Sometimes, you really can't win for losing

CONSUMING INTERESTS

November 16, 2008|By DAN THANH DANG

Winning isn't everything. And sometimes, winning can feel far worse than losing.

At first, Patricia Wynn was overjoyed when she found out her online entry won 102.7 Jack FM's Ultimate Superbowl Contest early this year. The prize from the radio station included food for 20 during the big game, a gold bracelet and gift certificates that included $2,000 from Carpet Liquidators and $4,000 from Sunrise Building & Remodeling Inc. in Bel Air.

"I was just so happy because I've been wanting to remodel my house for a long time and just didn't have the money," said Wynn, a 48-year-old mother of two daughters in Elkridge. Wynn works full time as a barber and part time at three catering and bartending jobs to make ends meet.

"So I set up an appointment with Sunrise, and an employee came out and took measurements of my two bathrooms and the backsplash in my kitchen. He told me what kind of supplies I needed and how much I should order."

Fixing to redo the tile floor in both bathrooms, replace a tub surround and retile the backsplash in the kitchen, Wynn said she used the $2,000 from Carpet Liquidators to order tile and grouting supplies. In February, Wynn and her daughters began doing the demolition work in the kitchen and bathrooms on their own to save money. They finished the prep work quickly and waited for Sunrise to come finish the job, Wynn said.

The Wynns waited. And waited.

"They kept saying they would show up and then they wouldn't," Wynn said. "Finally, I got disgusted and I tried to contact the owner of the company, Jason Tart. I sent him a certified letter and I received no response. I contacted the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general's office. They couldn't resolve it either.

"I also tried calling Jack FM, and they tried to call Sunrise, but the radio station said they weren't responsible for Sunrise either," Wynn said. "An attorney from Sunrise finally called me out of the blue. He said Sunrise was not responsible because a former employee made a deal he shouldn't have, but he also said they wanted to work something out. But still, I've heard nothing. Meanwhile, my bathrooms are torn up and my kitchen isn't done. Money's kind of tight. I almost wish that I never won the contest."

While no one might want to take responsibility, someone is accountable for this pitiful pickle.

Rebecca Bowman, head of Howard County's Office of Consumer Affairs, agreed.

"In this instance, you could argue there's unfair deceptive trade practice involved," Bowman said. "You can't misrepresent material information. If you're going to win a gift certificate advertised worth $4,000, you should get a gift certificate worth $4,000.

"I don't think anyone is completely off the hook here," Bowman said. "Whether it was a rogue employee or not is of no concern to the winner. ... When someone is running a contest that offers you a prize, then you have a right to be able to get that prize."

Why this wasn't worked out before Wynn felt it necessary to contact me is beyond comprehension. Even more mind-boggling is that even though no one wanted to admit fault, all sides agreed that she deserved her prize.

Tart, the owner of Sunrise, sent me to his attorney, William Hickey.

Hickey again took pains to explain that Sunrise was not obligated to uphold a sham agreement that a rogue former employee entered into with Jack FM. But instead of putting Wynn through Sunrise's inner turmoil, "Sunrise has been willing to entertain [a] gratuitous offer of services to satisfy Mrs. Wynn's concerns," Hickey said. "To preserve the company's good name and reputation, we're willing to do this."

Jack FM also expressed regret that Wynn got jacked around.

Hal Martin, senior marketing director, said Jack FM has never had a problem before with prizes. Typically, prize providers sign an agreement with the radio station to provide goods or services in a promotion, he said. Once the prize is awarded, recipients get their goodies without a hitch.

"I can tell you we would never put a promotion on the air without authorization by the company," Martin said. "But regardless of who is responsible, Mrs. Wynn won the prize and she deserves the prize. We will make certain that she gets that prize."

Sunrise, according to the agreement it made with Jack FM, has until the end of the year to fulfill its prize obligation, he added.

"If that doesn't occur, we will take steps to make sure Mrs. Wynn is satisfied," Martin said.

Hickey did this one better by calling Wynn on Thursday to work out the details on timing.

"The job will take about a week to do," Hickey said. "We hope to complete the job before the end of the year."

With that spirit of agreement, perhaps Wynn will get to enjoy a remodeled home by the December holidays and will finally get to feel like a winner.

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