Promotional Giveaways - toss 'em

Promotional giveaways can be scams - they're often filled with elements of deception. Here's an example of how a local car dealer in Cheyenne has used deception to help lure customers onto their lot. This isn't anything unique to where I live - it happens all over the country.

Let's look at the elements of this scam to see how deception is used. First, the envelope that it arrives in has an official looking return address. The truth is that this is a mass mailing service out of Maine that offers "complete mailing solutions."

So, cars in Wyoming are typically sold via a business located in Maine? Sure, it happens all the time. And, my dog speaks French.

Promotional giveaways use envelopes like this.

Notice that they use the following words on this piece of dog feces they send you in the mail:

  • national
  • records
  • official
  • disbursements

Well, one can imagine with such a deceptive return address that many feel compelled to open the letter for fear of throwing away something important from the government. Hint: if it doesn't clearly state that it's from a government agency, then it's not. It's that simple.

The letter assures you that this is not a joke and you need to call an 800 number to claim your prize. And, there is a tear-off document at the bottom of the letter that is the size of a cashiers check, has a background very similar to a check, and is filled out with an amount just like one would see on a check, except in very small print at the top it says that it's not a check.

See photo below. I've obscured the name and address to save them a bit of embarrassment, and please note that the red underlining is my emphasis, not that of the Bozos running these types of promotional giveaways.

Promotional giveaways use checks like these.

Okay, so let me understand this. It has feathers, a beak, it lays eggs, it cackles, it scratches at the ground, it runs about claiming that the sky is falling, and it lives in a coop, but the fine print says it's really not a chicken. Okay, I'm clear on that.

Again, just toss it.

In the document, the "prize director" advises you that you have to call first, appear in person, and you will win two items on the list of prizes. This "director" also advises that there is a deadline and if you don't respond, you'll forfeit what you've already won.

So what's the catch? The catch is simply that the "prizes" you've won are essentially worthless. In this case, there are two scratch tickets that could instantly win you $1,000 or $5,000, and a Walmart gift card for up to $50. Think about it, $5 is "up to $50" isn't it? So is $2. Are you going to hop in your car and go across town for a gift card that's probably worth less than the cost of the gas that it takes to get it? And, what do you think your chances are of winning are?

Promotional giveaways include prizes. Your chances of winning are slim and none, and Slim just left town.

The laughable thing about this is you're a winner, and if you win the scratch tickets, then you've won a chance to win something. Let me say that again, you've won a chance to win. Big deal. That aspect of these promotional giveaways shouldn't be compelling at all.

But what about that check-like document that is essentially a $1,959 voucher for a used car? Okay, let's look at that for a moment.

The "check" is for a certain amount, and it can only be used towards the purchase of a used car, and it can't be used in conjunction with any other offer. Let's review the pricing of a used car at a dealership. Here's how it goes:

You trade in your car and get $2,500 towards the purchase of a new vehicle, and after a couple of days, your trade in will be on the lot, all cleaned up, selling for $7,800. Do you think the dealership can afford to take $1,959 off the price of that car? Of course they can.

They made you a ridiculously low trade-in offer so they could make a nice profit on the vehicle. They know that the average new car buyer isn't interested in taking the time, or going through the hassle, of selling their car in a private party sale, so they quite often get a nice used car at a very low purchase price.

Don't get me wrong, profit isn't a bad thing, but you just need to know what's going on "behind the curtain" so you're up to speed with respect to what the "wizard" is offering.

So, the "check" isn't really anything to get excited about with promotional giveaways like this. Besides, there's probably a limit on how you can use that voucher. It's most likely limited to a selected portion of their used car inventory - the overpriced cars on their lot that aren't moving.

To find out, you need to slog through the entire letter and get a magnifying glass for all of the fine print. Or, you need to visit the dealer for details. I didn't bother to do either. Remember? My philosophy is toss it.

And, don't forget, the wizard's voucher isn't valid in conjunction with any other offer. So, don't try to negotiate a purchase price on a used car and then whip out your voucher and expect to take another $1,959 off of what they just offered as an agreeable sales price.

So, these type of promotional giveaways are designed to be deceptive in many regards, and that's why I refer to them as a scam. You might consider this as just another way of doing business. Well, that's not the way I would treat my customers. At least that's not the way I'd treat customers that I'd like to have doing business with me for the life of my business.

Despite all of the questionable and objectionable aspects of such promotional giveaways, there is one thing that we all need to understand - they work! That's why they're used. Our job as individuals focused on frugal living is to avoid the scams, so part of our defensive measures must include being aware of what's going on out there and keeping our guard up.

Remember rule #3 of the money game - how to make money. Some people work for it, others steal it, and still others run promotional giveaways in an attempt to get some of yours. While we're at it, let's not forget to keep in mind rule #10 of the money game - protect your money. In the face of promotional giveaways, the best approach is to toss them in the trash, never give them another thought, and leave that hard-earned cash in your pocket.

If you're interested in buying a used car, your best bet is to seek out private party sales. I promise you, you'll have no promotional giveaways to contend with.

Done with Promotional Giveaways, back to Avoid Money Making Scams

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.