In March 1984 I got my first job, at a bookstore in my hometown. In October 1985 California began to sell lottery scratch-off tickets. For the next 15 years I sold them on this job. For the last 11 years, as store manager, I also dealt with the ordering and returning side of things, via the paperwork. Until about a decade ago I also regularly bought tickets, occasionally winning fifty to $100, but never more.
I saw how the game evolved, the machines, the way the tickets were made, so as to prevent fraud, and how the game was played.
My fondest memories, however, involve the patrons of Willy’s Bar, next door. The place is a legend in Pomona, and I saw the same patrons day after day, for years, until our store closed in the mid-90’s, and I went to the Claremont store.
Day in, day out, patrons of Willy’s, young and old, would come for their tickets; some would scratch them in the store, returning to their drinks and pool playing only when the winning stopped, others would take the tickets to the bar, only returning if they had winners, or if they had losers and decided to try again. The variations of this routine were as many as the number of customers.
My sense of humor played a role in all of this back and forth with a routine that messed with people’s heads.
Here’s how it worked:
A customer buys 20 tickets and goes back to the bar. The customer comes back with 5 winners and gets more tickets. This goes on for a half hour until I finally tell the customer that if they don’t want to keep coming back they should “rub off the tickets in the store…I guarantee they will be losers and you can go back to the bar.
Most of the time I was dead-on and the customer returned to the bar.
I had many variations of this shtick both for staying in the store and returning to the bar to scratch off the tickets or not scratch off the tickets, take the cash or not take the cash, and my accuracy would have people scratching their heads.
I also did the same with regular customers going to and from their cars, or out for a walk, but I saw the bar patrons the most.
The variety of game themes were many over the years, and still are, with animals popular, including cats and dogs. This was and is true not just of California, but every state with scratchers, including Texas, as a search of a page on the Texas lottery website that has a list of just about all the games in the last decade or so showed me.
The last time I bought scratchers and lotto, was in September, before the move to Texas, and before that I can’t remember when I last bought, not just scratchers, but the lotto.
My friend Amanda Socci has pointed out that Virginia currently has a $2 Pet Lovers scratcher, and she wondered how I felt about it, and would I buy any if such was in Texas.
While I think it’s an attention getting gimmick, the money goes to a worthy cause, such as education, so if it’s popular good for the state. I don’t pay any attention, anymore, to the games or any related TV shows like they used to have in California where people would spin a wheel for prizes.
I just preferred not to waste what money I had on something I rarely won at on a regular basis. Playing can become addictive and I didn't want to somehow reach that point.
That and having spent 15 years daily selling the damn things!
I know, I know, such will power!