St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 14, 2013 – For the second time in less than a year, consumers say they are receiving questionable poker scratch-off cards from a company marketing cleaning equipment, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
The new company is Arropur of St. Peters, Mo., a distributor of Filtropur air filtration and cleaning equipment. Three-month-old Arropur is co-owned by Bridget Ohmes, a St. Charles City councilwoman, and Fred Bruno.
Ohmes said the cards are part of a nationwide advertising effort by product distributors to generate sales leads. “We’re just trying to get our name out; there is no pressure to buy,” she said. Recipients who contact the company about their prizes usually are asked to view a display or demonstration of Filtropur cleaning devices. They also can come to Arropur’s office to pick up their prizes.
Some of the card recipients have described the scratch-off game as a ripoff or misleading.
“I don’t want any part of this,” one recipient said. “I really don’t think it’s right.”
The cards have been delivered as newspaper inserts in recent weeks. Dubbed “Play a Hand of Poker,” they tout prizes ranging from $10,000 to a Kindle Fire to an MP3 player.
The consumers who spoke to BBB said Arropur told them they had won either a digital camera (with a reported retail value $40.95) or an MP3 player (with a reported value of $59.95). Several said the company offered to substitute a $40 gasoline card for their prize.
Several consumers who received the gasoline cards said the list of terms and conditions printed on the cards were so restrictive that it made them difficult to use.
Some recipients said that the scratch-off cards are misleading because the information on the backs of the cards makes it appear that they have won either $10,000 or $1,000 cash prizes. They say their confusion comes from the fact that there are six winning hands shown and six possible prizes listed to the immediate right of each hand. They said the way the game is depicted made it appear that a winning hand showing four aces corresponded to the first prize on the list ($10,000). A hand of two kings and three queens, the sixth possible poker hand on the list, appears to correspond to the sixth prize on the list ($1,000).
Ohmes pointed to a note at the bottom of the card that said the “Order of winning hands does not match order of prizes.” “You really have to read the whole sheet,” she said. Ohmes said her company has heard from some consumers who saw the card as misleading.
Several of those recipients who opted for the gasoline cards said they had expected to be able to use the card to purchase $40 in gas. After reading the restrictions, some said they likely would throw the cards away.
“I tore it up,” one recipient said of the gasoline card. She called it “a waste of my money and time.”
Another called the gasoline card rules “a pain in the you-know-what.”
The so-called “Convert Gas to Cash” cards are products of International Rebates of Florida. International Rebates has a D+ rating with the BBB on an A+ to F scale. The company has numerous complaints from consumers who said that even after following all the rules, they did not receive their refunds for months or did not receive them at all.
“Never received gas rebate voucher!” one BBB complainant said of International Rebates.
“This company will not answer the phone or return calls,” said another complainant.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that companies that use contests and games to generate sales leads must be extremely careful to make sure that there is nothing deceptive in their marketing materials. “Any advertising that has the capacity to mislead the public is not good advertising,” she said.
In February, BBB issued an alert involving Good Clean Living, a sales company in Maryland Heights, over similar scratch-off poker cards.
BBB offers the following tips to consumers receiving scratch-off game cards or similar marketing materials:
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, email@example.com, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.