Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Shady Golfing For Charity
The Better Business Bureau is taking aim at a game that is popular on golf courses across the country -- a contest that consumer experts believe has blurred the line between sport and charity. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is "On The Case."
(WSVN) -- For golfers - it's one thing to "play" the course.
It's another thing for golfers to "be played" on the course.
And that's just what one consumer expert says has been happening here in South Florida.
Brodie White is the president of the Better Business Bureau and he is also a golfer. "Nobody ever questioned this whole - whole set up. I certainly didn't and I do this for a living," he says.
White is "teed off" at a popular hole-in-one contest, which he thinks has mislead golfers into thinking they were making charitable donations.
From tables set up on golf courses... Operators sell five and ten dollar tickets for a chance to make a hole in one.
If a golfer makes the shot - that person can compete in a national contest for a million dollars.
"And I always thought this was a contest put on by the Diabetes Research Institute," says White.
"Why did you think that?" asks Carmel.
"Because that's what it said on the guy's little table there - Diabetes Research Institute."
But it turns out this golf course contest is not a charitable fundraiser.
It's a franchise business based in Plantation, which sells franchises for 27 thousand five hundred dollars - each.
Ron Haselton runs Million Dollar Hole In One. "We've had probably five reports that I know of of these kinds of overstatements," he says.
A map shows franchise holders from coast to coast.
He says the company is aware of some complaints about misrepresentations.
"The action at the golf course is not raising money for charity," says Haselton.
Haselton explains his company sells tickets to its franchise holders.
Million Dollar Hole In One - then makes a five cent contribution to charity based on each ticket sold to a franchise holder.
All this was big news to several golfers we talked with.
Jerry Rapplean says, "Yeah, they always indicated it was for charity. I always thought the whole amount would go to charity."
Greg Rapplean adds, "I think I wouldn't do it next time. I think I would kick the guy in the shins."
"Would it surprise you to learn that of every five dollar ticket, only five cents goes to charity?" offers Frank Panuzzo. "It would surprise me very much and I would never do it again."
The Diabetes Research Institute in Hollywood has received money from the Million Dollar Hole In One.
Last year it was close to fifteen thousand dollars.
"One percent of my five dollars going to charity does not meet my standards-- does not meet the standards of the Better Business Bureau, by the way," points out White.
And, back at the office, Haselton says the BBB's criticism is having a positive impact.
Haselton says, "We see this as a good thing because we have been trying to stop this kind of thing."
Yet the BBB points out the tickets Haselton provides his franchise holders could be misleading.
They read Million Dollar Hole In One contributes to Diabetes Research Institute.
Carmel asks, "Don't you think it would be very easy for anybody, anybody to misunderstand and think that that five dollars was the contribution? It doesn't say five dollar ticket and five cent contribution."
"It will," says Haselton.
That's right, Haselton says new tickets will be printed that spell out what money goes where. There's no doubt this company has landed "in the rough" with some golfers - especially the outspoken president of the BBB.
If you have a story for Carmel or for more information, contact her at:
305-627-CLUE in Miami-Dade
954-921-CLUE in Broward