Bill Bradford: Is it okay to cheat?Published 8:01pm Thursday, September 30, 2010
My purchases of gasoline for our automobiles are an ongoing challenge to look out for the stations which are advertising the lowest price for unleaded regular. When a credit card company offered a 5-percent discount on gasoline purchases, I applied for that card and used it.
That gave me a 12-cent to 14- cent discount on each gallon purchased. When that company discontinued its promotional discount I canceled that card and cut it up into the waste basket. There is a gasoline vendor in Niles who has for several months advertised very competitive prices and in addition posted a discounted price 5 percent lower than the posted competitive usual price. I wondered whether this was for real or if it was merely a ruse. When I drove in and asked the on-duty clerk how to qualify for the discounted price, I was told I would need to use a credit card issued in the name of that brand of gasoline. The clerk further explained that each month when I received my statement from the credit card company there would be on that statement a notation of the 5-percent discount on my purchases. When asking how to qualify for that particular credit card, I was directed to a stack of applications conveniently available on the front of the counter.
When I reached home and read the credit card application carefully, I noted that the discount which would be given was only 1 1/2 — not the 5 percent I expected. In the text of the instructions of the application there was a toll-free number to call if there were any questions.
When I phoned that number and explained my dilemma, the answering agent explained that this application was for the wrong card. She directed me to the Web site where I would find an online application. I applied as directed and in a few days my new card arrived in the mail.
When gasoline hit a temporary low in price, I took several empty five-gallon containers and went over to the gasoline station to test whether the new credit card really did deliver that 5-percent discount. Sure enough, at the end of the billing period I received the statement showing a real 5-percent discount on my gasoline purchase. But it would not have happened if I had not applied for and received a card different from that recommended by the clerk at the station. The station operator appears to be engaging in the old marketing game of “bait and switch.”
Because I chartered a small corporation, I receive an additional bonus of spam and junk mail. Last week I received an invoice for $489 on letterhead from a company listed as Yellow Business Pages. That invoice was very professionally done with company logo, toll-free number to call and an address in Sumas, Wash.
The address directed the invoice to our accounts payable department. When I phoned the toll-free number I received the recorded response, “There is no one available to answer your call. Please leave a message.” We have never had any dealings or account with any Yellow Pages company. A friend in another local business said, “Oh yeah. I get one of those every year. Just throw it in the wastebasket.”
Is it just those in politics we may suspect of deception?