Allen Mello Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Nashua, NH is running a highly deceptive “Heart of Gold” giveaway, designed to bring in people on the false belief that they’ve won big prizes. They lured me in that way today.
A mailing which I received on Wednesday from them claimed to be giving away prizes. More often than not, I throw those things out with the rest of the junk mail, but I thought of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and decided to uncover the numbers. The mailing had specific prizes next to specific numbers, so I’d know whether I’d won something worth claiming or not.
The third number that I uncovered was 91781, and this was listed in the table of prizes next to “$5,000 cash.” I looked at it several more times before I could believe it. I had — apparently — won $5,000. The odds of this, according to the fine print, were 1 in 60,000, but if the giveaway is honest, somebody has to win. I called the supplied phone number and gave the confirmation code from the mailing to a bot, which confirmed I had indeed won something (but didn’t say what). I planned to go in today (the day after Thanksgiving) to go in and collect the prize.
After the initial surprise and some feedback from friends, I got more suspicious and looked at the fine print carefully. Buried in the middle of it was: “Pull tab card is for illustration purposes only.” That seemed to say that the fact that my number was next to a prize had no significance at all. By now I was thoroughly suspicious; the odds that a car dealer would try to trick me are considerably higher than 1 in 60,000. I planned my moves today carefully; I made photocopies as well as the photos you see with this post, and then went to Allen Mello. After a short wait, a salesman came over to me; then he was immediately replaced with another one, named Jose. Maybe someone decided I looked skeptical and sent in a more experienced person.
I let him give me his pitch but made it clear I wasn’t shopping for a car at this time. When I pressed him, he admitted that the numbers in the table in fact had nothing to do with the prizes next to them. I told him I considered that deliberate deception; at least he didn’t argue with me on that. We went over to a board that had the confirmation numbers (not the sticker numbers). He told me my number wasn’t there, which meant my prize was a $5 gift certificate. I said, “So it’s a scam,” snatched my contest form from him, and left.
As I said, I think any reasonable person would, unless expecting dishonesty, interpret the table as numbers corresponding to prizes. I consider it certain that Allen Mello intended people to understand it that way, and put common numbers next to large prizes to lure suckers in. And perhaps 14632, the number next to “up to $50 gift card,” is what the grand prize winner sees and doesn’t bother to come in? I was told that none of the top prizes had been claimed yet.
It’s prudent to assume that a business that practices deception to bring people in will continue to deceive them if they’re looking to buy them. I was only scammed out of some high hopes and a little of my time; if I actually bought a car from them, it could be far worse.
In my own case, discovering that $5,000 in income was an illusion was just a frustration. I wonder what it’s like to the people who can desperately use a few thousand dollars, think they’ve won, and then come into Allen Mello to learn it was all a dirty trick.
The question now is whether it’s worth informing New Hampshire’s consumer protection office.