St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 19, 2013 - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises that consumers who respond to a $10,000 “Poker Jackpot” card will be asked to listen to an in-home sales pitch for cleaning equipment.
An example of a card distributed in newspapers by Good Clean Living LLC.
The scratch-off cards are being distributed in St. Louis area newspapers by Good Clean Living LLC, a sales company based in Maryland Heights. The cards tout prizes ranging from a $16 kitchen serving set to $10,000 cash. Consumers in other states have called similar cards misleading, deceptive and predatory.
Joseph Herrick, owner of Good Clean Living, is the former manager of a similar company in Eden Prairie, Minn. The Minnesota BBB revoked the accreditation of that company, Environmental Systems Inc., in September 2012, after homeowners raised concerns over poker scratch-off cards distributed in the Minneapolis area. Environmental Systems has a “D” rating with the BBB.
Herrick calls the card a “marketing tool” to generate sales leads for “medical-grade air filtration products.” He said Good Clean Living is a distributor for Health-Mor, which sells FilterQueen brand vacuums and air cleaners.
St. Louis area homeowners who called the Good Clean Living office said they were told that a salesperson from the company would bring a “master key chart” to their home to determine which of six prizes they had won. In return, the homeowners were asked to view an equipment demonstration that could last up to an hour and a half.
Several senior citizens in the St. Louis area called the cards misleading.
“I’m sure there are people who are duped by this sort of thing,” said a woman from Manchester, Mo. “I’ll try the casino instead.”
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the BBB has several concerns with the cards. She said callers to the BBB complained the cards appear to show that they have won the $10,000 top prize when they have not. She also said the requirement that homeowners sit through a product demonstration is in small print at the bottom of the cards. Even though the cards say there is “no obligation required,” homeowners told the BBB that company representatives told them they could get their prizes only if they allowed a salesperson to visit their home.
“Generating good sales leads can be tough,” Corey said, “but using poker scratch-off cards to get salespeople into people’s homes smacks of trickery rather than good, ethical business practices.”
A retiree from Chesterfield, Mo., who received one of the cards called the promotion “a lot of sleight of hand.” He said when he called the phone number on the card he was told that the only way to get his prize was to have a salesperson come to his home. “They probably want to sell me something I really don’t want to buy,” he said.
A woman from Chesterfield, Mo., said she believed she had won the $10,000 top prize until she read the small print on the bottom of the back of the card. When she called the office, she said she was told that she could only get her prize by allowing a sales demonstration at her home. “This has to stop,” she said.
A retiree from Maryland Heights said he, too, thought he had won the $10,000 first prize. After doing some online research, he said he determined that he was the target of a questionable sales pitch.
All four local consumers said their scratch-off cards revealed identical poker hands: four kings and a 7.
The cards received by the St. Louis area consumers are virtually identical to a card received by a consumer in January 2012 in Eden Prairie, Minn. That card was sent by Environmental Systems of Eden Prairie, Herrick’s former employer.
Several other Minnesota complainants contacted the BBB about scratch-off cards distributed by Environmental Systems. They complained that the sales tactics were misleading, the quality of prizes were not as advertised, and the company was using the BBB accreditation logo after its accreditation was revoked.
Herrick told the BBB that the cards are not misleading and that most consumers who complain to the BBB do not read all of the information on the cards carefully. He called those consumers “not the brightest bulbs on the tree.” He said they usually would take only a quick look at a card and “get all irate and make a big deal out of nothing.”
He said the cards are checked closely by state and federal regulators to make sure that they follow all laws. “We want to make sure they are very clear and offer full disclosure,” he said.
He said that homeowners who want to receive their prize without a demonstration can do so, either by driving to the Good Clean Living offices or by contacting the company via mail.
Herrick also said he thought that it was unfair that the accreditation of Environmental Systems was revoked last year. He said the owner of that distributorship is “extremely passionate about treating people the way they should be treated.”
In addition to the “Poker Jackpot” cards, consumers in Southern Illinois have reported getting similar scratch-off cards recently from A-1 Allergy Relief Inc. of Terre Haute, Ind. That company also appears to be using the cards to market cleaning equipment.
The BBB offers the following tips to homeowners solicited for in-home demonstrations:
- If a business uses a prize offer to induce you into a home visit, understand that your odds of winning a top prize are remote. The odds are usually printed on the solicitation.
- Before agreeing to let a salesman into your home, you should understand exactly what is being sold. If you are not interested in the product, you probably should pass on the offer.
- If you do agree to a sales pitch, ask how long it will take and then try to keep the salesperson to that time limit.
- Before letting salespeople into your home, make sure they are legitimate representatives of a real company. Confirm the appointment with the business beforehand. Ask the salesperson for identification before allowing him or her into your home.
- If at any point you feel uncomfortable with a presentation, ask the salesperson to leave. If he or she refuses, call the police.
- Contact the BBB for a Business Review at 314-645-3300 or by going to www.bbb.org.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org