May 24, 2012, Milwaukee, Wis. – The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning local businesses and consumers about a Milwaukee man who has been selling coupon books throughout metro-Milwaukee, claiming that proceeds from the sales will help support local, injured veterans. However, when the BBB asked him to prove it, he would not.
Brian Michaud of Double Up Promotions (also known as Double Up 4 Vets, Double Up Passports and formerly known as Hospitality Hot Spots) sold advertising to local restaurants and bars for “buy one, get one free” drinks or food item coupons. The ads cost $300 or more and appear in his coupon book “Double Up Passport For WI Vets.” He sold the books for $15 from his flashy van:
The cover of the coupon book states, “Proceeds Benefit Injured WI Veterans! A portion of every sale also goes to the charity you vote for.” When the Wisconsin BBB asked Michaud multiple times to provide the names of the veterans’ organizations to whom he was donating the money, he would not provide that information. Then, the Wisconsin BBB checked with the Department of Veterans Affairs and local veterans organizations. None of them had ever heard of Double Up Promotions, Double Up 4 Vets or had received any money from Michaud.
In addition, the Wisconsin BBB contacted some of the local businesses that had purchased advertising in the Double Up Passport for WI Vets” book. Several of the local businesses contacted were dissatisfied with the books and with Michaud.
In August, 2010, the Boucher Group, Inc. generously donated the free use of a van for one year so that Michaud could conduct his business in support of and through the understanding that it would financially benefit veterans. In February, 2011, six months shy of the agreement, the dealership felt it was forced to revoke the use of the vehicle, because no coupon books had surfaced despite many deadlines. The Boucher Group, Inc. issued the following statement to the BBB:
“Brian Michaud took advantage of Wisconsin Veterans and the Boucher Group because, despite 17,000 miles logged on the van, there was zero evidence that any of the money that he collected went to local veterans or local veterans organizations as he had contractually led us to believe.”
“Sadly, there are plenty of victims in this case, including businesses, consumers and legitimate veterans charities,” said Ran Hoth, CEO/president of the Wisconsin BBB. “The businesses who purchased advertising and the consumers who bought the coupon books were all misled by Michaud. Worst of all, legitimate veterans groups which should have benefited from the books and never received a dime may suffer the most. Our fear is that consumers may stop donating to legitimate charities because they fear that, like Double Up 4 Vets, it’s a scam.”
Hoth said people just need to hear the words “help” and “veterans” and they’re ready to donate. “Who doesn’t want to help veterans and veterans’ causes?,” Hoth said. “There are a lot of legitimate organizations out there that truly help vets, and we urge consumers and businesses to check before they give.”
The Better Business Bureau opened its investigation on Brian Michaud in early March. After trying unsuccessfully for weeks to get information from Michaud, the Wisconsin BBB turned over all its information and partnered with Bryan Polcyn, investigative reporter from WITI in Milwaukee. Click here for a link to Polcyn’s story.
Help for Donors
Watch out for questionable charities that raise funds on behalf of military organizations. When you make a donation, always check www.bbb.org to see that the group meets BBB charity standards, especially around Memorial Day. Too many solicitors that fail to meet BBB standards call and say they help veterans, service members or their families, and little of the money donated will serve that purpose.
Help for Military Personnel
The Better Business Bureau has a national Military Line http://www.bbb.org/us/military-line/ which is an education tool offering free resources in the form of financial literacy and consumer protection to veterans.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.