If life loves to beat one lesson into our heads over and over again, it's this: If something is too good to be true, it almost always is. And it also works if something seems exactly good enough to be true.
Just ask these people, who thought their lives had changed forever, only to have their hopes dashed ...
#5. Casino Pays Out False Hope
Picture yourself sitting at a slot machine in Vegas. Maybe you're there on your honeymoon. Maybe you've saved for months for the trip, or maybe you're an addict with a serious gambling problem and no friends or family to stage an intervention. Maybe the Russian mob has given you one hour to come up with the 20 grand you owe them before they feed you to their wild boars. With your last spin, your screen bursts into flashing lights and congratulatory sirens. The dream of every gambler the world over just exploded in your face.
"Sweet positive reinforcement! It burns!"
If you were Chuck and Tisha Barry, your screen said you won $31,000. If you were Louise Chavez, it was $43 million. For Behar Merlaku, the number was an absurd $57 million. That's freaking lottery money!
Next step: sashay on over to the money counter to collect the dollars that you'll be rolling naked in for the next few decades.
You. You and 80 whole dollars.
The Heartbreaking Truth
Not so fast, Scrooge McRockefeller. All the flashing lights in the world don't add up to a payoff if the casino in charge claims the machine experienced a malfunction or a software glitch. After all, slot machines these days are just computers, and computers screw up all the time.
Just ask Chuck and Tisha Barry. When they went to collect their $31,000, the casino scoffed and said it was all one big, hilarious mistake. The Barrys walked away with nothing but the 80 cents they put into the machine and a deep regret for screaming "IN YOUR FACE, PEASANTS!" to all the other casino patrons.
"You can bet we'll be taking our 80 cents to a competing casino."
But that probably didn't sting as hard as the $43 million Louise Chavez didn't get to see because of her malfunctioning machine. Granted, she probably should have known something was amiss, since the penny slots only advertised a $251,000 top prize. Does a casino even have $43 million to give away? Still, you'd think that maybe at the very least she'd win the top prize they do give out. Nope. Eventually, the home assistant who only makes $12,000 a year was awarded the prize the casino bosses said she'd actually won: $6.60. So, yeah, the computer messed up some digits there.
Meanwhile, Swiss gambler Behar Merlaku took the time to take a picture of his $57 million winning screen when he hit it big at an Austrian casino. Once again, the casino claimed "software error," and, unfortunately, his own pictures might prove the case against him: They clearly show only four of the five fruit symbols required for a win. Plus, Austrian law is very clear that the most anyone could win at a casino was about $2.5 million.
So your 100-foot statue of yourself would only be gold plated.
But once more, the casino didn't offer even the $2.5 million, or some fraction of the prize the machine said he'd won (say, $57,000, or a thousandth of the announced winnings). They offered 100 bucks and a free meal. He turned it down, choosing to take it to court instead. We have a feeling it's not gonna happen, Behar.
#4. Devastated Kid Stripped of His Prize
Fifteen-year-old Chicago native Herbert Pulgar was a survivor. When he was 4 years old, a candle set his shirt on fire and burned most of his stomach. If the first responding firefighters and police officers hadn't saved him, Pulgar would not have lived to see 5. For 10 years, Herb wanted to find a way to show how grateful he was for his local heroes. When he heard about the vehicle registration sticker design contest that Chicago holds every year, he designed a sticker honoring the men and women of Chicago's First Responders. And his design ended up winning!
It's not a bad design, either -- a group of outstretched, multicultural hands rising up from the Chicago skyline:
Needs more corrupt lawyers and catchy show tunes.
Along with bragging rights, Herbert was awarded a $1,000 savings bond, and his sticker was to be featured on the 1.3 million cars in Chicago.
The Heartbreaking Truth
Take a look at that picture up there. Do you see gang signs? Specifically, gang signs honoring the Maniac Latin Disciples? No? City Clerk Susana Mendoza did.
After enlisting hard-nosed gang sign analyzers to analyze the gestures, Mendoza decided that she couldn't, in good conscience, let the good people of Chicago drive around with a hint of gangbanging activity on their cars. So the runner up was selected:
We don't understand why superheroes would need glasses, hoses or handcuffs, but whatever.
This was after his art teacher came forward screaming that Herbie had modeled the hand gestures off of a design book, the same design book that all her students used, and presented the book to prove it. "See?" she said, "YOU'RE BATSHIT INSANE!" (Paraphrased.)
"Children can draw as many deformed hands as they want!"
But the decision was final. If you want to ruin your day, here's the heartbreaking video of the supposedly hardened child gangbanger crying uncontrollably when he hears the news:
Oh, and it gets better. Not only was Herbie's sticker given the heave-ho, but the kid was stripped of his bond as well. And we should also mention that Herbie was a special needs student getting his education at an alternative school, that while all of this was going down, his father was the subject of an FBI manhunt for crack distribution and that Herbie Jr. was using the contest as a way to make his mother proud. Nice job, guys.
#3. Hundreds of College Applicants Get the Rug Yanked from Under Them
When you're a teenager, there isn't anything more nerve-racking that waiting for your college acceptance letter, except maybe waiting for the results of a pregnancy test. If you're the type to qualify for a prestigious school and are waiting to see if you get in there or have to settle for one of those tech schools they advertise on cable late at night, pretty much your whole future is hanging in the balance.
"Well, yes, my life is over. But at least I can vicariously live through and destroy her future, too."
For students applying for early admission to Vassar College, for instance, the chance to get into one of the top 25 liberal arts schools in the country meant years of dedicated work. Keeping up with their grades, taking advanced courses and washing the cars of teachers who might write recommendations, all that stuff. Finally they filled out their early admission college applications. And then they waited.
"Don't worry, babe. Just a few more days and we'll know if I have to settle for you."
Only instead of waiting for a telegram boy like we used to get in the old days, these lucky teens waited for an email delivered straight to their computer boxes. One Tunisian student stayed up late with his parents waiting for the news. Another kid from Singapore set his alarm at 5 a.m. so he wouldn't be a second late for the verdict. Finally the message came. And all 122 students who checked their messages right away got in. They were soon to be Vassaritians!
The Heartbreaking Truth
While parents popped champagne bottles and drunkenly called their exes to boast about the superior genes of their spouses, Vassar officials shit a brick. Because of the 122 students who saw the "Congratulations! You're totally accepted!" email, only 46 were actually admitted. It turns out the computer put up a placeholder "test" email, and that letter happened to be posted on the day everyone signed in to check their admittance status. So beginning at around 5 in the evening, the system error messages started going out, which was especially cruel, since they ended with the word "PSYCH!" in bold comic sans font.
"Yeah, Steve, it's me. I'm calling in that sexual harassment settlement. Susan needs work."
And this wasn't even the first time kid nerds had been suckerpunched in the junk by their prospective colleges. In 2009, Cornell accidentally sent 25 rejected students a "Congratulations" letter. In 2011, the University of Delaware pulled the same shit with 61 previously rejected students. The University of Chapel Hill didn't even wait to accept or reject prospective students; they sent 2,700 applicants welcome letters before the admissions process was even finished.
"This is the place of your dreams? Well, you must be sleep-trespassing."
But no one, and we mean no one beats the gaffe UC San Diego pulled off in 2009. The school sent welcome letters to 28,000 students who didn't actually make the cut. Not only did they send the wrong letters, but these particular letters invited the kids and their families to tour the school on orientation day. By the time the mistake was fixed, hotel rooms and flights were already booked, $50 sweatshirts were already donned and 28,000 kids thought they weren't going to have to take the University of Phoenix route to a higher education.