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March 29, 2016 | By: Kerri Barreca

Beware the Free Lunch Ruse

I’m not sure how I got on their mailing list, but they found me.  Maybe it was the travel contest I entered or possibly when I signed up for that e-newsletter.  In any case, I regularly receive special invites to attend lunch conferences hosted at fancy hotels.  Having lunch at the Ritz?  A special celebrity guest speaker?  Parting gifts at the end?  Sounds enticing, right? Just don’t get caught up in all the excitement and don't go into debt in order to buy in. These events sound glamorous but they truly are sales gimmicks in the end. 

Out of curiosity, I decided to sign up for one about the topic of real estate investment.  The invitation warned of “limited space available”, my first clue that there would be sales pressure involved in exchange for a free lunch and a cheap digital camera! I'd have been better off signing up for a money management seminar than this but I committed to attending anyway. 
So down I go on a Saturday morning to be instructed on the potential gains of real estate.  I take a seat with my complementary tea, put on my name tag, and look though the pamphlets I was provided.  The show starts, and boy is it a show! The salesman referred to himself as our “teacher” and the guests as his “students”.  Sounds to me like the old persuasion technique of using authority to appear more credible.  He consistently refers to our name tags when asking for answers to his simple questions.  Out of nowhere his beautiful wife appears and he shows us a wedding photo on the large screen at the front of the room.  Why is this pertinent to real estate?  I have no idea.  I do get the feeling he is trying to gain our trust as a family man and be likeable-yet another persuasion technique.  Then he mentions the sad story of a cousin in a wheelchair.  I can’t bear it any more.  
In the end, he wants you to invest in his company that buys and sells properties instead of you doing all the work yourself.  Of course top owners get a large chunk of the sales and as a shareholder you get a smaller percentage of the cut.  Smells like a pyramid scam to me.  No thank-you, I'd rather find a financial coach to help me build my assets than listen to a random and suspicious sales pitch.  After the 2-hour long info session the lunch boxes are passed around and we are given the opportunity to sign up for a very pricey weekend seminar to learn more about the program.  It’s marketed as an investment for future profits.  It will pay for itself and then some.  Well, that’s what they want you to believe anyways.  I shuffle out with my wallet untouched and pick up my free gift.  This digital camera took the blurriest photos I have ever seen.  I ended up giving it to a child to play with. 
In the end, I remind you all that if something sounds too good to be true, well, maybe it is.  I hate to think what happened after the event to people who decided to put their hard earned savings into this dodgy investment.


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