My grandmother passed away more than 20 years ago, but I can still remember very clearly how she used to say, “It’s time for the Wheel!” precisely at seven o’clock in the evening every weekday. She’d kick up her feet in her favorite green recliner and watch Pat Sajak and Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune. At that point, the duo had been calling out letters and turning them on for 20 years already.
Grandma never saw anything like this, though. During a recent holiday episode of Wheel of Fortune, a contestant solved the bonus round puzzle and should have won a brand-new Audi Q3. However, Sajak called it a miss due to a technicality, and competitor Charlene Rubush was denied her new SUV.
The clue was “What Are You Doing?” and Rubush took the standard R, S, T, L, N and E and added her choices, which resulted in the illumination of two letter Gs, two Is, and an H that cleared up 15 letters out of the 20-letter answer. First, she guessed “Choosing the right card,” which matched the letters but wasn’t correct, and with moments to spare she guessed “Choosing the right word,” which should have won her the whole shebang. At the letter board, White’s smile gleamed and then fell as Sajak dropped the ax due to what he felt was a pause between the first three words and the last one.
"You know, this one's tough, because you said all the right words, including the word 'word' but, as you know, it's gotta be more or less continuous," Sajak said. "We'll allow for a little pause, but not four or five seconds. I'm sorry. You did a good job in getting it, but we can't give you the prize, and it was the Audi.”
The Twitterverse was up in arms about the outcome, and fans and onlookers had their say.
“Wheel of Fortune, you just lost a viewer," one said. "'I am choosing the right word' to never watch this show again. I'm done! I'm with that lady. She deserves that Audi! That rule is the most dumbest thing ever! She had it right before the time was up!"
Former Jeopardy! champ Alex Jacob weighed in with, "Come on Wheel of Fortune, the woman literally chose the right word. Give her the car." Then he followed up with messages to Audi and to the show producers to find a resolution. Seeing its chance to make things right and generate some positive publicity, Audi tracked down the would-be winner. The company followed up and came through with a promise of a new car for Rubush.
"[We] saw Charlene's Wheel of Fortune episode on Monday and were collectively disappointed that she missed out on the opportunity to take home an Audi Q3 due to a technicality," a spokesperson from Audi told Newsweek. "So in the spirit of the holidays, Audi of America will be gifting her with an all-new Audi Q3."
Classy move, Audi; great PR plus social buzz equals an unexpected win of a holiday campaign. Maybe there really is a Santa Claus.
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