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  #1  
Old 06-30-2009, 02:43 PM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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car key promotion---how it works

I couple of months ago a local car dealership distributed 10,000 keys (cheap metal) in a mailer, claiming that one of them would unlock a prize car in their showroom. To me, it was a brilliant campaign because it sucked me in and I'm pretty damn cynical.

Over a 3 day period, people were encouraged to bring their keys in and try them on the car. Of course the dealership asked a bunch of marketing questions to build their mailing list (the whole point of the marketing campaign).

I don't understand how the key mechanism worked. I doubt there was really one key that fit the lock, because they run the terrible risk of having that key show up early in the promotion....ruining their ability to collect customer data for the remainder of the promotion.

Is anyone familiar with this type of promotion? would they have a special lock that (randomly?) allows any key to open it on the last few hours of the last day?

I've just been wondering how this promotion was technically pulled off.

I'll accept speculation, but if someone knows for real...that's what I'm really interested in.
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  #2  
Old 06-30-2009, 02:52 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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There's no reason they have to end the promotion just because the winning key shows up. They can tell the winner "Come back next week and we'll give you your car" or they can put out a new car that won't work with any of the keys, just to make sure that people keep coming in to try keys out.
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  #3  
Old 06-30-2009, 02:56 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
I'll accept speculation, ...
Okay, here's my WAG: A great majority of the people who received the mailing aren't going to show up at all. They probably have a 90% or better chance that no one will win the car, and that they'll be able to collect this info all day long. Only a tiny chance that the winner will show up before lunch.
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  #4  
Old 06-30-2009, 02:59 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
There's no reason they have to end the promotion just because the winning key shows up. They can tell the winner "Come back next week and we'll give you your car" or they can put out a new car that won't work with any of the keys, just to make sure that people keep coming in to try keys out.
I realize that police supervision of this stuff is pretty spotty, but I'm guessing that a whole lot of fine print about the rules of the contest was included in that mailing, and I sure hope that they wouldn't dare to do this.
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  #5  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:03 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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You just need simple statistics for that question. All of the "cheap" keys were the same and wouldn't work. The person that got the real key wouldn't have any point of comparison with the other keys. The chances of the person with the real key walking in on the first day is very low and, even then, they will still gather lots of data from the people that came before. Chances are that they will have many days, weeks, or forever to collect data based on the promotion. The person with the real key may never show up at all. In the worst case scenario for the dealership, the winner would be the first person to walk in on the first day and a single new car simply isn't that much money for a big business. The manufacturer may even be paying for a part or all of it.
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  #6  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:04 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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What I don't get about these promotions is, how does the winner not know immediately they've won? Anybody in a position to get one of these mailers knows what a real car key looks like and would be able to tell it at a glance from the fake toy keys they send out in those mailers.
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  #7  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:11 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
What I don't get about these promotions is, how does the winner not know immediately they've won? Anybody in a position to get one of these mailers knows what a real car key looks like and would be able to tell it at a glance from the fake toy keys they send out in those mailers.
They don't have a point of comparison. For all they know, everyone else's looks the same. Anyway, car locks don't care about how cheap a key looks. It just has to have the right profile. I have a spare key for my SUV that looks like it came from a cereal box and it works just fine.
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  #8  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:11 PM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
What I don't get about these promotions is, how does the winner not know immediately they've won? Anybody in a position to get one of these mailers knows what a real car key looks like and would be able to tell it at a glance from the fake toy keys they send out in those mailers.
All the key has to do is open the door. You can make any key body do that. Only the ignition keys need to be special (if the car has special anti-theft features). My Honda came with a wallet key that looked like it would be a prize in a cereal box, but it worked just fine.
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  #9  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:12 PM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Damn, that is one special kind of simulpost.
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  #10  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:14 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
Damn, that is one special kind of simulpost.
I got tingles too. Are we related or do we live together and I just don't know it?
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  #11  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:14 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Perhaps everyone gets a numbered toy key, and "unlock" is figurative. They just record the numbers of the "keys" presented and tell everyone they'll announce the winner (if there is one) at the end of the week.

