The bottle of orange juice costs $5 at ShopRite, but Tayeb Souami’s wife found the same bottle of the same brand for $2.50 elsewhere. Yes, it was only a $2.50 difference, but that amount was important for a family that had just refinanced their home and was supporting a daughter who was preparing to go to college.
So on May 19, Souami returned to the Hackensack, New Jersey, store with the bottle and receipt in his hand.
When he arrived at the customer service desk, he saw a sign indicating that they were selling tickets for the Powerball lottery jackpot, which had a $306 million gratuity at the time. He liked that number and felt lucky, so he bought two tickets with the money he got from orange juice and practically forgot about the lottery for the rest of the day.
The next morning, the man had more errands to do. Souami, 55, had things to fix in the garden, but he also wanted his car washed while his wife stayed at their home preparing food for the week.
On the way to the car wash center he stopped to enter a 7-Eleven store and checked the lottery tickets.
“When I went inside, I scanned the first ticket and it wasn’t the winner. The second ticket was good but the machine said it must be seen by the retailer,” he said.
“The clerk kept saying, ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,’ and my heart went just like a ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon when the heart went boom boom … and I found out after that I was the one.” he added.
The numbers that came out were 3,6,9,17,56 and the Powerball 25. He had a one in 292.2 million chance of winning. He characterized himself as a lottery player who participates only when the jackpot exceeds a particular amount.
After learning that he was the winner, he spent the next few weeks planning the rest of his life.
Souami, who worked as an accountant until recently, at a food importing company, said he wanted to make sure the 200 people he works with would be okay before he quit.
That man decided to take the cash payment of $183 million and stay in the city where he lived, in New Jersey. “Now you’ll be able to pay off your newly refinanced home and your daughter’s college tuition and education loans.”
And, perhaps, toast with your new favorite drink.
“Now I love orange juice,” he joked.