Resident learns to 'always read the fine print' in giveaways

Registering to win a free truck nearly cost Deb Sanders $3,000. The Craig resident said no to the sales pitch that followed prize entry, but she still is spreading the lesson she learned: "Always read the fine print."

Days after Sanders put her name into a box at the Centennial Mall, hoping to win a truck or $25,000 in cash, she received a phone call.

She was told she'd won a "predrawing," which made her eligible for a free vacation and local store coupons worth $1,000.

"They said 'All that we ask is that you give us consumer input on a new product. It'll take about 30 minutes,'" Sanders said.

She said yes and was promptly treated to a three-hour demonstration of a Filter Queen vacuum cleaner.

"It was three hours of filthy mouthed, high-pressure sales," Sanders said. "Then he left a flier good for two nights at Holiday Inn. It's a scam cause you didn't win any vacation, it's just two nights at some hotel."

The next day, her daughter -- who also entered the drawing -- was contacted.

The ploy isn't quite a scam. Using a prize giveaway to generate a client list is permissible under Colorado law.

What may be questionable, a spokeswoman from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office said, is pulling the prize entry in advance of the drawing to use the information. It is nearly impossible to track whether that entry actually was returned to the prize drawing box or whether company claims are true when they state that people "are not required to view any sales demonstration or to purchase anything."

"If people knew what the organization was doing with the information they were giving, the public would probably not be so willing to participate in these drawings," said Dana Williams, with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

The entry form for the drawing spells out exactly what registrants are signing up for, and it's more than a prize.

On this particular form, people are advised that by signing, they are agreeing to be contacted by phone about this and other promotions whether they're on the no-call list.

Sanders is on the no-call list.

The fine print also states that the actual grand prize is a new motor vehicle selected by the sponsor -- it's not even necessarily the vehicle that's on display.

The contest sponsor -- Quality Air Systems -- is based in Grand Junction, and no one affiliated with the company returned phone calls.

Sanders said that the visit wasn't what she bargained for, but she was impressed with the Filter Queen. Even though the salesman told her that someone already had paid $4,000 for the cleaning system and was offering it to her for $2,800, she declined and has found the same system, brand new on eBay, for $750.

"I did my research," she said. "I'm just protecting my neighbors. We're a little town."

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