I watch a lot of game shows and was wondering how the winners get their prizes delivered. How long do they wait to collect? How much in taxes do they have to pay? -- Chuck in New Baden
Sounds so easy, right? Get yourself on "Wheel of Fortune," scream and jump for 20 minutes, kiss and hug Pat and Vanna, and fly home with your pockets stuffed with cash.
Well, it's not all fun and games, as you'll find in both the contestant rules and from stories that past winners have told MSN Money.
For starters, even if you're the big winner, you'll probably wait -- and wait -- for that check to arrive in the mail. According to the Wheel of Fortune FAQs, for example, "contestants receive their cash and/or prizes within 120 days after the airdate of the show."
Notice that word "airdate." One contestant told MSN that she waited six months for $300 because her episode didn't air for three months after she appeared on "Let's Make a Deal" and the producers had 90 days after that to send a check. So you can't expect winnings to immediately save you from an overdue mortgage.
Contestants also may not wind up with the prizes you see them winning. A couple of "The Price Is Right" winners told MSN that after the show, producers told them the prizes weren't available so they were given their cash value instead.
As for logistics, "The Price Is Right," for example, says it will ship all prizes to your home and pay all shipping costs as long as you live in the United States. Those living overseas will have to get out their wallet.
As the final downer, Uncle Sam will want his cut just as he does for lottery winnings. How much depends on your personal tax bracket, but you will have to report all cash prizes plus the suggested retail price of other prizes on Form 1099-MISC as income. Remember, too, that those suggested prices usually sound awfully inflated, which will add to your tax burden unless you can prove the show's figures wrong.
And here's the clincher: You also will have to pay Illinois income tax -- and, perhaps, income tax on the winnings in the state in which you won the prizes. (Hey, you worked for them, right?)
On second thought, maybe I'll just keep watching on the telly.
Royal response: Bernadette Kimutis, of Swansea, is feeling like a queen these days after receiving a quick reply from Buckingham Palace.
Both she and Queen Elizabeth are celebrating their 87th birthdays this year, so she asked me how she could send one of her handmade greeting cards to offer the long-reigning English monarch her best wishes. In just over a month, Kimutis received a personal note from Philippa dePass, the queen's lady-in-waiting.
"The Queen wishes me to write and thank you for the letter, splendid handmade card and photograph which you sent following an historic year, when Her Majesty celebrated her Diamond Jubilee," the letter stated.
"The Queen ... greatly appreciates your kind thought for her and The Royal Family at this special time. Her Majesty sends you her best wishes and was interested to hear about your family and your continuing dedicated volunteer work within the community."
Enclosed was a commemorative pamphlet with color photos that honored the queen's 60 years on the throne.
Long live you both.
Sweet news: David Lusby, of Granite City, was kind enough to tell me of yet another candy factory in Southern Illinois.
Raised in Woodlawn, Lusby remembers that the Hollywood Candy Co. had a plant in Ashley, about 15 miles south of its main facility in Centralia.
"I had two aunts who worked there and both of my brothers worked there as summer help," Lusby wrote. "The Martoccio family (which owned Hollywood) had a dairy farm outside of Richview and supplied the candy factories with dairy products."
Perfect prescription: If you're like me, you usually find medicines long expired every time you get around to cleaning your medicine cabinet.
As a result, I am often asked how to properly dispose of them. You don't want to throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet lest they wind up in the ecosytem. But you may not want to leave them sitting around, either, because some could wind up being used for the wrong purpose.
That's why the Drug Enforcement Agency is offering another national drug take-back day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at numerous sites around the area. To find one, just go to www.stlcop.edu, click on the "Medication Disposal" link and follow it to the DEA site, where you can type in your ZIP code to find the locations nearest you.
There you can hand over all unwanted drugs free of charge, no questions asked. In its first five events, the DEA has kept more than 2 million pounds of unwanted medications out of the environment and from being abused.
How much do the losers on Jeopardy win?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: On Aug. 18, 1984, Arvind Pandya, of India, set out for New York from Los Angeles. Not so unusual, right? Well, not until you consider that he spent the next 107 days walking the entire 3,169 miles backwards. He averaged about 30 miles a day and wound up in the Big Apple on Dec. 3.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.