Big Mama always warned: "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is."
Well, the folks at Tidewater Marketing Global Consultants Inc. seem to be giving away just about everything: gas, batteries, free Global Positioning Systems, free tires, free roadside kits.
State Attorney General Bill McCollum wants you to know that his agency has an active consumer-related investigation into Tidewater Marketing's business practices.
At issue is one of Tidewater's latest offers of gas cards that often are provided through tire companies and other retailers or over the Internet via such sites as freegasredemption.com, freebeegas.com, freegasvoucher.com and gasolineredemption.com.
McCollum's office opened an investigation in July after complaints began pouring in from consumers who said they did not receive the free gas cards they expected.
Jim Barnes, general manager of Largo's Tidewater Marketing, says the problem isn't the company's fault. He said consumers aren't fulfilling their obligations
"People just don't give stuff away," Barnes said. "The general public sometimes is very stupid."
Hmmm. Clearly, someone didn't listen to Big Mama when it comes to calling people names.
Anyway, the gas card program initially required you to pay a $5 registration fee to participate.
You then were required to send in your gas receipts. Once you send in $100 worth of receipts, the company would send you a $25 gas card.
Or you might get a gas card when you made a purchase at a tire shop, car dealerships or even an electronic store.
"Any business that would like to purchase it," Barnes said. "Our business is 1,000 percent legitimate."
The company's owner, Crystal Clark, says other businesses were trying to defraud her operation, which has been selling gas cards for six years. The faux companies, Clark said, were the ones failing to deliver on the goods.
Tidewater has decided to drop the $5 registration and is cutting back on the giveaways, at least until next year.
Clark says she welcomes any look at her operation. The Consumer's Edge just might take her up on that offer.
In the meantime, here's the Edge:
• It should go without saying, but check what your gut is telling you. Always read the fine print before signing up for programs asking for money, even if it is being offered through a legitimate, well-known business.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332.