‘Wheel of Fortune’: Do Losing Contestants Still Get a Prize?

by John Jamison
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Imagine for a moment that you’re a diehard “Wheel of Fortune” fan. Years ago, you auditioned for the show. Finally, you get the call saying you’ve been selected as a contestant.

Hardly able to contain yourself, you book a flight to LA and a hotel room. It’s expensive, but hey, it’s “Wheel of Fortune,” baby. You’re going to make all that money back and more.

The day arrives. You’re feeling good as you arrive on set, and the production team walks you through the paces. Then the game begins. Pat Sajak is staring into your soul. Vanna White looks on from a distance. You freeze. The next contestant poaches your answer, wins the game, and goes on to the bonus round.

It all happened so fast. What went wrong? It doesn’t matter now. All you can think about is how you’re down a few thousand bucks. Then, as the smoke clears, a production assistant approaches and hands you an envelope with $1,000 inside.

That’s right. You didn’t solve a single puzzle, but you’re not going home empty-handed. It’s a paltry sum compared to what you could have won. But the consolation money takes just enough sting out of the loss to remind you how cool of an experience that was.

In an effort to make the trip worthwhile to distantly located contestants, “Wheel of Fortune” gives $1,000 to those who don’t solve a puzzle. That also extends to those who earn cash winnings under $1,000.

If you’re especially lucky, however, you may get something else out of it, too.

The Time When a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Contestant Failed Spectacularly Enough to Earn a Free Trip

Word of advice. If you’re going to lose on “Wheel of Fortune,” try to do it in a dramatic way. Everyone knows how specific the show requires the contestant responses to be. If a syllable sounds slightly off, there’s a decent chance the answer won’t be accepted.

This was the case for 2018 contestant Jonny. He famously mispronounced the word “flamenco,” relating to the style of dance, as “flamingo.” As a result, he missed out on a good bit of cash and a trip to Europe.

Fortunately for him, world-renowned Spanish chef, José Andrés, happened to see the clip from “Wheel of Fortune.” The generous Spaniard knows a thing or two about flamenco. It’s a Spanish dance style, and it also happens to be the same word for the bird itself.

Feeling bad for Jonny, José invited him to bring someone else along on an all-expenses-paid trip to one of his restaurants in Spain.

Now that’s a consolation prize. It’s not very likely that a famous benefactor will step in and offer you an awesome prize if you lose on “Wheel of Fortune.” But if we’ve learned anything from Jonny, your best bet is to make the failure memorable. Otherwise, it’s a $1,000 and a long trip home.

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