Consumer Protection
en Español

How to Protect Yourself: Rain Checks
Source: Florida Attorney General's Office

If you are a thrifty shopper, you probably peruse newspaper ads, inserts or other sales promotions to locate specially advertised "sales" that offer discounted merchandise. But often these products are not sufficiently stocked and rapidly disappear from the retail store's shelves.

Grocery stores are required to offer rain checks, unless the advertisement clearly states that "quantities are limited," or unless the store can establish that advertised items were ordered in time for delivery and were in sufficient quantities to meet the public's reasonably anticipated demand. This rule gives grocery stores the flexibility to advertise bargain items that they are unable to stock in large quantities or at certain outlets. Such items may be seasonal products, like specialty holiday foods or perishables. A "rain check" will allow you to purchase the desired item at a later time at the bargain price. Instead of a rain check, stores are permitted to offer a substitute item of comparable value to the sale item, at the sale price. Or the store may offer some form of compensation that is at least equal in value to the advertised item. If you cannot find an advertised product on the merchant's shelf, ask for it. If the store has run out, you should ask for a rain check, a substitute item or other equivalent compensation. In most cases, retailers will provide you with one of these options. If you know that a particular grocery store routinely runs out of advertised specials without stating that quantities are limited, and does not provide you with a raincheck, a substitute item or some other equivalent compensation, write to:

Correspondence Branch
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580

If a retailer advertises products for sale that are unavailable for the purpose of luring you into the store, or if the salesperson is critical of the advertised product, so that he or she can try to sell you more expensive merchandise, then the store may be engaging in illegal "bait and switch" advertising. If you are not satisfied with any retail establishment's "rain-check" policy, or believe that the merchant has engaged in deceptive or bait and switch advertising, notify the local office of the Attorney General