It’s one of several promotions mailed by car dealerships across North Carolina.
Aaron Parker received a game card and thought maybe he really won.
"I usually, just like everybody else, I just throw this stuff away," he said. "The instructions are match to win."
The ticket says, "If you have a matching pair, you win."
Parkers triple 7s matched and pointed him to a $5,000 prize. So he called the dealership that sent the mailer.
"They ask for your confirmation number, so we give it to them," Parker said. "They say, 'Yeah, you've got a winning ticket. You need to schedule an appointment to come up here and pick up your prize.'"
Parker drove 30 miles from Selma to Doug Henry Buick GMC in Goldsboro.
"They had a big table set up. There was probably eight or 10 folks in there at that time. It was clear that everyone was there for the same reason," he said.
Parker said the reality of the "asterisks" then set in. A salesman pointed to the underlined fine print that reads, "Compare your confirmation code to the prize board."
Parker's code did not match anything.
"At that point, he then asked me what kind of vehicle I drove and if I was interested in a trade-in or anything," Parker said.
Parker’s complaint is one of at least 10, involving seven dealerships, that Attorney General Josh Stein is investigating. Advertisements promise a range of prizes, from gift cards or cash to iPads, televisions, a cruise or a new car.
"Read the fine print because they're always going to put something very big that's attractive to try and pull you in, but then there's some qualification at the bottom," Stein said.
Three complaints to Stein's office involve Fayetteville Auto Mall Kia.
After the attorney general contacted the dealership, Fayetteville Kia issued a check to one customer. Dealership General Manager Leland Fuller told 5 On Your Side the check was for $500 and that "every single person gets a prize."
Fuller said he's "letting" Stein's office investigate "whatever they're investigating."
WRAL's 5 On Your Side also contacted the Doug Henry dealership in Goldsboro about Parker's experience. “We cannot comment on this matter. It's being investigated right now,” attorney Jim Rivenbark said.
On Monday, the day 5 On Your Side aired the story, Parker got a response to his complaint with the Attorney General's Office. Rivenbark wrote, “The mail-out was not misleading but could have been misunderstood.” He added “I have suggested to my client that he not use this program again.”
Parker says he thinks the game ticket was not only misleading, but unethical.
"If the whole game was about the confirmation number, it should have clearly said that, and I don't feel like it does," he said.
Stein said he does not think games should be part of the car buying process.
"If you want to buy a car, do research on what the best car is for you and then find out what dealership is going to give you the best price," Stein said. “Then, go visit that dealership. That's what I recommend."
He also said if he got the Money Carlo Match to Win game ticket in the mail, he would throw it away.
Parker said that was his first inclination. He says, in hindsight, he should have done that. His job involves reviewing insurance contract language, so he felt that, if he was fooled, anyone could be fooled.
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