There are many jokes about the integrity of used car sales people. In fact, I think car sales people in general, take a lot of abuse with regard to their sales practices, this despite that fact that some of the worst abuses actually occur in the financing department. See the article here: Avoiding Car Dealer Fraud, for more information in this regard.
But, car sales are not the only abusive, manipulative sale organizations. Take, for instance, the check I received in the mail yesterday.
Now, who doesn’t like receiving an unexpected check in the mail, even if it is only for $8.25 ? Looks great doesn’t it, until you read why you received the check.
It appears that Great Fun – fun for whom I wonder – has been contracted by Budget – and here I am assuming the car rental company, why is it always the automotive industry – to provide a money back program to customers / prospective customers.
Hmm, I thought. How can I be getting money back when I haven’t spent anyway ? Well, upon further reading of the terms in the not-so-fine print on the back of the check, it turns out they are giving me $8.25 back in advance of my giving them $13.99, every month, for 12 months, at which point it becomes $14.99 per month, or whatever the (higher) current fee happens to be at the time.
Now, by my trusty calculator calculations, $13.99 * 12 = $167.88. Oh, I’m forgetting, my “money back” check is a whopping $8.25 so my discounted price is $159.63. OK, maybe I didn’t ask for this program but perhaps it has some value to let me see what I get for my unrequested annual subscription fee of $159.63.
Well, it turns out I can get up to 2% of purchases up to $5,000 per year. So, 2% of $5,000 is $100. OK, if I spend $5,000 on my credit card(s) my Great Fun with Budget program has now only cost me…lets see…$159.63 – $100 = $59.63. Apart from paying Great Fun $159.63 per year and making $5,000 worth of credit purchases, what else do I have to do to get my $100 back ?
Oh, it seems I have to provide Great Fun with copies of my credit card statements. Now I don’t know about you, but the fact that they sent me this check unsolicited tells me they already know more about me than I am comfortable with, and they’re not afraid to use that information to try and con me into signing up for an account of dubious value.
Of course, there never is a free lunch. While it may be legal for companies to send enticements like this, clearly designed to get people to cash the check without knowing that they are committing to purchase services they neither need nor probably want, it strikes me as somewhat immoral.
The moral of my little story is really quite simple. DO NOT CASH CHECKS that arrive in your mail if you are not absolutely certain why you received it and that, indeed, you expected the check to arrive because you initiated the transaction.
By my calculation, participation in this program would cost me a minimum $60 per year. Not participating in it will save me $60 per year. I’m already better off without it, and so would you be too.
Oh, and as a last action item, I will be writing to Avis Budget informing them that I will never again rent a vehicle from either of those companies or their affiliates because they felt they had the right to sell my credit card information to Great Fun. If you plan on doing the same, here is the address:
Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC
6 Sylvan Way
Parsippany, NJ 07054 U.S.