BEVERLY HILLS, MI - Mark Ostermann was convinced he had no shot of winning the wacky promotion Arby’s launched last month where it gave away a $6 trip to Hawaii. Ostermann was so sure he wasn’t going to win that he didn’t even bother to look at the dates of travel prior to logging in to enter the contest.
He didn’t have his wallet ready to go, either, so even if he got through to the payment round, he wouldn’t be able to pay for it. Ostermann, a writer for Miles to Memories -- a travel website that focuses on tips for using rewards programs and more to save people money -- really was only entering because it might make a good story.
Turns out he got a story he’ll be able to tell for a lifetime as he was one of just 11 people who actually won the trip.
“It’s completely insane,” Ostermann of Oakland County’s Beverly Hills said about winning.
Insane is one way to describe a weekend in which he spent 20 hours flying in order to spend six hours in Hawaii eating free Arby’s and enjoying his first -- albeit brief -- trip to Hawaii.
“I didn’t know what to expect. It exceeded expectation because I didn’t have a ton. They really went above and beyond," Ostermann said.
The process began last month when Ostermann logged on the promotion website on a Monday morning figuring he’d try to win and go about his day. There were only five trips remaining to be won, as the first five were purchased the Friday prior.
As the countdown clock approached zero, Ostermann clicked on the button and somehow got through to the payment page. Without his wallet nearby, he started to panic thinking he’d missed his chance. Luckily for him, there was an option to use PayPal and with that, his $6 trip was booked.
Soon after, reality set in and he had to call his wife to share the news with her. He would be flying to Los Angeles, staying overnight, flying to Hawaii to eat Arby’s, flying back to Los Angeles and back home in the course of two days.
“My wife said ‘This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,’” Ostermann says with a laugh.
He briefly considered not going because the travel would be time-consuming for such a brief visit to Hawaii. However, the chance to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event and to cover it for his website, was too much to turn down.
“I thought about it for a bit but I said ‘You just have to do it,’” Ostermann said.
The group met in Los Angeles last Friday before making their way to Hawaii Saturday. In between those trips, the group went to a Dodgers game, where Ostermann met former MLB star and Michigan State University alum Steve Garvey.
But obviously the focal point was the trip to Hawaii. The crew arrived and were greeted by a local who told them some of the history of the island. They were transported to the resort area of Ko Olina where a private beach awaited them. They were entertained by hula dancers and a musical performance from Kimie Miner.
Of course there were the sandwiches, the basis of the whole promotion. Ostermann said he was surprised that Arby’s didn’t make the trip about promoting the brand and they weren’t forced to just be there for a commercial shoot.
“Surprisingly there wasn’t much going on (for promotion). There was never any set promotional piece,” Ostermann said. “Kudos to them for letting us just enjoy the moment.”
The group was given a hour or so of free time to enjoy the resort and their hosts took some of them out on canoes for a chance to see the island from the ocean.
While the trip and experience was something way beyond his imagination, Ostermann said the best part for him was meeting a group of strangers who all got along and were able to enjoy something only the 11 of them could relate to.
“It ended up being way better than I though it was going to be. The coolest part of the whole thing was the people we met and went with us,” Ostermann said. “We kind of have a bond which is nice.”
As far as his next trip to Hawaii goes, Ostermann says he and his wife are planning to return next year for their 15th wedding anniversary.