One problem with using real keys is that for many cars, there's more than one key out in the world that will work in a given car. There are several stories of people accidentally opening, and sometimes driving off in, someone else's car because their keys fit it. Seems to me there's a risk of someone coming into the showroom with a key from his own car that happens to fit the promotional car and claiming the prize. By tying the prize to a number sent out in the mailing rather than the physical key itself, this problem is avoided.
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  #12  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:21 PM
vertizontal vertizontal is offline
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Just talking off the top of my head, cuz I don't really know anything.......

I thought I heard years ago that when dealerships have promotions like this, they buy an insurance policy against someone actually winning the car. If someone wins, the dealership is delighted because they don't have to pay for the car (the insurance company does) and it's a great promotion for the dealership to say that they actually gave away a new car.
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  #13  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:30 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by vertizontal View Post
Just talking off the top of my head, cuz I don't really know anything.......

I thought I heard years ago that when dealerships have promotions like this, they buy an insurance policy against someone actually winning the car. If someone wins, the dealership is delighted because they don't have to pay for the car (the insurance company does) and it's a great promotion for the dealership to say that they actually gave away a new car.
You are probably right on that. The chance of the actual winner showing up are pretty low. How much junk mail do you get with "fabulous" offers that you never respond to? Most people are too busy to drive to a dealership to try for a prize that they are very unlikely to win let alone take the surveys before they even get a chance to try. It is a pretty good bet for insurance companies to take on that risk.
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  #14  
Old 06-30-2009, 03:44 PM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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Well I disagree with this

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
The chances of the person with the real key walking in on the first day is very low .

I think for a 3 day event, the chances of someone walking in with the key on the first day is NOT very low. That's the point of my question. I would think the dealership would want to have more control over the situation so they don't give the car away on the first day, and effectively miss out on the rest of the promotional data collection.

I should also mention that the keys didn't feel like they were moving tumblers upon insertion. THey fit very loosely into the lock and hit a back plate about a 1/2 inch in.
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  #15  
Old 06-30-2009, 04:05 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
I think for a 3 day event, the chances of someone walking in with the key on the first day is NOT very low. That's the point of my question. I would think the dealership would want to have more control over the situation so they don't give the car away on the first day, and effectively miss out on the rest of the promotional data collection.
It sounds like you are assuming that most people will show up in the first place. That is not the case. Most people don't even claim rebates for things like computers even for a significant about of money. Most people's lives are simply too busy to justify taking a special trip down to a car dealership to do work for a prize that they probably won't win. The piles of junk mail that everyone gets makes most people jaded to the whole concept. There are always a few suckers but they probably won't have the right key.

