Few students can say they made history over their spring break, but Serena Stein ’04 did just that. Stein became the first contestant in the history of the longest-running game show on television to play two games in a row. Stein was selected as a contestant on The Price is Right. Thanks to a lucky error by Bob Barker himself, she became the first ever to be the correct bidder on contestants’ row twice in one episode. In the end, she walked away with a new car and an armoire valued altogether at around $20,000.
“It was an out-of-body experience,” Stein said. “All of the sudden your name is called and it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened. You’d never think about it, but just because of what you have to go through to get on — it was one of the best moments of my life!”
Los Angeles’ Bob Barker Studio, home of The Price is Right set, was just one stop on Stein’s spring break road trip across California. She was part of a group of twelve Cornellians who began planning the game show visit months earlier. They dubbed themselves “Cornell Plinko Patrol,” and had red and white T-shirts made for their big appearance.
“It’s something you gotta do if you’re on spring break with all your friends,” said Ryan Langer ’04, another member of the Cornell Plinko Patrol. “It’s the thing you do if you’re in Los Angeles.”
“It was kind of a joke,” said Stein, who never expected to get selected as a contestant. “We thought, we’ll make t-shirts, it’ll be fun, but we never really thought about what it meant to actually be on.”
The group woke up at 3:45 a.m. on March 25, put on their shirts and arrived at CBS Television City to find hundreds of other fans already camped out, waiting for tickets.
“There were people from all over who had come all the way just to be on the show,” said Stein. “There were people who were 85 and dying and had to be on the show!”
The Plinko Patrol was given standby tickets and instructed to come back at 11:30 that morning. When they returned, they were one of the last groups to be given name tags and admitted into the taping.
“Everyone was jumping up and down and screaming — it was crazy,” Stein said.
At that point, all the students were interviewed by producers for their chance to be contestants.
Exhausted from the long morning of waiting, Stein spontaneously blurted out, “My name is Serena, I go to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and I’m looking for a job!”
“Serena had a witty response that made all three producers smile. We all knew then she was going to be on,” said Robin Fisher ’04, another member of the Cornell Plinko Patrol group.
Still, Stein was completely shocked when she heard, “Serena Stein, come on down!” after the first few minutes of taping.
“I always thought I wouldn’t be crazy or ridiculous if I got picked, but after the process you go through to get on, it was the most ridiculous experience ever!” Stein said. The group had been waiting a full ten hours to get on the show before the taping even began.
Once on contestant’s row, Stein competed to correctly name the price of a ceiling fan. She bid one dollar and beat out three other players, whose guesses were too high.
Stein played the game “Let ‘Em Roll.” She was told the price of a cleaning solution and shown a can of pineapple and a bottle of back rub product and asked to decide which product was below and which was above the price of the cleaning solution. She guessed both correctly and won two additional chances to roll the die.
Stein had three chances to roll five die whose 6 sides had either car icons or dollar values up to $1500.
Stein’s task was to get all 5 die to land on the car icons, or to stop at any time and take the money. On her first roll, three cars came up and on her second roll she got a fourth car and a $1500 sign. She considered settling for the $1500, but the rest of the Plinko Patrol rallied.
“All of us were sitting there being like ‘roll it’ and going crazy!” Fisher said.
“I decided to roll for the last car and the last dice teetered back and forth between $500 and a car and finally it landed on the car,” said Stein. “Everyone was going crazy — a car is the best prize you can win.”
Said Fisher, “The pinnacle of the day’s exhilaration occurred when that final die won her the car. We just turned to each other and were like: Serena Stein just won a car on The Price is Right!” After winning a Ford Focus wagon Stein was taken off stage only to learn that producers had actually made a mistake. It turned out that on contestant row, another player had actually come closest in his bid on the ceiling fan, but producers had not heard him correctly.
“They said, Serena, you weren’t really supposed to win, but we aren’t going to take the car away — we are going to give the other guy a car too!” Stein explained.
She was put back on contestants’ row and was the final contestant to bid on an armoire.
She bid $1,251 and won, getting a second chance to play for big prizes.
At this point, Barker exclaimed, “We are making Price is Right history today!” because it was the first time a contestant had ever outbid players on contestants’ row twice in one episode.
This time Stein played “Switcheroo,” but incorrectly guessed that the prices for trips to Mexico and Montreal should be switched. She walked away with the Ford Focus and an $1,800 armoire.
Ironically, Stein is one of the only one of her friends who did not prepare to be a contestant by researching prices.
“All my friends would set their alarms and wake up and take notes and I was like, I’m not doing that, come on. They would go to the drug store. I didn’t do anything,” Stein said.
In the aftermath, Langer says one of the biggest surprises was the size of the studio.
“The actual studio is miniscule. They really shouldn’t say come on down because they really don’t make you go anywhere,” he said.
Seeing Bob Barker in person was also a highlight, although Stein admits he seems much more personable on television than he actually is on stage.
“He wears so much makeup, if you gave him a kiss on the cheek the foundation would probably come off before my lipstick got on his cheek,” she said.
The episode featuring Stein and the Cornell Plinko Patrol will air this Thursday, April 8 at 11 a.m.
Archived article by Stacey Delikat
Sun Senior Writer