Be wary of potential gas voucher scams

Bob Ulrich
Posted on March 7, 2009

Don Dominguez saw the red flags. He had sold a number of gas vouchers to tire dealers as part of a traffic building promotion, but now was having second thoughts.

You may know Dominguez, a tire industry veteren and former executive director of the Private Brand Tire Group. He is now a consultant, and decided that Grand Incentives Inc. in Sarasota, Fla., had a good idea with its gas voucher incentive program.

Dominguez bought vouchers from a broker associated with Grand Incentives, then sold them to dealers for a higher price. The dealers, in turn, used them as an incentive to entice customers to buy tires or service.

The hoops through which consumers had to jump to get their vouchers, which included sending in gas receipts, was not uncommon. And the price difference between what Dominguez paid for them and their worth didn't seem outrageous.

When Dominguez received complaints from his customers about Grand Incentives, he stepped in and tried to resolve their problems. In the meantime, dissatisfied with the company's failure to meet its commitments, he switched to another gas voucher provider, Tidewater Marketing Global Consultants. Tidewater also had sold vouchers to Tire Kingdom Inc., among others.

But he became suspicious when the new program offered $500 vouchers for $7. He decided it was a scam, and contacted the Florida Attorney General's Office.

He was given the brush off. So he told his story to St. Petersburg Times reporter Ivan Penn, who wrote a front-page story on the situation in December of last year. In the aftermath, the newspaper was flooded with complaints from consumers about their vouchers.

Since then, the situation has snowballed. Penn kept up the pressure, the Florida attorney general finally got involved, and Tidewater Marketing shut its doors. Dominguez says the dominos haven't stopped falling.

"Any company that deals with a broker or incentive company that offers a gas voucher program that pays the retail customer back in $10 or $25 gift cards on a monthly basis should be suspicious," he says.

As for Dominguez, he has taken responsibility for his part in the fiasco. Prior to the newspaper article, he warned the dealers to whom he sold, and even gave Tire Kingdom a heads-up. Then he offered to pay his customers back; many took him up on the offer. He has cooperated with the authorities as well.

Looking back, Dominguez says he should have been more careful. He has learned an expensive lesson, one he is trying to educate others about before it's too late.

On a related note, Tire Kingdom has posted this "special message" concerning its gas promotion on its Web site, www.tirekingdom.com:

"Tire Kingdom recently engaged in promotion where customers who purchased tires became eligible to participate in a gasoline voucher program from Tidewater Global Marketing and www.gasolineredemption.com. Tire Kingdom paid for its customers to participate in this program. Unfortunately, it now appears that Tidewater Global Marketing may be unable to fulfill its obligations under the program.

"Tire Kingdom prides itself in customer service. Tire Kingdom will implement an alternative program. Tire Kingdom is finalizing the details of this alternative program, and will make them available soon. Please check back on this Web site in the next few days to receive final information on the details and requirements."

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • john

     | about 9 years ago

    please send us a hard copy of the alternative...asap. we are very

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