A flyer from a Philadelphia car dealer has duped consumers this week into thinking they’ve won free TVs and tablets, only to go home with gift cards for coupons – and maybe a new car.
The mailer comes with what looks like a “Money Carlo” lottery ticket that, if played, shows recipients have won prizes by matching bars, oranges, or lucky sevens. At first glance, a corresponding prize key appears to show the matched pairs award $25,000 cash, a 70-inch TV, or an iPad Pro.
Alas, there are a lot of asterisks and fine print. And almost no one wins the top prizes, even though all 60,000 tickets mailed by Imports Auto Direct, located at 4300 Torresdale Ave., are, technically, “winners.”
The flyer initially fooled Andrew Golas and his father Bill, both of Philadelphia. Their fake lottery ticket appeared to show a winning match for a flat-screen TV. Ultimately, a confirmation number on their flyer did not correspond with one at the sales event, which was located inside a nondescript white tent in the Philadelphia Mills mall parking lot. No TV.
Instead, Bill Golas walked away with a “$100 gift card” redeemable for coupons at area restaurants.
“If it said, ‘You win a prize, see below,’ then that would be less deceptive,” Andrew Golas said of the mailer. They realize that wouldn’t bring enough people in, Golas said, “so they have to be deceptive to make it look like you’re winning something big.”
Kenny Kosty, who said he worked for a Louisiana-based auto marketing company hired to help run the event, disputed that the mailers were deceptive. He noted that all participants get at least the $100 coupon gift card.
“Everybody thinks it’s a scam. A scam is when we take something from people,” Kosty said Friday. “We’re not taking anything from anybody. We’re actually giving.”
Consumers face long odds in winning the biggest prizes. The odds of getting the flat-screen TV or the iPad are each 1 in 60,000, according to the ad’s fine print. The $25,000 cash prize comes with odds of 1 in 593,775.
Golas, 54, had a funny feeling about the mailer, so he googled the Money Carlo game ahead of time. He found articles about other car dealers using similar marketing tactics. The North Carolina attorney general is investigating at least 10 complaints against seven dealerships over mailers that looked like scratch-off games, WRAL-TV in Raleigh reported in April. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office did not say whether it had received similar complaints.
Anticipating a scam, Golas, a Philadelphia freelance photographer, videotaped his exchange with a salesman. The salesman wrote down his dad’s name, phone number, vehicle year, make, and model, and how many miles the car had. Then he explained that the six straight sevens on the Money Carlo ticket didn’t really mean anything.
Golas is not alone. The Philadelphia Mills mall said it has received an unspecified number of complaints about the car dealer. A spokesperson said the mall leased part of the parking lot to Philly Auto, which owns Imports Auto Direct and is also located on the 4300 block of Torresdale Avenue. The eight-day sales event at the mall ends Saturday.
“Philadelphia Mills takes customer feedback seriously,” spokesperson Caitlyn Luchsinger said. “Philadelphia Mills has reached out to the Philly Auto management and made them aware of the complaints that have been received. We encourage any other customers with complaints to reach out to Philly Auto management as well.”