Talk about a lightning round.
Margaret “Peggy” Anastos, coordinator of the New Jersey High School Consumer Bowl, had barely spoken three words of a complicated question about consumer affairs law Tuesday when Hackensack High School student Christopher Balasa pressed the buzzer.
“Seven years,” Balasa blurted out.
Correct, Anastos replied. Chalk up another 10 points for Team Hackensack, which went on to win that round, easily defeating teams from Lodi and Rutherford high schools.
“I was nervous,” Balasa later confessed with a broad grin. “But once I got up there and started knowing the questions, it became easy.”
A team from Ridgefield Park took first place in the county competition, with Lyndhurst finishing second and Hackensack third. Ridgefield Park will advance to the regional competition on April 19.
Balasa was one of 45 students on nine teams taking part during a daylong competition in the freeholder chambers of the Bergen County government building in Hackensack. The competition also included teams from high schools in Bergenfield, Fort Lee, Leonia and Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi.
The winning teams go on to compete against schools from other counties in April, with a championship match in Trenton on May 21.
Winning teams advance by mastering some of the more arcane aspects of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and other state regulations such as what kinds of pet sales are regulated. Dogs and cats yes, mice no.
“In the future, who knows, maybe we will be protecting mice,” quipped Anastos, who keeps the competition lively with a joking but reassuring patter that was kind of a cross between Regis Philbin and a den mother.
The program is in its 15th year, and about 94 high schools will participate statewide. But the program is about more than the competition, Anastos said.
This information … is going to be something that they are going to be using for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Shyam Sharma, a junior at Lodi High School, said the competition was a bit nerve-wracking but the knowledge was worthwhile. “I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know about the rights that I have as a buyer online and in stores.”