Published: Thursday, Jul. 31, 2008 / Updated: Thursday, Jul. 31, 2008 08:41 AM
Rock Hill man wins national Doritos contest
Until this month, the only competition John Wright had ever won was a coloring contest when he was 5, and the only prize he’d ever won was a stuffed bunny.
So his wife, Emily, didn’t expect much when her puzzle-loving husband flew to Las Vegas as a finalist in Doritos’ The Quest challenge.
“I kind of thought it was crazy,” she said.
Crazy, maybe. But the 23-year-old graphic designer brought $100,000 home to Rock Hill.
“Way better than a stuffed bunny,” Emily said.
Doritos publicly crowned John as The Quest champion Wednesday. The contest began in May, offering participants the chance to win a $100,000 treasure in an “alternative reality game.”
“Even if I hadn’t won,” John said, “I still would have had a blast.”
More than 70,000 entries
After guessing the flavor of a mystery chip, players were asked to solve a series of online puzzles. The contest drew more than 70,000 entries, from which three finalists emerged.
Now, John Wright is no Indiana Jones. He’s been married for just over a year, bought his first home in April and makes a living designing bottle labels and fliers for Industrial Test Systems in Rock Hill.
He rarely eats Doritos.
But he likes puzzles, a hobby he learned from his mother. He enjoys crossword puzzles, anagrams and Sudoku. And when he stumbled across the Doritos challenge during a break at work, he thought it would be fun.
He even told his 20-year-old wife that the contest was over, but he wanted to work some of the challenges anyway.
“He just wanted to do the puzzles, ’cause he is weird like that,” Emily said.
But the contest wasn’t over.
Some of the puzzles took a few seconds, others a few hours.
“He showed me some of those things,” Emily said. “I was like, ‘Sure, I’m glad you could figure it out ’cause I would never be able to.’”
John learned he was a finalist earlier this month. When he told his wife, she tried to contain her excitement, knowing his track record in contests.
The Vegas event was tough. John had to solve an anagram in an elevator lit only with black lights at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. He leaped between two speedboats on a lake and rappelled down the edge of Devil’s Rock.
After starting the last challenge 45 seconds behind the other finalists, the guy who hadn’t won anything in 18 years rallied to solve the final mystery, decoding the word quest.
From the rock where he’d won, he called his wife, who was watching the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?” with her mother in Blacksburg, Va.
Just like she did when he proposed, Emily asked if John was serious.
“I heard them all in the background screaming at the same time,” he said. “It was kind of cool.”
The prize was a heavy gold amulet and necklace or $100,000 cash. As a guy who depends on each paycheck, John knew he couldn’t afford the taxes on the jewelry. He took the money.
Not used to more zeroes
With his winnings, John wants to pay off his car debt, Emily’s student loans and his parents for helping them buy their house.
And they gave a $10,000 check to North Rock Hill Church on Sunday.
“We always tithe 10 percent of my income,” John said. “Might as well give 10,000 (dollars) to our church.”
But this wasn’t a usual tithe.
“It was weird seeing all those zeroes on the end,” John said.
“I looked at him, and I was like, ‘I’ve never written a check with the word thousand in it before,’” Emily said.
Along with the check, the couple provided a note asking that some of the money go to the church’s new building, some to missionary work and some to send a young person to camp.
“It felt good,” John said, “because I knew it was going to a good cause.”
“If God hadn’t provided for us, we wouldn’t have it anyway,” Emily said. “So why not give it back to him?”
Winning a hundred grand, the couple says, won’t change the way they live.
“We like to live simple,” Emily said. “We talked about maybe, once we pay Uncle Sam, getting living room furniture ’cause right now all we have are hand-me-downs. But other than that, we’re like, just save it.”