There are 10,000 keys going out for a 3 day promotion. Do you honestly think that the car dealership thinks that they can gather data and try keys for 3,333 people a day? Assuming that they are open 12 hours a day, that means that they have to process almost 5 people a minute. That is not the way these things play out.
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  #16  
Old 06-30-2009, 04:08 PM
Raza Raza is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vertizontal
they buy an insurance policy against someone actually winning the car
Prize indemnification insurance. These policies are typically written for skill contests ("hit a hole in one, win a million dollars"), but can be written for other contests where there is a less-than-certainty of winning.
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  #17  
Old 06-30-2009, 04:10 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is online now
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Has anyone actually went to one of these events? I'm wondering just how many hoops they make you jump through before they actually let you try out your key in the car. I doubt its as simple as you showing up and they say "oh, you're here about the contest car? It's sitting right over there. Good luck!"
And do they let you do the physical attempt or do they do it for you? I'd be leary about a bunch of over eager strangers one after another attempting to jam their key that won't fit into the cars (ignition or door?) messing up the lock or breaking the cheap key off.
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  #18  
Old 06-30-2009, 05:06 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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There is no reason that they have to tell anybody else that the winner has been found before the contest is scheduled to end. The contests I see all the time say a list of winners will be announced at a time after the promotion ends.
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  #19  
Old 06-30-2009, 05:08 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
I realize that police supervision of this stuff is pretty spotty, but I'm guessing that a whole lot of fine print about the rules of the contest was included in that mailing, and I sure hope that they wouldn't dare to do this.
Why would it be illegal or surprising that the car dealer might let people keep trying keys even after a winner has been found? The terms of the offer remain the same: if your key works, you win the car. It's not even a deceptive practice, since your key would never have worked under any circumstances.
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  #20  
Old 06-30-2009, 05:12 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
They don't have a point of comparison. For all they know, everyone else's looks the same. Anyway, car locks don't care about how cheap a key looks. It just has to have the right profile. I have a spare key for my SUV that looks like it came from a cereal box and it works just fine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
All the key has to do is open the door. You can make any key body do that. Only the ignition keys need to be special (if the car has special anti-theft features). My Honda came with a wallet key that looked like it would be a prize in a cereal box, but it worked just fine.
I'll be sittin' over here while you two get your stories straight.
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  #21  
Old 06-30-2009, 05:16 PM
Jimmy Joe Meager Jimmy Joe Meager is offline
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Perhaps everyone gets a numbered toy key, and "unlock" is figurative.
This.

They're all identical, they all don't actually open anything (hence "toy" key), they're just a tangible marketing item. If they sent a (numbered) pen with the dealer's logo on it, that just wouldn't have the same cache.

If / when the winner shows up and they've been informed they are the lucky owner of a new car, odds are they aren't going to complain that they didn't actually get to stick their mailed (toy) key in the ignition and make it go vroom.
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  #22  
Old 06-30-2009, 06:20 PM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Originally Posted by Raza View Post
Prize indemnification insurance. These policies are typically written for skill contests ("hit a hole in one, win a million dollars"), but can be written for other contests where there is a less-than-certainty of winning.
Don't PIIs usually only pay out on the second win onwards anyway? Too open to fraud otherwise.
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  #23  
Old 06-30-2009, 09:52 PM
jasonh300 jasonh300 is offline
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I used to see these in the mail pretty frequently back in the 80s.

One thing I know for sure about GM vehicles is that in the 60s and 70s and maybe even later, there was only about 200 different key patterns for any given year. I once had a couple of old early 60s Cadillac limousines that I didn't have the door keys to, so I went to the locksmith next door to my office and he gave me this giant ring of keys. 200 keys that would open any 1964 GM door. You just have to find the right one. You mark a key and then start trying each key until you hit the right one. (I hit the right one on #198 incidentally...if I'd gone the other way, I would've been in on the third key).

Anyway, all they would have to do is get a locksmith to cut GM keyblanks with a pattern not in those 200 keys and you'd have a key that would slide all the way into the lock but wouldn't turn. It would look like a real key, but wouldn't open anything. Then you mix one real door key into the pile and mail 'em out.

Last edited by jasonh300; 06-30-2009 at 09:53 PM..
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  #24  
Old 07-01-2009, 06:44 AM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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Originally Posted by Hampshire View Post
Has anyone actually went to one of these events? I'm wondering just how many hoops they make you jump through before they actually let you try out your key in the car. I doubt its as simple as you showing up and they say "oh, you're here about the contest car? It's sitting right over there. Good luck!"
And do they let you do the physical attempt or do they do it for you? I'd be leary about a bunch of over eager strangers one after another attempting to jam their key that won't fit into the cars (ignition or door?) messing up the lock or breaking the cheap key off.
Here's my experience with this: My key wasn't marked in any way. It was a cheap metal flimsy thing that looked like it could come out of a cereal box but work just fine .
I went in line (early on the first day) there were about 5 people in front of me. They had a table set up and asked a few questions. Name, phone number, address, am I looking to buy a car soon. My interview took about 30 seconds. THen he just pointed over to the contest car and essentially said "its sitting right over there. Good Luck!" He didn't look at or examine my key, and no one was watching me when I inserted it into the lock.

