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When Is A Prize Not A Prize?


  07:53:45 pm, by Nimble   , 545 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People

When Is A Prize Not A Prize?

About a week back, I got a phone call that I had won a prize in the Jysk draw: a free meal for up to five couples at the China Rose. That part sounded great, but my alarm bells went off a little when they talked about having a fire safety presentation at the end. "Are they part of some public awareness campaign?", thought I.

Yet my Internet searches brought up nothing when I tried to figure it out. No recent campaigns or the like.

I had already decided not to go, when the 'gift certificate' came in the mail.

The back of the gift certificate seems all fresh and fun, but there's always something to worry about, and for me, that was this sentence fragment:

...there is nothing for sale at the dinner and absolutely no obligation.

The three words that should strike fear into the heart of just about everybody when they receive anything via mail, e-mail, fax or telephone call.

absolutely no obligation

By and large, that means no legal obligation. Just like taking a company up on a free timeshare vacation, you ought to be prepared for the sell. The soft sell, if they're feeling nice, then the hard sell should you hesitate. I cringe to think of what fire-related horror stories would come whirling at us in the latter stages.

Still, all that alone isn't enough to seal the coffin on things. I had, after all, been told I won the dinner as a prize; I wasn't simply taking advantage of someone's free offer on my own volition, so I would have the moral high ground.

(NOTE: Tone: devil's advocate. I still would not have contemplated going.)

So I see on the certificate that these folks represent MasterGuard, a company that makes smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. (It's a bit laughable at this point, as we had just bought ourselves a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm.) There's a list of products there, but how much do they cost?

If they're reasonable, then there is less reason to doubt the veracity of the dinner offer, since they aren't getting a whole lot out of it, just spreading the word.

My initial guess, though, was that the price was likely to be high.

Searching for their products and finding out price, there were only a few spots I managed to see posted prices. One was on eBay, showing what they were selling it for ($130) and what the retail price was (a penny shy of $500!) $500 smoke alarms? Say what?

Then I found an article which I would consider the smoking gun. Thank you very much for this investigative piece, David Schechter:

(WCCO) Who would buy something and pay almost 20 times too much for it? Lots of people, it turns out.

A good smoke detector costs $20, but a Minnesota company is selling smoke detectors for $350 a piece.

You won't find MasterGuard smoke detectors in stores. Instead, potential customers are invited to a free meal and safety presentation.


I dialled them up, and thankfully (since it cuts short opportunities for 'the sell') they were not there. I left a congenial-enough message bowing out of the meal and that, so far, seems to be that.

Phew. Don't get caught with your pants down, kids :)

1 comment

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12/14/09 @ 22:56