This is a follow-up on my last column which exposed a direct mail scam by a local car dealer. After the General Manager of this dealership mailed this letter out a short time ago, some recipients sent me copies. They either recognized that it was phony or they wanted my opinion. I did some research which proved that the claims this General Manager was making were false and discussed this in my last column.
After I wrote my last column, a customer sent me another letter he received from a different General Manager of a different car dealership which was the exact same letter as the first dealership mailed out. For clarification, I will repeat the text of both, identical letters below:
You are receiving this letter because I have some very timely and important information about your vehicle. As General Manager of [Name of Dealership], I am making a personal appeal to purchase your vehicle. Because of a unique wholesale market condition, I have allocated additional funds and I am now in the position of being able to offer you over book value for your vehicle—whether you trade it in or I purchase it outright. My dilemma simply means that right now your vehicle is worth more than it was last month. Here’s why:
Normally, we purchase over 200 pre-owned vehicles per month at nationally recognized automotive auctions. Unfortunately, flood damaged Katrina vehicles (see enclosed article) are currently showing up at these auctions. I simply will not allow my auction buyers to risk our reputation by inadvertently purchasing one of these units and reselling it to one of our customers. Therefore, I have put a moratorium on any auction purchases until I am confident flood damaged vehicles are properly disclosed to our wholesale buyers.
This is a straight forward, genuine appeal to purchase your vehicle. I need local vehicles with local histories—vehicles with a pedigree so to speak. As always, [Name of Dealership] will pay off your trade balance as part of any final retail transaction. My purchase offer is in addition to all [Name of make of car] incentives, should you decide to maximize your market timing. But hurry, my appraisers have from now until the close of business, 6:00PM [Date] to extend thee purchase offers. Call me at [Dealership number] to receive a no obligation, written trade or purchase estimate.
[Signature of General Manager]
As I said this exact letter was mailed out by two dealerships within 10 miles of each other. One was a Ford dealership and one was a Toyota dealership. One is owned by a public corporation and one is owned by a local person. There is no affiliation between the two. Obviously this direct mail scam is being sold to car dealers by some unscrupulous marketing company. Neither of these dealerships sells even close to 200 used cars a month and there would be no reason in the world for them to purchase “over 200 pre-owned vehicles per month at nationally recognized automotive auctions”. There are very likely lots of other dealerships sending out this same letter. If you receive the letter above, throw it in the trash. It is absolutely and shamelessly false.
Letters of this nature are peddled to dealers with promises of how many “suckers” they will bring into the dealers’ showrooms. Oftentimes they have a guarantee of a certain minimum percentage…3% would be a very effective mailer. The direct mail marketing company would guarantee that if the 10,000 mailers didn’t bring in at least 300 potential victims, they would run another promotion free. Dealers usually count on selling about one out of every five prospects, which means that this mailer could result in about 60 sales resulting from this lie.
You may ask how car dealers get away with something like this. The answer is that direct mail usually falls beneath the “radar” of the regulators. When you consider all of the deceptive advertising out there, the regulators have a hard enough time keeping the TV, radio, and newspaper advertising clean, advertising that is very visible to all. Only the unfortunate addressees usually see the direct mail advertising. My advice to you is to ignore all direct mail advertising unless you have personal knowledge of the integrity of the company.