I’m usually pretty good at spotting the “small print” on gimmick mailers and promotional contests. The latest one from a local car dealership was well-hidden. I looked and looked. Got out my hand-lens and scanned the tiny print in the margins. Hmm. This one was sneaky.
Mail flyers from car dealers that say you’ve won cash or prizes are bogus ploys to get you to come to the business. This one, from Brenner Pre-Owned in Harrisburg, PA and addressed to “Future Customer”, contained a scratch-off ticket. Some contain “keys” that you bring into the dealer to try for a new car.
Alright, I’ll play. [Put on skeptical spectacles]
According to the directions I need to “Pull a set of matching symbols and you are a winner”. I scratched off matching triple 7s. I won! The Prize Board displayed shows matching triple 7s is Prize 1 – $5000 cash. Digging through the tiny print I found only ONE hint that this might not be an actual winning ticket.
A winning number on a mail piece will be matched to a winning number sign posted at the dealership to determine the prize won.
That is contradictory. And pretty sleazy. It’s a bait-and-switch. You think you are getting one thing but you end up with a cheap token prize that you didn’t expect.
The flyer was labeled in the postage section as being from “cheapautodeals” – a website that specializes in marketing these promotions. On that site, I was able to browse all the deceptive materials they will mail in bulk for auto businesses as you target new customers. Behold, the exact flyer and even the exact ticket.
They are ALL “winners”.
No, I didn’t go to the dealer to see if I had the matching confirmation number. I have better things to do with my time. Besides, there is hardly any worse thing to do on a holiday weekend than to visit a car lot teeming with roaming $ale$people working for commission. It’s a first-world form of torture.
What does the dealer do when he gets you in the door to claim your “prize”? Is there pressure to trade in your old vehicle? Do they size you up for a loan qualification? They most certainly take personal information and place you on a mailing list.
I wonder how many people fall for this? Such craftiness targets older people or those who may be less educated and not careful readers.
Heck, if you have poor eyesight you couldn’t possibly read the fine print.
Making a logical deduction from what you are given, it appears you have won a certain prize. Outright trickery is not anticipated (unless you are familiar with these traps). Legal folks who specialize in cheating the system had their hand in this. I couldn’t find anything on Cheapautomailers.com about legal coverage. MotorTrend covered this very common ploy. A former salesman admits that his employer ran these promotions four times a year, sending thousands of mailers, and had more people than you would expect come into the lot expecting to drive away in a new car they had won. He never saw anyone actually win a car.
In 2014, the Atlanta-area Better Business Bureau issued a warning about these ads after a complaint from a woman who thought she’d won. Officials investigated the claim and determined that it was within legal guidelines but was deceptive. Sounds like there is a loophole. Once again, we see that you can’t efficiently legislate against general lack of critical thinking.
I’m sending this post to my representative because this kind of deceptive marketing shouldn’t be happening in my state or anywhere.