Monday, July 5, 2010

Taken in by the freebie, a tale from anonymous scambuster

There is a major water scam going on, not just in Windsor but all over Canada and the United States. The targets range from senior citizens to the average homeowner, preferably one who is married since both partners must be present.

It all starts with the phone call:

“Hi is this Mr. X? This is __________ calling and we wanted to inform you that you have won a great prize! When will you be home for someone to give you your complimentary 8 free movie tickets and 2 large pizzas? All you need to do is let us test your water. It will only take between 8 and 15 minutes. Will you and your wife be home at 2:30 today? That’s great to hear. My manager will call you back in a few hours to confirm. Thank you!
The rationalization that goes through your head: Wow, what a deal! 15 minutes to do a simple test and I get 8 movie tickets that normally cost $10.00 each PLUS 2 large pizzas?

You’re still a little unsure so you ask again: “Are you sure it’s free?”

Response: Yes of course. Someone will hand you your free coupons at the arrival at the door and there is no obligation to buy.”

You are now sold!
The salesperson arrives at your house after the confirmation is made that both you and your significant other are home.
They walk in and greet you like you’re long lost friends. The small talk begins of “it’s a beautiful day out!” or perhaps if it’s a lousy day “Oh I just hate this weather, don’t you?”
The briefcase goes onto the counter and you’re ready to rock n’roll!

First, it’s the three glasses setup placed on your kitchen table: one with tap water, one with boiled water (microwaved for 1 minute) and the other with the company’s “special additive” water. Using fancy equipment like the TDS, which measures the amount of Total Dissolved Salts in the water and then the scary Precipitator *cue eerie music* that shows the difference between high and low levels in your water. One at a time, each device is plugged into your wall socket and the salesperson waits for that pivotal moment to see your facial expression go from intrigue to horror. Almost immediately the tap and boiled water start changing colour.

So you ask: “Oh no, what’s that colour mean???” The response: “Well let me just get my briefcase to figure out what is happening to your water sir/ma’am.”

The delay creates fear in the potential consumer as he/she watches the water become like sludge. That’s when you are shown a chart with the list of possible colours that range from problematic to “uh-oh, you better get your water filtered fast before you die!!” The beauty of the test is that when the salesperson puts both glasses into the Precipitator, it will ALWAYS change colour. (You can feel free to research the reason for that result and anything else pertaining to the specifics of water testing) The comparison is shown with the company’s water glass that stays perfect in the original state it was in, when it’s poured into the glass.

Not impressed yet? I bet. The salesperson knows you’re still skeptical and have more questions.

Let’s start with a little small talk before we get into what your water results show, shall we? The company trip to the water treatment plant usually comes up where the back area shocks everyone because they notice it’s filled with used condoms and soiled diapers. The look on the salesperson’s face is one of disgust, and so you can’t help but cringe either and say “I didn’t know that was in our water supply!”

So let’s get to the good part; the results. No? Not quite yet… The test is half way completed by that point and you’re told of more stories that the water you are drinking could be toxic. You may even get lucky enough to actually get a story from the salesperson telling you about how they were drinking bottled water until this wonderful product came out and demonstrated its effectiveness to take away all impurities. It’s such a relief as most people have loved ones that they would never want anything to happen to them.

More often than not, your heart is beating a little faster now, after contemplating whether or not you are putting not only yourself but your entire family in danger! You’re shown a laminated list of just about every single disease possible, from cramps to cancer. Then you are presented with a list of chemicals that are in the water system which you cannot even pronounce, nor can the salesperson, who sheepishly admits he/she is not able to even say half of them either. So now you’re on the same wave length. He’s just your average human being too, not some advanced technical or scientific professional.

Before the salesperson even needs to say anything else, you ask the most important question: “How much does this cost?” Be prepared to be told that every other company with similar systems is at least double or triple the price. This particular company is the only one that offers a “special additive” in the water.

You: “What is that?”

Salesperson response: “Well you know i’m not really sure, (insert a little chuckle of embarrassment) I’ve only been in this job for about a year and so it sounds pretty easy to assume that it’s _______ from the sea.”

You: Ah yes, that makes perfect sense.”

The salesperson is off the hook with mentioning about that obvious answer now, right?

So back to the price of the system which I’ll tell you right now costs pennies…yes, only a mere couple thousand dollars for a filtering system. There is that wonderful down payment option though or monthly payment plan. You are told that “These systems are flying off the shelves pretty much with everyone buying them lately because they are concerned about their family’s health and wellbeing.” The guilt you feel now sets in. If everyone has one, why shouldn’t you protect your family too?

It’s still too expensive and you can’t really justify the extra expense. So that’s when the good part comes. “Oh okay, that’s no problem. I do understand. I just want to let you know that I have to phone my manager and let him/her know that I didn’t make any sales this time.” The forlorn look will either make you want to reconsider or to allow the call to happen. Fumbling with the phone, the salesperson has a Eureka moment! “Hold on a second, let me call my manager and see what I can do for you.” It just happens to slip out that their manager is willing to give you a few hundred dollars off but this is only a limited time because you agreed to see the demonstration.

At this time, you either wonder to yourself how they were able to give that information without making the phone call or perhaps they’ve pulled this rabbit out of the hat trick before.

You’re not sold on the product due to its high cost, you’re a little freaked out by this overload of information and all you want now is your damn free gifts and for this person to be on their way!

So you ask about the gifts for allowing this water testing to be done. It was made clear that regardless if you purchase a system, you get 8 free tickets and 2 large pizzas. So you are handed a coloured 4-page brochure with information. As the salesperson is getting ready to leave, you are informed that “You MUST follow the instructions to a T.” If the salesperson thinks you’re hard of hearing, perhaps he/she may tell you again and once more just for good measure.

Now you are left with a copy of the Pizza and Movie Rebate Offer to sift through.

There are the “Terms and Conditions” with 14 (yep 14 steps which will seriously make your eyes buggy!) steps to follow, plus a survey that must be mailed in. The kicker, you have to send a copy of your ID showing date of birth to some unknown company in the United States! “Red flag, red flag!!” Can you say possible identity theft??

So it looks like you wasted a half hour of your time if not more (15 minutes might be for the actual demo itself, but not the scare tactics and wealth of misinformation) you’re still hungry because the pizza deal fell through and you can’t even find 8 people to join you at the movies.

In the end, a valuable lesson learned. There are no free lunches in this world, or in this case, pizzas.

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