying” letters?
At least just answer me!
This is nearly February => the contest was 3 months ago!!!
I would like to help you anything with your site, because cssmenumaker was a good idea for the web developers.
Please try to end this “iPhone case”, and buy me one, and send it to me, and we will live happily ever after, and I will help you creating your site. I can offer my capabilities of making a good design to your site if you want.
I asked Jay Hilgert (Bittbox) to try to ge in touch with you, and he managed it, so I assume that you get my letters as well.
Now I have just a little hope about the iPhone 🙁 Why do you want me to learn a bitter experience?
Hope,
András Bognár

Ps. Please answer this letter.
By the way I also contacted some other people who could may reach this guy. One of them was Jay Hilgert, the owner of bittbox.com, a very cool site about design. He was very helpful, and contacted Russell Taylor, and he COULD contact him. But when he asked Russell about his opinion Russell told him that he would take care of me. BlahBlah.
I tried another way:

Hello!
If you cannot buy the iPhone, can you send me the 400 dollars? Because then I will buy the iPhone.
You can send it via paypal: buundy[at]gmail[dot]com
Bye,
András Bognár

Please send it quickly, because I have a relative in the US, so he can buy it for me!!!
And getting hopeless:
I’m waiting for either the iPhone or the 400$.
Now you fully disappointed me. Today I’ve been into a Mac store in Hungary, and the seller guy had an iPhone, this was the first time nin my life I saw an iPhone. I thought, that I could have one already, if you have sent it to me, but no luck. Maybe the contest was just a joke?
I don’t need any excuses,
JUST
PLEASE
ANSWER
ME
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

András Bognár, the sad winner of the cssmenumaker contest.

Now here comes an interesting part. I did some investigation on eBay. I found him under the nickname russelltaylor05. He hadn’t bought any iPhone from eBay!!! But I found out that he sold a broken one for $295.99! Here’s the link to his auction. So I wrote again on 28th January:

Hi!
I’ve checked you at eBay. You have sold the broken iPhone 295.99$. Now you just have to pay 100$ to buy a new iPhone for me from Apple. There is no excuse, sorry for being a bit rude, but you had a contest, then you have to give away the rewards. So I’m waiting for your response, I would like to close this whole thing, after that I want to help your site with more css menus.
I think it is not fair, not responding me, and ignoring me.
Regards,
András Bognár

On 3rd February I tried again, now with a little patience 🙂

Hello!
I’m really, really waiting for the iPhone. Just imagine yourself in my place. What is the problem? Or why you just don’t send it?
I don’t want to bother you every day, but what can I do to make you buy it and send it to me? I don’t see your point 🙁
Anyway, my address is:
András Bognár
***************
Budapest
****
HUNGARY
Just make sure you send it with shipping insurance, not to lose it during the journey 🙂
I really want you to confirm this letter, please!!!
Bye,
András

And I investigated his phone number and also his address:
Taylor, Russell russelltaylor05@hotmail.com
6575 Grand
San Luis Obispo, California 93406
United States
+1(559)260-1235
So I tried to call him on the phone. And yes! I managed it! But he put down the phone immediately when I said my name 🙁 I will try again…
And then I wrote to him again on the 5th of February. I’ve put some sadness into that message, hoping that it gets his heart, but no luck so far. So here it is:

Hello
Russell, why do you do these things to me? Do you something that is called: the inner man, or conscience. I’m a young student in a Hungarian university, called BUTE. I was very happy to take part in that exciting css contest. I was very happy when I got your first mail:

Bognar Andras,
I am pleased to inform you that you are the winner of the iPhone contest. Your menu had a great design and superior code. Your menus are up on the site and available for download. We are based out of the United States and didn’t not expect so many submissions from other countries. I am not sure that if I bought you an iPhone in the United States that it would work for you in your country. Would you prefer that i bought you the iPhone anyways or would you like to just receive a check for the value of the iPhone ($400 USD)? Please let me know.
Russell Taylor
cssmenumaker.com

I was very very happy. Not just for the prize, mainly for winning. It was my first public work, that I’m proud of.
My family and friends are proud of me for winning this contest. But nowadays they are just teasing me, and laughing at me, “Haha, you were naive!” “So when will you get your famous iPhone, haha…”
I know that sometimes I WILL get that iPhone, but please understand me!!!!! I really want you to understand me. That iPhone means proudness to me. I don’t know why you don’t answer my mails nor send the iPhone, if I hurt you somehow, I ask for your excuse. Just let me know it!
If you have any problem, please tell me, maybe together we can figure out a solution. I see that your blog is out of order, what happened to you?
Please answer me!
Best regards,
András Bognár

I tried again, on 20th February:

Hello Russell!
I hope you haven’t forgotten to buy the iPhone for me 😉 Because I haven’t forgot I won one on the contest 😛
I really want to own and touch an iPhone with my hand in my life, and it haven’t happened yet 🙁 Can you imagine you in my place?
Be generous.
Best regards,
András

And that is all.
I think he had an iPhone and he thought that he can arrange a contest and tell the winner that is a brand new iPhone. But he unfortunately dropped the phone, so what to give to the winner? He made up a story about a broken iPhone, and about himself fighting to get his money back. He then sold the broken iPhone for parts, he got some money from it, but he don’t want to buy another one to give it to someone else.
That is my story, I’m still fighting, writing some funny letters from week to week, maybe 🙂

Update: I have written a letter again, possibly the last:

Hello Russell,

I’ve tried to contact you a lot of times. You for some reason I don’t know for sure but I have the idea haven’t replied any of my letters since November 2007. Do you think that is it fair? You cheated on me and I cannot do anything about it, because I don’t live in the USA and I cannot visit you to speak with you. I tried to contact you via phone, but you refused the call when I said my name. Please think about this case a bit. I’ve worked a lot on that menu I sent you for the contest. I won the contest with one of my three menus. Now everybody can download my menu and use it wherever he/she want. Now who pays my hours of work? You are also running adsense ads on our site. Among those menus my menu is gathering money for you. And I get nothing from that. You have a site that is frequently visited because of the accessible and easily usable and freely downloadable menus. And also, my menu takes part of your traffic, without the contest you may have a low traffic site with a few daily visits. So to sum up these things, you are using my menu for commercial purposes, and to increase visitor frequency.
I’ve tired of asking and begging you for the iPhone. I don’t know how the idea came to refuse sending the iPhone, and cheat on me. I ask it for the last time, will you buy me that iPhone and send it to me? I thought that any contest never can be a hoax. I was happy to show off my talent, and try myself on this design contest. I never thought that finally I will end up in writing letters to you begging for the prize.
But if you decide you will never talk me again, I can’t do anything against it. But I recommend you to clean everything between us, and forget this whole stupid thing. I’m open. I really hope that you will contact me, and if you don’t mind I will try to call you again on this week. Then we can talk, maybe I’m not very good at speech, but I will try with my poor English.
Please think about these lines a bit, then decide which way would you choose. The hoax way and not responding, or the honest, true way. I recommend you the last one.

Regards,
András

That is all I could do for my truth. I’ve totally lost my faith at Russell Taylor who seems to be an untrue man.

UPDATE: Russell finally contacted me and paid my reward 400USD.

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Andris | 2008. március 22. 22:45 | css | Trackback

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