WHile I don't have hard proof, I just don't think there was one special key that was different and would have unlocked the car. I still do think there was still enough risk that the one special key would show up on the first day and end the contest. It would be a bit difficult to control the news to people in line and coming in the door that the car had already been won. ANd the fact that my key didn't actually engage the lock in any way tells me that a "nearly" identical key would do the same....even if it had different cuts. I think its more likely the door lock had a mechanism in it that after X number of key insertions, the door would automatically unlock. Or at some determined time it would unlock (on the 3rd day).
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  #25  
Old 07-01-2009, 08:22 AM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
I think its more likely the door lock had a mechanism in it that after X number of key insertions, the door would automatically unlock. Or at some determined time it would unlock (on the 3rd day).
I can assure you that this is not the case. There's no need to do something like this, and the backlash from it would be pretty nasty. It's a game of chance, and the dealers are prepared to deal with it.
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  #26  
Old 07-01-2009, 08:33 AM
Dead Cat Dead Cat is offline
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Given the OP's latest post (#24), perhaps the small print said that none of the keys would actually work, but everyone who turned up would be entered into a random draw for the car after the end of the event? No fraud, everyone has an equal chance of winning, just a white lie that someone's key might actually open the car, when it fact no key would. The only way someone could complain would be if they read the small print, but they haven't really been disadvantaged in any way so it's unlikely they'd get very far.
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  #27  
Old 07-01-2009, 09:23 AM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Given the OP's latest post (#24), perhaps the small print said that none of the keys would actually work, but everyone who turned up would be entered into a random draw for the car after the end of the event?
It's very easy to make up 5000 keys that won't work and one that will. This isn't rocket science and nothing in post #24 would lead you to believe otherwise. In some cases, the simplest explanation is the best. You open the lock, you win the car. They can then check the number on the key to make sure you didn't grab a skeleton key or some such thing.

If someone wins the car on day 1, do you really think the general public is going to find out about it and cancel their plans to visit the dealership. It's a lark, a whim, and that's all they need. Get someone in the door; after that it's all up to the salespeople.
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  #28  
Old 07-01-2009, 09:39 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Look, if they don't announce the winner on the media until after the contest is over, people will still show up to try their luck. Even if the first person on the first day won the car, customers would still come into the dealership.

Once the car is won, the dealer has several courses of action. The simplest is just to leave the car there and have people continue to try. I doubt anyone would find anyone fraudulent in that.

But it's also easy to just put up a sign saying, "Sorry, we already had a winner" and say, "Since you're down here, could you take a minute to answer a few questions?"
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  #29  
Old 07-01-2009, 09:44 AM
Raza Raza is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quartz
Don't PIIs usually only pay out on the second win onwards anyway? Too open to fraud otherwise.
I can't speak to sweepstakes-type contests, but the prize indemnification policies I've examined are generally games of skill (bowling 300, hitting a hole-in-one, dunking a basket from mid-court, catching a tagged fish, etc.). They pay the first time. Very broadly, premiums are 5-20% of the payout.
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  #30  
Old 07-01-2009, 01:52 PM
vertizontal vertizontal is offline
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The last time I was involved in one of these car dealership contests, they mailed out postcards with a prize number, and you needed to bring in your card to the dealership to see if you had the winning number (to win the car).
I showed up about 15 minutes before closing. As I entered, a tired looking guy took a big breath and said "Can I help you?" and I held up my postcard and said I was here about the contest. He looked somewhat relieved, and just pointed to a table where a lady was sitting. The lady checked my number against her paperwork, and said "Sorry, this card isn't a winner. Would you like to talk to a sales associate today?" I said "No thanks".
It was not a high-pressure type of promotion at all.
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  #31  
Old 07-02-2009, 08:57 AM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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Resolved!!

