Complaints about Vt. car dealer's ad campaign - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Complaints about Vt. car dealer's ad campaign

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Merton Huntley loves tinkering with his truck.

"I try to work on it as much as possible myself," he said. "It's too expensive to get it in a garage."

Last week, he thought his luck took a turn when he received this mailer from Poulin Auto Sales in South Burlington. The promotion promised one of seven extravagant prizes since Huntley's numbers matched the combination box.

"Here it is. This is what you possibly could have won right here. But you walk away with none of those things," Huntley said.

When Huntley got to the dealership, he and about 20 others were greeted with a sales pitch, not a new car, cruise, cash or electronics. But the salesman didn't let him leave empty-handed.

"He said, oh, here's what you won. And he gave me a card for Panera," Huntley said. "I thought I'd at least get one of the cheapest ones instead of the five dollars."

"I think there's certainly some opportunity for interpretation," said Jason Duquette-Hoffman, who runs the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program. "I mean do you consider grand prize one of the seven?"

Duquette-Hoffman says his office has received multiple complaints about the Poulin promotion.

"Whenever consumers send us in an advertisement like this, we take them seriously. We review them for compliance," he said.

Vermont's contest laws call for the advertiser to accurately represent the odds, the number of winners or the value of the prizes. Advertisers cannot require an entry fee or use misleading language.

"Look carefully at the terms of the offers. Usually, as they say, the devil is in the details," Duquette-Hoffman said.

Reporter Jennifer Reading: Did you read the fine print?

Merton Huntley: Yeah, I just finished reading the fine print. I was checking it out and there's no bagels on there.

The fine print does display the odds, but it also says: If your numbers match, you have won one of the prizes shown on this mailer. A Panera gift card isn't on there. So is it a clever car ad or a sneaky scam? For legal reasons, Consumer Assistance couldn't tell if it's pursuing legal action, but did say the number of complaints tend to drive action.

Even WCAX employees got the flyer. Ironically our scratch-off combination matched the winning numbers on three other flyers. We reached out to Poulin Auto Sales. The dealership refused to answer our questions.

"I have no interest in buying a vehicle off them. If they're going to try to scam me in that little way, then what else are they going to do? So, no, I wouldn't go back, no," Huntley said.

Consumers say a giveaway gunning for new customers ends up backfiring in a big way.

Click here for the Consumer Assistance Program.

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