After being told they won a toy fire truck, some McFarland residents said all they got was a presentation about fire safety.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, Fire Safety Technologies, a Dubuque-based company, set up a booth at the McFarland Family Festival. Participants could fill out a card to enter a drawing for a pedal-powered fire truck for children. There was a box at the bottom of each card that could be checked to receive a safety kit with an informational appointment.
Fire Safety Technologies owner Tom Spear said on the 30th of each month, a winner is picked for the fire truck and the truck is mailed to the winner.
“We’ve been doing that the same way for two years,” he said.
The company attends multiple community festivals with the truck.
Amber Boldt said she received a phone call Monday after the festival from Fire Safety Technologies stating her family had won the truck and a safety kit. The vendor wanted to schedule an appointment for delivery.
She spoke with an employee twice the day before her appointment to confirm she had won. Prior to her appointment, she received another phone call from a Tomah number with Fire Safety Technologies again saying she had won a safety kit.
She explained she was the winner of the fire truck, so they said they would send over the fire truck and two safety kits.
By her Tuesday evening appointment, she said she knew there would be some type of sales pitch.
“The lady shows up with a duffel bag and the safety kit, but there was no pedal fire truck,” Boldt said.
When she asked about the fire truck, the woman called her boss. She returned saying that the drawing was actually not until the end of the month.
She informed the woman she was not interested in the products at that point because it was false advertisement.
Boldt wanted to make other community members aware in case they also had appointments with the vendor and took to social media to voice her concerns. She found other residents had also been told they won a truck or safety kits.
“I don’t want someone to sit through this hour-long presentation thinking they had won a fire truck,” she said.
Boldt filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau the next night. She received a confirmation email Sept. 24 and is waiting to hear from Fire Safety Technologies.
“That’s not fair to people,” she said. “It’s a misrepresentation of what you’re doing in your company.”
As a telemarketer for seven years, Boldt advises that if a company asks to set up an appointment, ask what the appointment involves. If the company shies away that information, it could be a scam.
She hopes to attend the McFarland Family Festival feedback session Thursday, Oct. 17, to bring up the issue, but she does not blame the festival for the vendor’s actions.
Liz Reiser-Loeber also received a call saying she had won the truck and was told she needed to set an appointment for a 30-minute fire safety presentation and to take a photo with the truck for the vendor’s website.
After being in a house fire, she and her husband are fire conscious and take preventative measures in their household.
“I kind of figured it was a scam when this kid showed up,” she said.
She said the information and videos the employee shared were good, but they were outdated.
The employee wanted to sell an opti-cam, photo electric fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and water detectors for moisture. In total, the products cost $2,000. She said similar, more up-to-date products can be found for cheaper.
“I actually just continued to go about my day, and he was there three or four hours,” she said.
She even offered him lunch.
At the end of his stay, she was asked to speak with the manager about the appointment. She restated that under the costs and pretenses, she was not interested in purchasing the vendor’s products.
“It is valuable information, and it is unfortunate that they are being deceptive in how they’re presenting it,” she said.
McFarland Family Festival organizer Carolyn Clow said Fire Safety Technologies originally emailed the festival asking to have a booth.
“At the time we were not aware that they were going to be collecting cards for those types of purposes … and we will definitely be more careful in the future,” Clow said.
When organizers found out about the situation after the festival, they contacted the vendor and asked them to stop, but the information was given lawfully by customers.
In the future, she said this is the first time the festival had a situation like this and organizers will take a closer look at vendors to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.