Well; There you Go!


Good morning, Mr. Sigene

My name is XXXX, and I am the Director of Marketing for XXX Motors. I received your inquiry yesterday afternoon regarding the key promotion we did back in XXXXXXX and you were questioning specifically how the key mechanism worked. Great question! With this particular vehicle, which was a XXXX , it had a standard lock and key system; meaning you had to actually insert a key in the door to unlock it (not just push a remote to unlock the door). This vehicle comes from the manufacturer with two sets of keys, of which I kept locked in my office. For this promotion I took one of the master keys, had a single duplicate key made in our parts department, and then shipped this key via overnight delivery to an insurance company who then randomly picked a person from our mailing list to receive the winning key. For this promotion we sent out a total of 10,000 keys (of which one of them was the winning key). All remaining 9,999 keys were made using key codes that were not even close to the key code used to make the actual winning key to ensure that only the key I made would open the door AND turn the ignition. There was no special lock used in this promotion – just what was installed when the vehicle was built before shipping it to our dealership.

Lastly, did anyone win. Unfortunately no. However, I can tell you that the winning key was mailed to a gentleman in XXXXX and had he come in during the promotion and tried it, he would have won. Just so you know too, I did not know who received the winning key until after the promotion was completed. As an insured promotion, our insurance company randomly selected the individual to receive the winning key and would not tell me who it was until the promotion ended – assuring that I (or anyone else) didn’t call or influence this individual and prompt him to come in.

I hope this answers all of your questions, Mr. Sigene, but if you do have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to email or call me.

Have wonderful day.

Best regards,

XXXXX

Director of Marketing
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  #32  
Old 07-02-2009, 09:06 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
Well; There you Go!


Good morning, Mr. Sigene

My name is XXXX, and I am the Director of Marketing for XXX Motors. I received your inquiry yesterday afternoon regarding the key promotion we did back in XXXXXXX and you were questioning specifically how the key mechanism worked. Great question! With this particular vehicle, which was a XXXX , it had a standard lock and key system; meaning you had to actually insert a key in the door to unlock it (not just push a remote to unlock the door). This vehicle comes from the manufacturer with two sets of keys, of which I kept locked in my office. For this promotion I took one of the master keys, had a single duplicate key made in our parts department, and then shipped this key via overnight delivery to an insurance company who then randomly picked a person from our mailing list to receive the winning key. For this promotion we sent out a total of 10,000 keys (of which one of them was the winning key). All remaining 9,999 keys were made using key codes that were not even close to the key code used to make the actual winning key to ensure that only the key I made would open the door AND turn the ignition. There was no special lock used in this promotion – just what was installed when the vehicle was built before shipping it to our dealership.
That's weird. It sounds remarkably similar to what some people posted on the SDMB once. I don't know how to search for that thread though.
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  #33  
Old 07-02-2009, 09:31 AM
myskepticsight myskepticsight is offline
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We got one too and we threw it away. There's one example of someone not caring to try and trashing the key. Hopefully the gentleman who the right key was mailed to was not my father.
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  #34  
Old 07-02-2009, 09:35 AM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
All the key has to do is open the door. You can make any key body do that. Only the ignition keys need to be special (if the car has special anti-theft features). My Honda came with a wallet key that looked like it would be a prize in a cereal box, but it worked just fine.
Dad had a Honda with such keys, they wouldn't open the fuel cap or boot (there was a lock by the interior releases for them) but would allow the car to be driven. IIRC it was intended for valets, for the time it was reasonably swish, a/c, cruise control etc. And the looked pretty flimsy, coming without a plastic end.

The prize keys from the OP looked akin to that, although I've not seen one for some time now.
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  #35  
Old 07-02-2009, 10:29 AM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Valet keys and emergency keys are different beasts. The wallet keys weren't meant to be used repeatedly. They were thin enough to fit in your wallet comfortably and just strong enough to not bend under use. Mine would open any lock on the car.

