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Friday, January 25, 2013

Rain checks: do you ask for them, and how do you make sure you use them?

When you make a stop at the store to buy something that's been advertised on sale, and the shelves have been emptied of that item, do you ask for a rain check?

You should, and here's why I think so.

  • you came to the store to buy that item at the advertised price. Why should you be penalized because the store didn't have enough stock of that item?
  • asking for rain checks is a way the customer can let the store management know that they need to order additional stock of that item the next time a sale runs on it. Some rain check forms are carbon copy forms (okay not really carbon, but I don't know the name of the more recent method of making duplicates). The management goes through the duplicates of all these forms and takes note of any particular item that is requested heavily by rain check. Other stores sort through the rain check forms when they come back into the store to be redeemed. Either way, the store management uses the requests for rain checks as a tool in determining future stock needs of particular items.
  • asking for rain checks is also a way for store management to assess which items are highly desired and would be good front-pagers for subsequent ads. When you ask for a rain check, you are letting the store know your shopping preferences, and aids them in planning future sale events.

Once you receive your rain check, do you read the fine print right away?

Again, this is something that you should do, just as you probably read your cash register receipt before leaving the store (you do check your receipts for errors, don't you? I have to confess, most of the time I do, but occasionally I'm dog-tired and forget, but I try to remember.) Here's why you should check your rain check form.

  • cashiers are only human, and they make mistakes, too. They might list the wrong size, price, quantity or brand on the form. You could get that corrected immediately and ensure you pay the price you had expected to pay.
  • every store has a different use-by policy. Some stores give you 90 days, other stores just 30 days. It's good to know how long you have to use that rain check, so you don't miss out on the great sale price.

Where do you keep your rain checks to make sure that you use them?

  • I keep mine in the side pocket of my purse. I have just one everyday purse. It has a zippered side pocket and a snap side pocket. The snap pocket is for appointment cards. And the zippered is for rain checks and gift cards. I always know where my rain checks are. And, as I take my purse with me every time I drive anywhere, I always have that rain check to use, should I be in that store.
  • Some folks like to keep their rain checks on a bulletin board, where they will be reminded to use it.
  • Some people like to keep their rain checks on their calendars, so they will be reminded to use the rain check within a given time period or on a particular date.

Did you know that if a store only has some of the quantity of an item you had intended to buy, you can still get a rain check for the rest? Last August, Safeway had sugar advertised on sale. They had about half of what I had intended on buying. I bought what they had, and requested a rain check for the other bags of sugar that I wanted.

There's a hidden benefit to rain checks. Let's say you think it's a really great price on product X. But you don't have the storage space for X, or you won't be able to use X before it expires, as you still have enough at home to get through the next few days. So, if the store is all out of product X when you are shopping, you get the rain check. This delays the actual purchase and need to use or store product X. 

Some folks take this a step further. They purposely delay their shopping with the ad until the last day of the advertised prices, in hopes of the store's supply being gone, just so they can get the rain check. They use this scenario to create their own sale during a week that's more convenient for them (by using the rain check during a week that they really need product X and can now buy it "on sale" when they want). Pretty clever, eh?

Last week, I noticed a local drug store chain had eggs on sale for $1.49/dozen. This is a pretty good price for eggs these days in our area (remember, we can have some really great deals on eggs here, so if I say "pretty good" that means that I know the possibility for a better price could exist. I got eggs for 99c/dozen in August.) 

Anyways, I stopped in, and was disappointed to find the shelves bare. I asked an employee to check for additional stock for me in the back. He did, and found none. 

So I asked the cashier for a rain check. When she asked me how many I wanted, as there was no limit, I said 6 dozen. If I'm not sure how many of an item I want, I'll say the max that I may want, as I can always buy fewer when I actually redeem my rain check. 

As it turned out, we acquired 2 dozen eggs for free this week (our freegetarian lifestyle kicking in). I'll stop in for my rain check eggs when we run out of the free ones.

Incidentally, do you know where the term "rain check" originates? According to Wikipedia, it comes from the world of baseball. If a game was rained out, then a new ticket for a make-up game would be issued to the ticket holder.

