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The auto business is in bad shape, but we really don’t think this promotion is going to help. At least not if you read the fine print of this actual “contest” mailer received earlier this year from a Texoma area dealer. To be honest, FOB spotted the $5k cash offer on the front and became excited. But we were most attracted to the swell 42-inch plasma HDTV. Who can’t use another flat screen? We proceeded to read the details. It seems that all FOB must do is head out to the dealership with our bona fide “winning number,” and pick up the prize(s). FOB borrowed a truck and headed west—then we came across the itsybitsy disclaimer at the bottom. (In the car advertising business they call it “mouse type.”) The odds of winning reveal FOB has only a 1-in-100,000 chance to win a cool prize. More encouraging was the claim that we had a 99,997-in-100,000 chance to win $2. Not even FOB will drive 45 minutes to get $2—not with the price of gas what it is. Wait—how about those cars for “as little as$49 down and as low as $129 per month?” FOB is getting excited again. What’s this—more mouse type? According to the disclaimer: there is at least one car available for the advertised down and monthly payment—a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. Based on our calculation of 60 monthly payments at the 9% APR quoted (plus tax & title) the Cavalier would cost FOB about $5,500. A bargain? Kelly’s Blue Book estimates the vehicle would be worth just $4,339 cash at full dealer retail, or as little as $2,874 as a trade-in. The figures do not account for interest.

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