Do you wait for your local sales announcements, and rush to the store to cash in on the too-good-to-be-true pricing? If so, you have probably experienced the “empty shelf” syndrome. Hot sales prices on one or two advertised items can drive customers in quickly, depleting the stock on hand. Late comers must choose between purchasing alternate higher priced items or checking back regularly in hopes of finding the item restocked.
A third choice is available, providing a blessing in disguise for smart shoppers. This choice is the “rain check”.
In 1971, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices rule; also know as the “Unavailability Rule”. Amended in 1989, the Unavailability Rule protects consumers against grocery stores that advertise bargains to attract customers but fail to have adequate stock available. Unless an advertised sale states clearly and adequately that “quantities are limited” or “not available at all locations”, the store must offer customers a comparable offer, either:
- A “rain check” that allows customers to buy the item later at the advertised price
- A substitute item of comparable value to the sale item
- Some kind of compensation that is at least equal in value to the advertised item