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  1. I use rain checks to know if I really want an item. Say if I see a really good price on sheets, but the store is out when I go. If I really need the sheets, I'll go through the hassle on getting a rain check. If I'm not willing to go through the hassle of getting the rain check, I figure I really didn't need the item anyway, even if it was a great price.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      now that would be a good indicator of need. In the grocery store, I might feel the same way about foods that are treat items or convenience foods. Unless it was something that I had a plan to use down the road, there's a good chance I would pass on a rain check or foods like that.

  2. I rarely use rain checks, but it is more of a practical problem of distance than the idea of using the rain check. If I have to make a separate trip back to town to get something the gas cost negates any savings. However if I were in or near town I could definitely see the advantages of this system.

    1. Hi Shara,
      yes, living a good distance from town could be problematic to make a return visit, unless you knew the store's rain check use-by date was months away. Driving back, just to get that one rain check item would definitely negate savings. For me, I'm in the stores once a week or once every couple of weeks, so I'm not needing to make extra trips just to redeem a rain check.

  3. I do ask for them, but then I lose them or forget about them, until I clean out my purse and then find them again, but they've expired. *sigh*
    I think I'll try posting them on my kitchen calendar. Thanks for the suggestion.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      I think that everyone needs to find their own way to do these frugal things. Perhaps pinning your rain checks on your calendar will be the way to keep track of them. Good luck with this!

  4. A very timely reminder for me, as I have a few of those in my handbag right now.

    1. Hi Helen,
      It's good to hear from you. Yes, do get your use out of those rain checks, if you feel you still need those products.
      Thanks for writing.

    2. My husband and I took the RV to daughter's house to get some sun for a month. But we're glad to be home again. As they say, "there's no place like home".

    3. I'm just glad you're both well. You'd mentioned something about your husband needing another surgery, and well, I worry. : )
      Thanks for checking in.

  5. I have never gotten a rain check on food, other items though (tools that hubby had wanted). I really should as they always seem to be out of the sale by the time I get to the store.

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      I find it so frustrating when I make plans to pick some things up that are on sale, only to get to the store and discover the shelves have been cleaned out. It has been made worse, in recent years, by the super-couponing wave.

      Anyways, I can't always get to the store first thing, first day of a sale, so I rely on getting those rain checks. The hardest part is remembering to use them!

      One other trick that I've learned, in addition to asking if there's more stock in the back, when it looks like they're out of something, is to look around for myself, especially look up. Stores put their extra stock on that top shelf, above the regular stock. It is sometimes still wrapped in brown paper, with the printed stamp of what's inside, or inside a cardboard case, with markings on the outside indicating what is inside. A lot of folks don't know to look up on top, so this stock gets overlooked. I'll usually need an employee to get it down for me. But I've been able to "find" a lot of advertised stock up on that top shelf, when the regular shelf is bare.

  6. I do use Rain checks, but not all of the stores here offer them. My Mom used to work at one of them that did not offer them. Her boss used to say, "when we run out, we are out no rain checks!" I like using rain checks if they offer them.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      The only stores around here that don't offer rain checks are the dollar stores (for obvious reasons, their stock varies), and occasionally promotional items, such as on Black Friday. Those store will usually have a statement in the ad saying "no rain checks, available to stock on hand".

      Thanks for dropping in.

  7. There is no law that a shopper cannot buy groceries more than once each week. I often buy what is on sale and decide to buy the item again, not to get around a limit. So, I go back just before the store closes on the last day of the sale, just like you do. I get the rain check and specify more than I know I will need. Sometimes, I cannot afford as many of the item as I specified. I get the item on sale and then can go back and have a chance of having the "sale" again.

    I have a zippered pocket inside my purse where I keep rainchecks and important receipts.

    1. Hi Linda,
      You're absolutely right. In fact, stores are relying on many folks shopping several times per week. They know that the more often someone shops, the more chances they have to sell them an impulse item or two. But the smart shoppers know how to avoid impulse buys, and stick to the bargains and needed items.

      So, you keep your rain checks with you in your purse, too. I find this to be very handy. No chance of me leaving my rain check at home. I also carry my gift cards with me. If I didn't, I'd completely forget them. It's usually while I'm actually in a store that I'll remember a rain check or that I have a gift card to that store.

      Thanks for your input.


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