For most people, Social Security numbers provide access to a variety of services and programs across the nation.
Mike Waggoner's Social Security number netted him a brand new VCR machine instead.
Waggoner, a resident of Newell, won a VCR by matching the last six digits of his Social Security number with the last six digits of the serial number of the electronic item in a contest sponsored by Melander's TV and Appliance of Alta.
The Waggoners, who entered the store about 9 a.m., spent approximately an hour looking through Melander's before Mike came across the VCR with the correct digits.
His wife, Terri, said her husband had learned of the contest from a letter from Melander's last week, and was thrilled to win the piece of electronic equipment.
"He was very excited when he learned he got something," Terri said, "and we all thought it was great too. It was the first time any of us had ever won a contest like this before, so naturally we were very happy."
Melander's, which learned of the idea for the contest through one of its buying groups, runs the event in conjunction with its private letter sale, and store owner Brad Pittenger said the Social Security number contest has been a popular one.
"It's been a really good event," Pittenger said. "It's a unique and fun way for people to be able to win these prizes. These aren't just cheap prizes, either. We marked items running anywhere from $20 to $2,000, so people had a chance to win everything that had a serial number in the store."
Melander's employees marked over 300 pieces which contained serial numbers with giant red tags, and customers could then browse the store throughout the day to see if their Social Security number would help them claim merchandise.
If the last six digits of the customer's Social Security number matched the last six digits of the product's serial number, the customer would win the product for free.
"People could win a small prize, but they could also win items like VCR's, couches, refrigerators or big-screen TV's," Pittenger said. "I think that was one of the biggest drawing points. People were in here all day just looking around because they knew they had a chance to win a big prize."
Pittenger said the contest has been a positive experience for employees and customers, and plans to hold similar Social Security number events in the future.
"Not only do the customers like it, but we like it from our standpoint too," Pittenger said. "Customers who come in for this contest might not know what we sell, and even if they're not interested in buying anything that day, they might remember us later and remember the merchandise we sell in the store. It's really a good deal for everyone involved."