PLANO – Jordan O’Shea of unincorporated Oswego said she recently was furloughed from her job because of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a few days of not checking her mailbox, O’Shea said, she came across a brown envelope stamped with the phrases “time-sensitive mail: open immediately” and “COVID-19 stimulus assistance,” which she assumed was referring to the federal government sending checks to Americans as part of a stimulus package passed by Congress.
O’Shea said she thought it was mail regarding her furloughed status at work. She said she even wondered if she missed a deadline for something upon seeing the envelope.
But when she opened the envelope, she saw it was just a mailed advertisement for a “Break the Bank” sales event through the end of the week on Friday, April 18, for Dempsey Dodge Chrysler Jeep, a car dealership on Route 34 in Plano.
“I felt like I was just tricked,” O’Shea said.
Multiple people who also received the mailer took to social media – including Twitter and Reddit – to express concerns about how the envelope for the mailer had the words "COVID-19 stimulus assistance" printed on its front.
“Whatever manager thought this was a good idea, they should be fired immediately,” Facebook user Michael Mutersbaugh said in a Friday, April 10, review for the dealership. “Utterly classless.”
Tom Dempsey, owner of Dempsey Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Plano, said he first found out about the envelope that the mailers came in on Friday. He said the dealership approved the enclosed mailer for the sales event.
“I didn’t know there was going to be this brown envelope with whatever language was on it,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey also said he immediately wrote an apology on the dealership’s Facebook page, then titled Dempsey Dodge Chrysler Jeep, upon finding out about the mailer.
In one Saturday, April 11, post on Facebook, Dempsey wrote he does not stand for businesses using the pandemic to solicit in that manner.
“We are taking COVID-19 very seriously here,” according to the post. “We are deeply upset by this.”
That particular Facebook post appears to have been deleted as of Monday, April 13. Dempsey said the dealership’s Facebook page, now titled Dempsey Dodge Chrysler Jeep II, changed as of Monday, April 13.
Dempsey said he had all mailers from the dealership stopped after he found out about what had happened with the “Break the Bank” sales event mailer.
“Because it was the right thing to do,” Dempsey said. “I have to take responsibility for it, and I did not mean for this to happen.”
Dempsey said the backlash from the mailer has died down. He said he also has stopped working with the marketing company that had worked with the dealership to send out the “Break the Bank” sales event mailer and that he is reaching out to customers to reassure them the dealership is taking the situation seriously.
Overall, Dempsey said, he feels horrible about the mailer, given the hardships people are facing because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I just need to do what’s right for everybody,” he said.
After that last comment, Dempsey declined to comment further to Record Newspapers, citing pending correspondence with legal counsel.
O’Shea said she doesn’t think just the apology is enough. She said she understood the dealership is claiming that they cleared the inside of mailer and not the outside, but she believes both should have been cleared before it was sent out.
“In the end, it’s something coming from them [the dealership], so they need to take responsibility for the whole packaging of it,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea said perhaps an additional action that could be taken would be for the marketing firm to apologize.
“I feel like this is something that can’t be passed right over because it is a really trying time for everyone right now,” O’Shea said.