I haven't seen this in other parts of the country, but in the Boston area, baseball brings... the chance for free furniture. Of course, it makes perfect sense. I shouldn't even have to explain it. Well, for the few people who can't make the obvious connection, here's the whole story...
In 2007, Jordan's Furniture company came up with a pretty unique promotion: Buy your furniture from March 7th, to April 16th, and if the Red Sox win the World Series, it is free. Considering the Red Sox had won a single World Series in around 90 years, one could see it as a pretty safe bet, especially since they recently got that one out of their system in 2004.
Unfortunately for the insurance company that Jordan's Furniture contracted with, the Red Sox did win the World Series and customers collected their money back.
Since that time, annual free furniture promotions have been on the rise in Boston. However, they aren't the simple 1 in 30 chance of a team winning the World Series.
The odds have seemingly gotten longer and longer. The next year Jordan's required that the Red Sox sweep the World Series as they had done in 2004 and 2007. That didn't happen.
The next year they put a dinner plate sized target in homerun territory in center field and hitting it would win win free furniture... after July 15th. To understand how rare this would be, realize that the Red Sox hit 165 HRs last year and logically roughly half of those would be at the road games. That's leaves about 85 HRs for home games (I'll be conservative), but by July 15th half the games are played. It's not always an even split, and the schedule makers could have weighted things so that they play more home games at the end of the season. However, we are just trying to get a ballpark (pun intended) idea here. So take away half the games that happened before July 15th and you have about 42 HRs hit by the Red Sox after July 15th at Fenway. Most of those homeruns are closer to the foul poles rather than center field. The sign itself is 430 feet away from home plate, few homeruns travel that far to begin with.
For a more detailed analysis of this: this post gives you a HR tracker at Fenway and digs into the numbers a lot deeper than I did.
Of course Jordan's didn't have to pay this on promotion.
This year's promotion gets even better. If the Red Sox pitch a perfect game in the 72 games between July 19th and September 29th, customers will get free furniture. As a local commercial points out there three perfect games last year. It makes it seem like a common thing, right? Well when this season started there have been 23 games in 202,520 games or 1 in about 8800 games. If we were to break those 8800 games into 72-game seasons (the length of the promotion), Jordan's would have to pay up once every 122 years or so. However, it doesn't count if it happens in a Red Sox game, but only if the Red Sox pitcher does it. So take those numbers and cut them in half.
Not to be outdone, Cardi's Furniture, is having their own free furniture promotion. If it is 98 degrees or hotter at Rhode Island's T.F. Green Airport on July 4th, furniture is free. They are pitching some facts for consumers, such as on 7/6/2010 it was 102 (note: this is not July 4th) and that there were 14 days in the 90s in 2012 (note: in the 90's is not 98 degrees).
I saw a small company that I think was into rug cleaning offer up a promotion of free cleaning if it rains on Memorial Day. I wish I could find that information, but I didn't anticipate writing this article until Jordan's took their marketing the extra step by pushing perfect games. In any case, who wants to root for rain on Memorial Day? Oh and I think it had to be 2 inches of rain, so not just a drop or two, but a really significant amount.
These furniture stores are really playing up the chance that you could win with cleverly crafted information. Sadly, it will probably work on a lot of consumers, who don't know better. Or maybe they'll get lucky?
Wait: Isn't This an Illegal Lottery?
I'm glad you asked. I didn't think anything of it until I read that someone challenged that it was. My initial reaction is that this is a fun bonus. However, when you dig a little deeper, it gets much more complicated.
You may have noticed these words on any kind of promotion like this: No purchase Necessary
There's a very good reason for why companies offer that. If they don't they could get sued for running an illegal lottery.
And Jordan's Furniture did get sued for running an illegal lottery. However, Jordan's won.
In a previous life, I probably was a lawyer, because I'm interested in things like this. So in looking up the case I found the following:
"under Massachusetts law, for a promotion to constitute an illegal lottery, three elements must be present: (1) the payment of a price, (2) a prize, and (3) some element of chance.... The parties agreed that the promotion included a prize (free furniture) and that there was an element of chance. Accordingly, the sole issue was whether 'any part of the purchase price of the furniture was paid for the chance to win the rebate.' The Court pointed out that the Plaintiff had failed to even allege that fact in it's complaint."
It looks to me that Jordan's Furniture dodged a bullet. The plaintiff could have easily alleged that based on the aggressive marketing campaign, it is quite reasonable to presume that Jordan's is enticing consumers to pay the price for the chance to win the rebate. Would the plaintiff have won? I couldn't say, but I think there's a solid case if handled appropriately.
Interestingly a Joseph Frate tried to sue Jordan's for the same thing, but it was thrown out of court. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out why without paying for the information... and I'm not that interested to pay.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that these promotions can be nice if you were going to buy the furniture at the place anyway. The odds of winning (especially now that Jordan's had to pay out the big money) are so low that it really shouldn't impact your purchasing decision.
2 Responses to “Baseball Season Brings About Free Furniture… at Long Odds”
Next: The Money Start-Up: Training and “What Is Your Time Worth?” (Part 3)