The Craziest Thing Happened on “The Price is Right,” but Don’t Run to LA

Show host Drew Carey is seen during a taping of
Matt Sayles/AP Photo

*In my best “The Price is Right” announcer voice*

Penny Hoarder, come on down!

You’ve won an all-inclusive article about the most recent shenanigans on the popular game show “The Price is Right!”

As part of your prize package, you’ll receive a complimentary look at what people are claiming is the craziest thing to happen in oh, just about the entire 46 years the show has been on the air. You’re also going home with the inside scoop on how to become a contestant on the show — plus, a bit of insight into whether it’s actually worth trying your hand at a game show like this one!

(OK, you can turn off the announcer voice in your head now.)

The Craziest Thing to Happen on “The Price is Right”

All right, so if you’ve made it this far without being like, “Somebody over at The Penny Hoarder HQ has completely lost it,” you’re obviously familiar with the longest running game show in U.S. history, “The Price is Right.”

A couple of weeks ago, the show celebrated Drew Carey’s 10th anniversary as host after he took over for the famous Bob Barker in 2007. (Side note: 10 years?! Bob Barker left the show 10 years ago?! Is this disbelief in the passage of time what being an adult feels like? What??)

Anyway, in the past, landing on the 100 tile of the big wheel during the Showcase Showdown meant an automatic $1,000 prize for the contestant who spun the wheel. Well, to celebrate the monumental occasion that marks 10 years dealing with the ridiculous antics of overly enthusiastic game show contestants, Drew Carey let the wheel-spinning finalists know that the usual money prizes during that portion of the show would be increased.

Contestants could win $10,000 if they managed to score a perfect 100 on their first turn, and could then compete for the additional bonus of $10,000 for landing on a green space or $25,000 for landing on the red 100.

You already know where this is going, right?

Between the three wheel-spinning finalists in that round, “The Price is Right” ended up giving away $80,000.

Wilbert, the first contestant to step up to the wheel, spun a 75 and then a 25 to nab the first $10,000. As he celebrated his win, Charlotte spun a perfect 100. As the two jumped and hugged under the scoreboard, Zachary, the third contestant, managed to land the wheel on 85 and then 15, scoring the third perfect 100.

It was almost weirdly coincidental enough to make you think the producers control that wheel or something. (I like to imagine that a human controls it by running inside like it’s a giant hamster wheel. No, you have an overactive imagination.)

All three players got a bonus spin, and while Zachary’s luck ran out, Wilbert and Charlotte both managed to score an extra $25,000.

Yeah, those prices were deeeefinitely right.

Just Call Me the Dream-Squasher

Now if you’re sitting there with dollar signs in your eyes, dreaming of hearing your name announced as a rambunctious audience cheers and yells, I’m gonna stop you right there.

While game shows seem like an easy way to make some quick cash, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be — and you don’t even get to keep everything you win.

Some more thorough explanations are floating around out there on how to become a contestant on “The Price is Right,” but here’s the gist:

  1. First, you go online to book a ticket. Tickets are free, but you (obviously) have to take care of all travel and accommodation costs for your trip to Los Angeles, California. (Spoiler alert: That’s not a cheap trip.)
  1. Then, you’ll go through a screening process on the day of your episode’s taping. While a ticket may guarantee you a spot in the audience, the producers will choose the actual contestants during the quick, pre-show screening process where you have five to 10 seconds to prove your enthusiasm (without overdoing it).

Fun fact: Aaron Paul, of “Breaking Bad” fame, actually made it onto stage as a contestant — long before he became a famous TV star.

During the show, your name might be called, but again, it might not. Each show has 325 audience members, but only nine are actually chosen to play — and only six make it past Contestants’ Row.

So while the odds of making it onto that stage are better than some game shows, they’re certainly not worth paying hundreds of dollars to take a trip for a not-so-great-chance at possibly being called up and then maybe winning a prize.

You Can’t Escape the Taxman

As if I wasn’t being enough of a buzzkill already (I know, I suck), I’ve got another bit of downer information for you: Contestants pay some pretty hefty taxes on their winnings.

Apparently, winners have to pay taxes on their prizes before they can even receive them. And we’re not talking small numbers, either. The prizes are treated (and taxed) as income in the state of California, which is where they are received.

One man revealed that after winning close to $57,000 in prizes on the show, he paid somewhere between $17,000 and $20,000 in taxes before he could collect his winnings. That’s upwards of 30%!

Are Wilbert and Charlotte still jump-dancing after hearing those figures? (OK, probably yes, but still! They’ll each pay about $10,500 in taxes before they can access a single penny of their prize money.)

I don’t know, folks. I guess if you’re headed to L.A. for a fun trip anyway, it might be worth hooting and hollering in the audience for the chance to win a nice chunk of change — but I wouldn’t take my chances otherwise.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She (and Bob Barker) would like to remind you to “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”