Tools of Frugality: The Rain Check

6642D-rain-check[1]

So yesterday I was lured into my local grocery store in large part by electronic notification of my frequent shopper card specials.  As is customary for this particular grocer, a few of my best “E-VIC” specials were one day deals, good only on Saturday.  I stopped by the store, while passing by on other business anyway, and went straight to the breakfast foods aisle where I expected to scoop up two twelve pack boxes of Pop-Tarts for $1.97 each.

To my annoyance, the shelf was empty, as apparently many other customers chose to take advantage of this particular deal.  Granted, the word annoyance is a bit mild for the feeling that arises when this not uncommon scenario unfolds, but annoyance need not give way to despair.   Instead, I simply paused at the customer service desk after paying and requested a rain check, a wonderfully simple piece of paper that entitles me to purchase the sold out item at the promised price any time I wish in the future.

You should always request a rain check when faced with this circumstance.  Some people are bashful about doing so because they prefer not to request favors unless truly necessary.  If you are one of those persons, you should realize that a rain check does not constitute a favor by the store at all.  To the contrary, in most jurisdictions, it is something the store must do.  Why?  Because it is generally considered an unfair business practice to advertise a sale price while stocking inadequate quantities of the product to meet expected demand.  If stores violate this prohibition, they can be sued for the unfair business practice.  And, sure, not many people will sue over a store’s failure to have adequate supply of Pop-Tarts on hand, but the possibility of a consumer class action exists.  That possibility is itself more than adequate incentive for stores to happily provide the rain check on request.  If, for some reason, a store refuses to do so, you might even want to let the manager know that you are troubled by the store’s failure to stand behind its advertised price and the resulting unfair business practice.  That phrase alone will many times help the store to see your point.

The rain check itself is a great thing to have.  In fact, they are actually better than the originally advertised deal inasmuch as they suddenly convert that one day special into one available for perpetuity.  Particularly with perishable items, this is a great tool to have.  Think how many times you have purchased a leader item at a time when you really did not need it and you feared it would go bad before you used it.  With the rain check in hand, you can go about your normal routine, and purchase the item at the discounted price at a time when it is truly needed.  No need to fret about looming expiration dates or other moldy details.

With this thought in mind, you will want to take it all one step further by keeping a keen out for great special offers on perishable items even if you do not need them at the time.  (And this is easy enough to do with your frequent shopper card and related e-notifications, right?)  No, you don’t want to buy an item under these circumstances, lest you end up tossing the item unused.  Instead, simply inspect the store’s shelf for that item – while you are there anyway, of course – and notice if the item is sold out.  If so, demand that rain check, and you will be good to go whenever the item runs out at home.

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2 Responses to Tools of Frugality: The Rain Check

  1. jim says:

    Who the hell eats pop tarts? very poor nutrition, make you own whole wheat muffins instead?

    • vster says:

      Jim, I’m afraid you’re missing the point here, man. That said, kids love them and eat them all the time. They also tend to be fortified.

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