"The Price Is Right" Gives Treadmill To Woman In Wheelchair
Danielle Perez won a treadmill on The Price Is Right earlier this week. That typically wouldn’t catch my attention, but Ms. Perez lost her legs in an accident and uses a wheelchair.
According to CNN:
Perez, who is a comedian, has been in a wheelchair since 2004 after losing her legs in an accident. She said the strangest thing about her win was the reaction of the staff members on the show.
“I kept thinking that it was a really big joke,” she said with a laugh, “But there was no irony in their cheers or applause.”
Despite a collective and awkward pause from the audience that she said was edited out of the show, “Everyone at CBS seemed genuinely excited for me that I won.”
Ms. Perez demonstrated her comedy chops by having fun with the awkward prize, tweeting several stories about it and sending this tweet:
The Price Is Right obviously had no way of knowing that a disabled contestant would play a game involving a treadmill. I don’t know anything about the show’s production schedule, so I don’t know whether swapping one game out for another would have even been possible. I don’t blame CBS for the unfortunate moment—and neither, it seems, does Ms. Perez.
But what caught my eye was an official response from CBS (which airs the game show) to The Huffington Post:
CBS told the The Huffington Post in a statement, “Every member of ‘The Price Is Right’ studio audience has a chance to be selected to play. Prizes are determined in advance of the show and are not decided based on the contestants.” A rep for the network added that Perez additionally won an iPad Air Tablet and that “prizes don’t always match up perfectly,” before listing the following examples:
- Contestant(s) have won trips to their hometown or nearby
- Men often win the ‘Look Of The Week’ which is a prize package that includes a dress, high heels and a purse
That response strikes me as completely and unnecessarily tone deaf. I accept that everything CBS said in its statement is true—but facts don’t always help, and the spokesperson (or lawyer) who drafted this comes across as emotionally cold.
Why not just say something like this:
“Ms. Perez exhibited grace and humor in what could have been an awkward moment. Due to the unusual circumstances in this case, we are offering her a different prize of similar value. We’ll leave it to her to decide whether she’d like to keep the original prize or substitute it for something else.”
I’m sure the brains at CBS are worried about setting such a precedent. I get that. But some moments call for exceptions to the rules, and this one strikes me as an obvious time to allow common sense—or, at the very least, emotional warmth— to prevail.
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Companies are always so concerned about the worst-case “what if” scenario that they don’t use common sense. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where decent, reasonable ideas–or solutions to issues–were shot down with “I don’t want every [insert description of a group of people here] to come to us asking [insert unreasonable request here].” Corporations are the best at thinking the worst of people.
Thanks for your comment, Art.
After publishing this post, it occurred to me that there may be laws regulating what they can and can’t do (after the payola scandals and fixed game show scandals, there were tight regulations put into place). But even if that’s the case, it doesn’t alter the core criticism or recommendation in my post. As you suggested, there were decent, reasonable approaches they could have used to, at the very least, communicate in human terms without drawing a sloppy analogy to other situations in which winners don’t like their prizes.