Congratulations, You’ve Won (NOTHING) at Car Dealer

Have you ever noticed the way some car dealers advertise to get you into the showroom? They often promote a variety of sweepstakes with terrific prizes.

One such car dealer in North Carolina recently ran a “$25,000 Monte Carlo Game.” They sent out lottery-like tickets inviting recipients to scratch off the boxes and if they got a match, they would win between $100 and $25,000.

Buick Scratch Off

A consumer who got the mailing scratched off the various boxes as shown above, and the second row matched with three 7’s on both sides. It looked like he won $5,000, so he called the dealer and was told to come right down to the showroom. When he got there, there were a whole lot of other people huddled around a prize table that had been set up. The consumer was then told that he had to check the confirmation code on the board to see if it matched, and of course, it did not. He was then given the bad news that he did not win the $5,000. And they pointed to a small asterisked disclosure that said as much:

*MOUSE PRINT:

asterisk

Our consumer rightly felt that he had been scammed and complained to the state Attoney General and the consumer reporter at the local TV station. WRAL ran a story about the promotion. They spoke to a lawyer representing the car dealer who asserted that the mailing was not misleading, but could have been misunderstood by recipients.

Right now, the North Carolina Attorney General is investigating seven dealerships in the area who are promising everything from cash to new cars.

Hotels.com Rewards Readers of Fine Print

  In a twist, an Internet company is rewarding TV viewers who take the time to read the fine print in one of its commercials.

Last month, Hotels.com decided it has high time that TV viewers stopped fast forwarding their DVRs through their commercials. So it created a sweepstakes that required people to pause the recorded program so they could read the rules of the contest including how to enter.

*MOUSE PRINT:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2NbtHAzNnU

The commercial only ran for a week. During that time, how many people do you think paused the commercial and actually entered the sweepstakes for a free trip?

350.

McDonald’s Pay with Lovin’ Promotion

  McDonald’s unveiled a new promotion at the Super Bowl whereby random customers entering each of their restaurants will be selected to have their meal on the house if they demonstrate a bit of “lovin'” such as by hugging their kids, calling their mother to say I love you, doing a dance, etc.

McDonald's

The official rules state exactly how the promotion works. Each day at the predetermined time, the first customer to enter through a designated door, will be an unofficial winner. After they place their order, they will be approached by a manager who will tell them their order is free if they perform a particular lovin’ act.

As with any sweepstakes where money might change hands, the first rule is always “no purchase necessary.” This is because most sweepstakes are played in the context of a purchase (such getting a Monopoly game piece affixed to drink cups at McDonald’s). So game promoters are required to tell customers how to play the game free such as just by asking for a game piece, or by submitting a request for one by mail.

Paying a price for the chance of a prize is the definition of a lottery, which only the state and charitable organizations are allowed to operate. So how does McDonald’s present the “no purchase necessary” entry rules for this promotion?

*MOUSE PRINT:

The unofficial winner will be notified by the Lovin’ Lead that they are an unofficial winner after placing an order at the counter [emphasis added] or if the unofficial winner begins to leave the restaurant without placing an order at the counter. Participants do not need to make a McDonald’s purchase of any kind to be deemed an unofficial or official winner.

That is certainly a little bit awkward for the person not intending to make a purchase. So to play without paying, you have to go up to the counter, and loiter a little, or place a really big order (since it will be free if you win) but then tell the cashier you were just kidding, and begin to walk out?

From a practical standpoint what non-purchaser is going to go through this ridiculous charade for a chance at a prize? No, not even MrConsumer.

This is a fun and imaginative promotion. And it certainly is understandable why they don’t want to tell a customer when they first walk in that they have won for fear the customer will place an order for dozens of free meals. But McDonald’s really should be offering a more practical no purchase necessary method for playing the game.

Oh, incidentally, just by walking into the store, you have pre-agreed to resolve any disputes by arbitration. What, you didn’t go online before ordering your Big Mac to learn this? And some would (rightfully) say that this part of the rules is more troublesome and surprising than the no purchase necessary part.