Cagey Consumer

Consumer Alert: HOPE prepaid gasoline card program

updated 6/7/97

June 7, 1997 update

The Cagey Consumer has received a report that the HOPE prepaid fuel cards have begun to be distributed to people who previously purchased them; these are not Visa products, as it was previously indicated they would be, but they are debit cards issued by Corestates Philadelphia National Bank and should be recognized at gas stations that accept MAC cards.

If these are debit cards as reported, there is no assurance that the full value of the debit cards which have been issued has been deposited in the appropriate bank account. HOPE's failure to effectively communicate a business plan that would make it possible for these debit cards to be offered at a 10% discount should raise serious concerns among people who are involved with or are considering becoming involved with HOPE.

High Opportunity Petroleum Enterprise has a double meaning: the acronym HOPE suggests that you'll have to hope that you ever get your money back if you participate, while the high opportunity describes the situation from the perspective of the program's promoters.

The program purportedly enables you to purchase $50 in prepaid gasoline cards for $45. Although the HOPE web site now claims that you can become a distributor by paying a $50 refundable fee (or no fee in some states), few if any of the web sites of HOPE Independent Distributors mention this. Instead, these web sites imply that you must purchase a "wholesale unit", consisting of either a set of "collectable" prepaid fuel cards, or a combination of fuel additive and a smaller quantity of collectable prepaid fuel cards. Assuming you choose to buy only the collectable fuel cards, you will receive cards with a face value of $150 for a purchase price of $295. While the program literature suggests reselling the cards for $495, it seems unlikely that there will be any significant premium over the $150 face value of these cards.

To recoup the $145 premium paid for the fuel cards, you would have to purchase 29 of the $50 prepaid gas cards for $45 each. If you pay only the $50 distributor fee, you can recoup your cost by purchasing only 10 of these cards. Keep in mind, however, that program rules prohibit commercial use of these cards as well as offering them for retail sale.

Mobil backs out

Until recently, the HOPE web site featured correspondence with Mobil officials regarding its intention to purchase a large quantity of Mobil's GO prepaid gas card. HOPE removed the Mobil correspondence from its web site after the Mobil officials identified began denying that they were doing business with HOPE. It appears that Mobil decided it didn't want to be involved with HOPE once it became aware of the details of the program.

HOPE program as bad as ever!

Even with the claim that purchase of a wholesale unit is not required to become a HOPE distributor, each aspect of the HOPE program is suspect:

Scam or no scam?

To accept that HOPE's program is a bona fide multi-level marketing program, you have to believe that there's a commercially-viable retail market for the collectable gasoline cards or for the fuel additives. If there is not a viable market for these products, then this a just another money game. Decide for yourself!
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