Published on September 30th, 20140
How Car Dealerships Get You to Come on Down
At least a few folks said they were misled as a result of a recent advertising campaign that Texas-based marketing firm Hopkins and Raines ran for Atlanta-based Wiley Auto Solutions in which some 30,000 mailers containing a promotional game were sent out in a push to get people to come down to a five-day auto sales event at a local mall.
“Obviously, we try and sell them a car,” said Charlie Bergen of Hopkins and Raines, which creates the promotional materials for car dealerships. “We’re not out here to hurt nobody.”
But one consumer said she felt duped.
“I was under the impression I won a $2,000 gift card to Target,” a reader, who we’ll call Karen, wrote in an email to TINA.org. “When I arrived [at the event] I was asked if I wanted to look at cars. … This is not fair for them to have a recording stating congratulations, you are a winner, come pick up your prize, and then send me home with nothing.”
The game claimed that a player could win one of four prizes (a car, an ATV, a $3 scratch-off lottery ticket, or the Target gift card) by matching up numbers revealed after pulling tabs on the card (see right). Those who matched were directed to call a number and enter their card’s confirmation code. Karen said she did this and then heard the congratulatory recording.
“There’s no indication anybody wins a certain prize,” the promotions manager at Wiley Auto Solutions clarified about information on the card itself. “At no point would it say she won [the Target gift card]. A lot of people that don’t read it, they play stupid. It’s in bold face: You can win one of these prizes.”
Still, there was a catch: You didn’t find out what you had won until you were at the sales event. Only then was a confirmation code matched with one of the four prizes.
However, TINA.org found that it didn’t matter what seven-digit number you put in as your confirmation code when calling the number on the card. After calling the same number Karen did, we punched in a random set of digits and heard the same recording to head on down to the sales event to claim our prize. We ran this test a couple times and each time we “won.”
The promotions manager conceded that anyone who played the game was in effect a “winner” of at least the $3 scratch-off, which Karen said she was offered. He said the event awarded 700 of the $3 lottery tickets, in addition to the car and the ATV. It’s unclear if anyone claimed the Target gift card.
Though Bergen said he was disappointed to hear about some of the consumer confusion caused by his firm’s promotional materials, it’s not the first time Hopkins and Raines has come under fire for its mailers. The company is actually banned from doing business in North Carolina as part of a 2011 settlement. The settlement was reached after an investigation into mailers that were made to look like a check for $2,000 that Hopkins and Raines created for a Nissan dealership in Clinton, N.C.
The promotions manager at the Atlanta dealership said the prizes were insured through Buford, Ga.-based American Hole n’ One, a company we had previously written about here.