The valet keys were normal keys that would just open the door and work in the ignition.
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  #36  
Old 07-02-2009, 12:52 PM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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So, are there measures taken to protect the dealership from dishonesty (lock bumping, etc)?

Lock bumping on wiki
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  #37  
Old 12-14-2012, 11:45 AM
ChrisJones ChrisJones is offline
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mass produced keys

I have one right here. At first glance it looks very cheap, and it's flat. When I look at it through a magnifying glass I see that the edges are all the same from the head of the key around the tumbles. I see the tell tale sign of die stamping that are consistent throughout the entire perimeter of the key. I don't see tooling marks on the ridges that manipulate the tumblers of the lock.
The dies to make these Keys are expensive to make therefore there wouldn't be variations of non working keys. It would be expensive toi mill non working tumbler positions for each key as well.
ANSWER: I know that my key is one of thousands that are identical and I'm not showing up at the dealership.
Had I received a quality key with a tumbler pattern that show no sign of mass production..... Lucky me. Not the case.
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  #38  
Old 12-14-2012, 11:59 AM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is offline
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I hate those keys. They try to go around a turn in the sorting machine, and jam up the entire route.

The ones that people send back to insurance companies when their car gets totaled out are even worse. Those will get stuck in a gate and be just about impossible to extract without practically disassembling the entire stacker module.

Also: ZOMBIE thread.
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  #39  
Old 12-14-2012, 12:33 PM
JKilez JKilez is offline
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Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
My name is XXXX, and I am the Director of Marketing for XXX Motors.
Would you really want to stick your key into a car from XXX Motors? You do not know where that chassis has been.
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  #40  
Old 12-14-2012, 12:52 PM
Stormcrow Stormcrow is online now
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Originally Posted by JKilez View Post
Would you really want to stick your key into a car from XXX Motors? You do not know where that chassis has been.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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  #41  
Old 12-14-2012, 01:30 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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All the keys we've ever received in those dingbat promotions look like blanks, with no cuts made to them.

Just for giggles, Hubster went to the dealership with one of those keys. Before he could even get CLOSE to the car in question, he had to listen to the song and dance from several sales people. Worse yet, we received indicators our credit had been checked out several times by the dealership!

To buy the vehicle, the dealer owner told Hubster his payments would be around $700 a month, and he "wouldn't live long enough to pay it off."

Hubster's 63!

When we're in the market for a new vehicle, three guesses where we WON'T be going!


~VOW
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  #42  
Old 12-15-2012, 10:02 PM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JKilez View Post
Would you really want to stick your key into a car from XXX Motors? You do not know where that chassis has been.
Just wear an XXXXX brand condom, and XXXX your dick key off. One extra X in each case. You'll be fine.
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  #43  
Old 12-16-2012, 12:40 AM
nion nion is offline
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I've often wondered about these. Every one I've got (as best as I can recall) was supposed to give me a chance to start the car. AFAIK all new cars have chips in the ignition key. I'd think it would be insanely obvious if you had the winning key for that reason alone. All the ones I've got had skinny cheap plastic fobs that showed no signs of being chipped.
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  #44  
Old 12-16-2012, 01:30 AM
Nunzio Tavulari Nunzio Tavulari is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nion View Post
AFAIK all new cars have chips in the ignition key. I'd think it would be insanely obvious if you had the winning key for that reason alone.
I assume that the key unlocks the door.
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  #45  
Old 12-16-2012, 01:32 AM
nion nion is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nunzio Tavulari View Post
I assume that the key unlocks the door.
As I mentioned, the advert said the key was meant for the ignition.
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  #46  
Old 12-16-2012, 08:29 AM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
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I normally throw those keys in the trash without a second glance but I got one of these electronic key/keyfob combos attached to a promotional paper a few months ago and wondered how they could afford to send those out, so I cracked it open to find this. No electronics, the 4 little discs taped to the inside provide some resistance and make the rubber buttons pop back out after you push them.
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