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Slim Down Challenge prize provokes anger among contestants

They say they didn't get what they were promised 6 months ago.

October 14, 2010|by Cara Restelli, KY3 News | crestelli@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Six months ago, several hundred Ozarkers gathered for the Slim Down Challenge.  Sponsored by Subway, the event was supposed to reward successful participants with a prize worth thousands of dollars.  Those who won, however, say they lost a lot more than just weight.

About 100 people weighed in last month so they could prove they lost 25 pounds and become eligible for a prize advertised to be worth thousands of dollars.  It wasn't long after the weigh-in that KY3 News started receiving phone calls and e-mail messages from some of these participants who said they didn't get what they were promised.

Megan Henry lost 32 pounds in six months.  She's thrilled but losing the weight was only half her goal. 

"I was working towards taking my family on a vacation that I wouldn't be able to afford if I didn't have an opportunity like this," said Henry.

Henry was one of about 250 people who attended the Slim Down Challenge last March at the Springfield Expo Center.  For six hours, they heard weight loss success stories from the likes of Jared Fogle, Subway's spokesman.  Henry's frustrations began that day. 

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"After six-and-a-half hours, they told us we were going to have to pay more money to do the challenge," she said.

Henry says no one was told about the additional charge up front, but she paid $65 anyway to be eligible for a prize much bigger. 

"We were told we would get a prize valued at $15,000," she said. 

The prize was contingent on losing 25 pounds in six months.  Henry did it but she didn't get the prize that she was expecting. 

Her $15,000 prize is a Lifetime Travel Book, full of travel options from cruises to resort vacations.  The problem is the book is full of stipulations and qualifications that Henry and several others don't meet. 

"A lot of them, you have to be 26-28 years old.  You have to be married.  You have to have a certain income," she said.

Others require you to attend a 90-minute presentation and others aren't even free.  Referring to one vacation, Megan said, "It's $1,022 per person to go, so you're not saving anything!"

They're all stipulations that Henry says those who attended the Slim Down event specifically asked about. 

"They said there's no age stipulation, you don't have to be married.  They said there'd be no time share presentations.  It's completely a gift."

Several people posted similar complaints on the Slim Down Challenge's Facebook page.  Henry says she put a lot of energy into losing the weight.  Now she'll put that energy toward making sure no one else pays for the Slim Down Challenge. 

"I want the stuff I was promised.  I want the stuff I was told I would get and that's what it boils down to."

Slim Down Challenge co-creator Dan Vega says he never said there were no stipulations.  He says he warned participants not to do it for the prize alone.  He said he purchased the books from a company and the company said there were some stipulations but didn't name them all. 

Vega admits he did look at the book before purchasing it but didn't realize there were so many stipulations.  For example, he thought the age limit was 18-21 and he didn't know there was a requirement of marriage.  Nevertheless, he says he and his co-creator thought it was a good deal.  

Vega also said he held an informal meeting at the back of the room following the Slim Down event at which he explained in greater detail that there would be some stipulations. 

"I can understand they're upset and I will look into taking care of them in any way I can," Vega said.

Co-creator Jeff Frohm, meanwhile, says the purpose of the event was to promote health and the prize simply went with that.  He says, shortly after the event in March, he e-mailed participants and explained all the rules and regulations associated with the prize.  He says, if people are still unhappy, he'd like to address those on a one on one basis.

Contestants say they never received the follow-up e-mail message and now Henry is seeking legal counsel.   There's  line on the contract that she signed, however, that could get in her way.  It says "the member agrees not to hold Slim Down Challenge liable for any possible misrepresentations or misunderstandings related to any prizes or incentives offered."

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