By Jenny WhalenFeb. 19, 2014
There are few instances in life when one's putting ability and knowledge of snack food prices will generate a recipe for success, but luckily for Michigan Law graduate Tim Caballero, '07, daytime television is one of them.
A rights counsel at NBC Universal, Inc. in California, Caballero made his third game show appearance Jan. 28 as a contestant on The Price is Right. As he tells it, he went in to humor a friend and walked out with two cars and a trip to Las Vegas.
"I had a friend visiting from Hong Kong who wanted to go to a TV taping and a few others who said they'd like to come along and make a day of it," Caballero explained. "It wasn't really our plan to get on The Price is Right. We just wanted to show a friend a good time."
The episode was well past the halfway point when Caballero finally heard his name called with the show's iconic invitation to "Come on down!"
"I remember it like it was yesterday," he said. "There were only two contestants left and I turned to my friend to tell her that the chances of us getting called weren't that great. Five seconds after that, the cameras started rolling again and I heard, 'Timothy Caballero, come on down!' I immediately got into character and started high-fiving everyone as I ran to the stage."
A past winner of Supermarket Sweep (2003) and Lingo (2004), the latter of which awarded him his first car, Caballero is far from being a game show novice, but admits his appearance on Price was a childhood dream come true.
"It was one of the funniest experiences of my life," he said. "It's one of those shows you always watched when you were home sick from school and wondered what it would be like to actually play."
Luck and the memory of a DVR filled with past episodes of the show were on Caballero's side that day as his bid of $700 for a karaoke machine fell closest to the item's actual retail price of $810.
Moments later, Caballero found himself on stage with host Drew Carey playing the golf game "Hole in One (… or Two)" for a Chevy Sonic LS. Asked to rank a random assortment of snacks and skincare items from least to most expensive, Caballero's choices won him a putt just a few feet from the hole.
"I'm not an avid golfer, but I know enough to hold a club," Caballero said. "There were no breaks on this green, so I was feeling pretty confident. I lined up the putt, took a deep breath, and nailed it!"
The win took Caballero one step closer to the game's finale, better known to Price aficionados as the "Showcase Showdown." Spinning the so-called "Big Wheel," which he reveals is much heavier than it looks, Caballero's 35-cent total was enough to earn him a place in the showdown, although that realization required a nudge from Drew Carey to truly sink in.
"My previous game shows were not taped in front of a studio audience, so this was more distracting," Caballero said. "All I was concentrating on was spinning the wheel as hard as possible and I actually forgot what I spun the first time and the total I needed to beat. With 35 cents, I thought I'd lost and was about to walk off stage. Drew Carey had to pull me back and tell me that I'd won."
Then, it was showcase time. Opting to bid on the first package, which included a five-night Las Vegas vacation and 2014 Ford Fiesta SE, Caballero's $20,700 bid came within $1,300 of the actual retail price. When it was revealed that his competitor had overbid on her showcase, Caballero won the show with an estimated $40,688 worth of prizes.
"Not too bad for a Tuesday off from work," Caballero joked. As for what he'll do with two new cars? "Living in LA, I barely have space for the car I have. I'll most likely sell my old car and test-drive the Ford and the Chevy. If I like one, I'll sell the other. If I don't like either, I'll sell both and go big, probably a convertible."
And while it's hard to top The Price is Right, Caballero says his game show days are far from over. So where might Michigan Law classmates catch him next?
"I would love to get on Wheel of Fortune, and I've always had a dream to be on Survivor, although I suppose that's not really a game show," Caballero said. "However, when you've already won three cars and two all-expenses paid vacations, you have to raise the stakes. "Maybe next time I'll be playing for a million dollars."
We'll be waiting.
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