The promotion offered free movie tickets. So Ashley Fogg, home from college on winter break, drove to Westfield Citrus Park mall to snag a couple.
While there, she filled out some more paperwork for the mall's 12 Days of Shopping contest, not quite realizing what it was all about.
A few weeks later, back at school, her mother called about a voice mail message.
"She said I was a finalist for some contest," said Fogg, 23. "Then she called back and said we think you won this contest in New York City. I didn't believe her. I thought 'No one ever wins these.' I was just standing outside the dining hall with my phone."
Fogg's name had been drawn as the winner of a national contest sponsored by the Westfield mall chain. She was picked out of 10,000 entries. Her prize? A trip to the Big Apple and a $10,000 shopping spree.
She and her mother, Keri Fogg, traveled to the city earlier this month and were treated to a two-night stay at the posh Le Parker Meridien hotel on W 56th Street in Manhattan.
With its grand view of Central Park and fabric-covered hallway walls, it was the fanciest place Fogg had ever stayed.
"It was the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in," she said.
A day after arriving, the Foggs, along with an aunt from Connecticut, were chauffeured to Westfield Garden State Plaza in nearby New Jersey, where they were given 46 gift cards. They also were greeted by celebrity stylist Allison Berlin, whose clients include Oprah Winfrey and the television show What Not to Wear. Berlin accompanied the group and advised Ashley on what was most flattering for her fair coloring and body type.
"She said I shouldn't be shopping in the juniors department," Fogg said.
In the misses departments at stores such as Nordstrom, the Gap, and Urban Outfitters, Fogg bought several pairs of shorts, shirts, shoes, a roomy brown handbag, a laptop for school, and a job interview outfit of a ruffled peach blouse and gray skirt.
Except for lunch at Legal Seafood, the group didn't stop all day.
"We were so tired," Fogg said. "We were lucky we had a chauffeured car."
A trip to the Museum of Natural History was a nice end to the weekend for Fogg, an anthropology major at Beacon College in Leesburg. She also got to enjoy the three-storied Dylan's Candy Bar and Central Park.
"You know how on the Today show, people are lounging around Central Park? There were a lot of people lying around, and nannies pushing strollers with little white feet sticking out."
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.