Sometimes, hesitation can really cost you — and sometimes, you catch a break when you least expect it. That’s exactly what Wheel of Fortune contestant Charlene Rubush seems to be experiencing right now. On Tuesday’s broadcast of the long-running game show, Rubush correctly solved the Bonus Round word puzzle, which should have won her a new .
Unfortunately, because Rubush paused for too long while speaking the winning phrase, “Choosing the right word,” host Pat Sajak announced the contestant did not win the subcompact luxury SUV. “You know, this one’s tough because you said all the right words, including the word ‘word,’ but as you know, it’s got to be more or less continuous,” he said.
Rubush had completed the phrase within the segment’s 10-second limit, but her answer was disqualified because she didn’t say the phrase in a more contiguous manner.
Upon airing, outraged Wheel of Fortune watchers took to social media in droves to voice their disapproval, including Jeopardy! champion Alex Champion, who tweeted an excerpt of the video while urging the game show to “give her the car.” Some viewers even suggested boycotting the program on social media as the news went viral.
You’re reading about this on Roadshow, a site about automobiles and not game shows, so what’s the rub? Well, the story appears to have a happy ending: Audi USA is stepping in to ensure that Rubush receives a new Q3 anyway. The automaker tweeted via its official account, “You’re a winner in our eyes, Charlene. Now, let’s get you a prize. Time to #GiveHerTheQ3.” A follow-up tweet from the German company said, “With your help, we tracked down Charlene! More to come as we help #GiveHerTheQ3.”
While ABC’s Wheel of Fortune is reportedly reviewing the controversy, Audi has seized the viral movement. When contacted by Roadshow, Audi spokesperson Amanda Koons said, “We received quite a few customer emails and also quite a few ‘at DM’ messages asking if we could make it right.” According to Koons, a series of discussion between the automaker’s PR and marketing teams ensued and decided to give Rubush a car.
In a subsequent statement, Audi Chief Marketing Officer Tara Rush said: “In the spirit of the holidays, we are thrilled to gift Charlene with an all-new Audi Q3. It is the season of giving after all and, technicality or not, we are always eager to share a bit of Audi magic and cheer!”
According to Koons, the automaker put out a call to fans on social media to help locate Rubush. They eventually tracked her down via relatives’ accounts. Ironically, Koons says Rubush doesn’t appear to be active on social media.
It’s worth noting that the vehicle Rubush receives won’t be the Q3 that was sitting on Wheel of Fortune’s studio floor — because Audi of America had nothing to do with getting that specific SUV on the show in the first place. Those sorts of product placements generally don’t involve the automaker itself, but are furnished by local dealer networks.
Either way, it appears the once-spurned contestant will soon have a new Q3 in her driveway, and Audi has a PR coup on its hands for around $36,995 — the small crossover’s base price (including delivery). In the world of marketing, that makes this episode an incredible bargain.
Wheel of Fortune did not immediately respond to a request for comment.