Elmo, Tickle Me Not

Canadians have again gotten the shaft, this time by Elmo.

Rather than tickle them, the adored Sesame Street muppet ticked off our neighbors to the north when a promotion that had them scooping up talking Elmos by the handful turned out to be open to U.S. citizens only.

Canadians claim there hasn’t been this much controversy since Quebec’s last attempt to secede failed in ’98. Five new Elmos on the market are programmed to deliver news that their owners have won a sweepstakes. The top winner gets US$200,000 toward a new house, an Elmo-themed Volkswagen Beetle and other prizes; four runners-up get Beetles and other goodies. But while buzz about the promotion was all over Canada—thanks, in part, to The Rosie O’Donnell Show—the messages were programmed into U.S. Elmos only.

Canadians report that contest ineligibility is fairly typical. Natasha Crewdson, a Brooklyn-born psychology student who lives in Nova Scotia with her husband Will and 6-month-old son Liam, jokes that Canadians often have to answer “a skill question, like, ‘What is 10 times 5 divided by 2?’ ” before they can claim their winnings. “You have to earn the prize before you win it,” she says. “I would have bought an Elmo, but [now] I don’t think I will.”

Fisher-Price says the contest was limited for logistical reasons, and that the Canadian packaging doesn’t mention a sweepstakes.