Prize scam by Allen Mello

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.

Uncovered prize numbers from mailing

Uncovered prize numbers, with 91781 among them (highlighting added)

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.

Table of prizes, with 91781 next to "$5,000 cash"; highlighting added

Table of prizes, with 91781 next to “$5,000 cash” (highlighting added)

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.

14 Responses to “Prize scam by Allen Mello”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    What I find really puzzling here is the dealership’s motives in this. What do they think they can gain from this deception? Do they really expect that after luring someone to their dealership and then frustrating their expectations of a large prize, the person will be in the mood to be persuaded to buy a car? That seems wildly unlikely to me.

    If anything, it seems more likely that this will lose them business. People will be lured into the dealership; become pissed off at finding out that they’re not getting the large prize they expected; and then, next time they’re shopping for a car, go to other dealerships when otherwise they might have gone to Allen Mello.

    Is it just dishonesty for its own sake?

    • Gary McGath Says:

      I talked with some people about this yesterday. One person said that the theory is that the point is to bring people into the store on any pretext, because even if they know they’ve been conned, they’ll be more likely to buy. I find this bizarre, and yet a lot of successful marketing is apparently based on that premise.
      Discouraging the people who had the numbers for the big prizes by putting them next to the smallest prizes could be one of the purposes as well.

  2. Bill Mahoney Says:

    Gary, I just yesterday received this same scam. I even have a card
    with the same number for $5,000. Luckily my son had seen your blog
    and sent it to us. I am planning to call the Consumer Protection Agency
    and possibly the Attorney General’s Office. Do you have any advice
    for me?

    • Gary McGath Says:

      The same number! This is getting steadily more interesting. I’ve already written to the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, which is part of the Attorney General’s office, so you can hit both at once (see the link for the address). Maybe this time Allen Mello has gone far enough to get legal sanctions; the more people that report it, the better the chances someone who can act on it will pay attention.

      If you have the time, you should probably “claim your prize” in order to have concrete evidence that you were misled, but if that isn’t worth it, mentioning that the number is the same as the one on my blog may be enough. I sent them the mailing with my complaint; if you do the same, or at least give a photocopy, it will give them concrete evidence to work from.

      • Informed Consumer Says:

        Folks – these mail pieces were already signed off on by the AG, as this type of mail campaign is tightly regulated and must pass through a number of legal and federal screenings prior to print. Additionally, all of the winning numbers are issued and mailed out – so it was worth the time you spent to see what you had won. It’s too bad that people feel misled by what is a common and very widespread marketing tactic, but the overwhelming majority actually read the fine print before going to the dealership – especially if they are the type to create such a fuss when they are disappointed to learn they didn’t win the big prize. It’s unfortunate that with all of the tragedy and social unrest our world is facing right now, that you would misuse this forum to incite the ire of others to your petty vendetta against Allen Mello, rather than legitimate global issues.

        • Gary McGath Says:

          “It was worth the time to see what you had won”: The overwhelming majority of the prizes were $5 gift certificates (worth considerably less, in real terms, than $5 in cash), and the odds of winning the major prizes were 1 in 60,000 each. Supposing the expected winning to be as much as $5, and taking into account the time spent there, some people might consider it worth their time, but they should be properly informed rather than deceived.
          “The overwhelming majority actually read the fine print.” Now you’re getting into the laughability zone.
          “that you would misuse this forum”: This is not a “forum” but my personal blog, and you have no business telling me that it’s “legitimate” for me to use the “Building My World” blog only for what you deem proper “global issues.”
          You wasted a lot of people’s time with your deceptive promotion; I’m glad to see my report stung enough for you to get upset at my “petty vendetta” against your attempt to mislead people.

          • Tony Says:

            Harvard education gets tricked by a car dealer, that’s hilarious!

          • Gary McGath Says:

            (Can’t put my reply under Tony’s. It’s hit the comment nesting limit.)
            Me? It would be more understandable if I’d had a Harvard education. I went to a decent school (MIT), which makes it even less forgiveable that I didn’t catch it more quickly. :)

          • Informed Consumer Says:

            “MY attempt to mislead people”???? I have NOTHING to do with the dealership, at what point did you infer that I was, apparently, the OWNER of Allen Mello?? I am a licensed clinical social worker with a privately held practice in Southern NH. Perhaps you should reach out to myself or one of my colleagues for your latent accountability issues, sooner rather than later. And you can claim that this is your “personal blog” (to serve your own narcissistic tendencies, I presume) but when you publicly take a position as aggressively as you have, you are subjecting yourself to exposure as well as commentary from both fronts. If you aren’t prepared for said backlash, perhaps you should stick to trolling local media outlets, rather than presenting yourself as a source of information in ANY capacity.

            • Gary McGath Says:

              Of course you have no relationship to Allen Mello. That’s why you don’t use your real name, you make ludicrous claims about people’s reading fine print, and you attack the concept of blog ownership. If you were actually a social worker and attacked the people you’re responsible to that way, that would be even worse.

              You think I need your permission to blog, but actually you need my permission to comment, and after this I’m withdrawing it. You’ve been good for a laugh, but I’ve given you as much rope as you deserve and will delete any further comments from you.

              • Gary McGath Says:

                Further thought: This might be a false-flag sock puppet, someone trying to make Allen Mello look even worse, rather than someone with Allen Mello. It’s clear that a lot of people are upset with them (my top searches currently include “allen mello scam, heart of gold allen mello chrysler, allen mello dodge nashua new hampshire prizes real, allen mello sweepstake scam”), but that’s not the way to go.

  3. eleanor luna Says:

    Hey! We received the same winning number! I hope everyone realizes that this is a total scam in order to lure people into the dealership. Very unethical. Informing the National Trade Commission. This is illegal advertising.

  4. Heidi Reeder Says:

    I too received this heart of “cold” scam. The top three numbers on my card match yours exactly! I would bet that the remaining four are identical, as well. Sure, I figured the idea that I had actually won $5000 was too good to be true, but if you look at the table with the winning numbers and what appears to be the corresponding prizes, it’s easy to believe that you’ve actually won. As a person working her way through grad school with a mountain of student loan debt, I thought that I had finally caught a break. I’m just glad that I saw your blog before wasting my precious time and gas driving up there.

  5. Jason Ellis Says:

    Yup, Same numbers and same scam here. I work for a dealer and my customers would tear us up if we did that. I cant even imagine all the yelling going on in that showroom. My kids were the ones that did it and brought it to me excited. I knew right away it was a scam.

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