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July 7, 2008

Sunshine Guaranteed: Or Your Trip is Free?

Filed under: Internet,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:27 am

Sunshine guaranteePriceline is making an intriguing offer for travelers this summer — guaranteed sunshine!  “If your vacation is rained out, it’s free!”

Of course, the devil is in the details:

*MOUSE PRINT:

1. You must buy a vacation (hotel, airfare), not just airfare.

2. Sunshine is not guaranteed. If it is cloudy every day, no refund is due.

3. The big string is the amount of rain necessary to trigger a full refund: it must rain at least 1/2 inch for at least half the days of your trip. For a five day trip, it has to rain on three of the days. For an eight day trip, it has to rain on four of the days. Again, at least 1/2 inch of rain on EACH of the rainy days is required.

How likely is it that you will have so many days of heavy rain on your vacation?  Of course, it depends on the location you choose (only US destinations qualify). Checking to see how much actual rain different cities get per day, suggests you are unlikely to ever trigger a refund under Priceline’s guarantee. For example, in June 2008, in the Seattle area — a region known for being wet — there was more than a half inch of rain only on one day that month. [See chart]

In Ft. Lauderdale in June, it was quite rainy. But in a stretch of 10 days when it rained every day, only two non-consecutive days qualified. [See chart]

On the positive side, Priceline’s “no rain” guarantee is free. And your refund will be automatic if your trip meets the bad weather criteria it has set.

Bottomline: don’t count on a free trip.

• • •

16 Comments

  1. Obviously Priceline did its homework before making the offer. But if there is ever a case, no matter how remote, that the days do meet the “no rain” guarentee, the offer is better than nothing. I don’t feel Priceline’s offer is deceptive.

    Comment by Frankie — July 7, 2008 @ 10:40 am
  2. @ Frankie: Of course it’s deceptive. It’s a promise nobody can make good on. Nobody is in charge of the weather. Furthermore, the promise is not only deceptive, the pay-out when the promise is broken is also riddled with mouse-print.

    Do you really believe everything companies say, in stead of using your common sense? If I tell you that the sun is blue*, would you believe me? Would you then say that I had done my homework well? Or would you just call me an idiot. You should.

    [* when using a blue filter]

    Comment by Jasper — July 7, 2008 @ 12:28 pm
  3. I want someone to sell me a vegas vacation where they will refund the cost of my entire vacation if I don’t win on the slots. and also reimburse my gambling losses!

    Comment by myra — July 7, 2008 @ 12:50 pm
  4. Another case of “the big print giveth and the fine print taketh away.”

    Comment by John P. — July 7, 2008 @ 1:02 pm
  5. Jasper: I’m very suspicious on any company offer knowing full well that there’s always a catch. Of course this one is no exception. If I had planned on going to Florida via Priceline, I couldn’t care less on their offer. That would not be my “criteria” of taking the trip in the first place. However, just for argument sake, what if it did rain all the days I’m there with at least a 1/2 inch per day (easily done with one isolated storm)? Looking at the mouseprint, it doesn’t spell out the duration of the rain for each day of stay which leads me to believe that each day could be sunny most of the time. That was my interpretation in the first place or am I being naive?

    By doing their homework, their criteria of using a 1/2 inch to base their criteria was not a figure pulled out of a hat. There had to be some thought process to come up with that figure base on meteorological statistics to keep them on the safe side. I could promise you a full refund if the temperature reached 110 degrees in Miami. Won’t happen which is why I picked 110. Had I said 90 degrees, then I’m in trouble.

    Comment by Frankie — July 7, 2008 @ 1:29 pm
  6. @ Frankie: Off course there’s a catch. That’s the point of this whole site. Or even better, the point is that there should not be a catch. Or the company should not make the claim!

    And off course Priceline figured out a way by way they virtually never are going to have to keep their “sunshine guarantee”. And even if you meet the conditions, I am sure they will hassle you with so much paperwork and delay that most people would give up their attempts.

    In short, it is deceptive that a company offers a guarantee that they have no way of keeping, and it is worse that they even set the conditions for the guarantee in such a way that they never apply anyway. Deceit is bad.

    Comment by Jasper — July 7, 2008 @ 3:30 pm
  7. Jasper: Your points are well taken. I’ll just use my trusty ole car and take my time and enjoy the scenery. Motel 6’s are fine with me, well within my budget! And best of all, I don’t need Priceline for the way I travel anyway. Be safe!

    Comment by Frankie — July 7, 2008 @ 8:39 pm
  8. I guess I wouldn’t be so bothered by this if the ad didn’t start with “sunshine guaranteed” and then exception #2 reads “2. Sunshine is not guaranteed.”

    So which is it?

    If they had said something like “great weather guaranteed” then they would only be deceptive. Instead they outright lied.

    And how do they measure that 1/2″ I’ve know Florida to have isolated storms on a regular basis that surely produce many tenths of inches, probably exceeding 1/2″. Is it measured at the hotel where you’re staying (and does the hotel have a vested interest in underinflating those numbers?) Is the measurement only the nearest large city, where numbers may be skewed and certainly don’t reflect your own experience on vacation? Does it include rain while you sleep (where it really has little impact on your vacation)?

    And why only U.S. cities? Are they afraid they’ll have to pay out?

    I really suspect that they would find a loophole if they ever had to pay, and only a class-action lawsuit would help (although it would mostly help the lawyers, not the lowly consumer who never got what he/she was promised.)

    Comment by RS — July 8, 2008 @ 12:41 am
  9. jaspy: yep, ya can’t get somethin’ for nothin’

    Comment by scir91 from YouTube — July 8, 2008 @ 9:54 am
  10. 2 scir91: Of course you can’t. But priceline seems to be offering it, only then to disclaim it later. Why? To deceive customers, and thereby sell more.

    Comment by Jasper — July 8, 2008 @ 10:00 am
  11. The ad tells me alot about Priceline. I am prepared for advertising to be inflated and somewhat misleading, but I think Priceline went beyond that in this ad to outright deception. They have not intention of ever paying of on this gurarantee. I prefer to deal with honest, ethical companies and I think Priceline has shown their true colors in this ad. I will scratch Priceline from my list of companies with which I do business.

    Comment by John P. — July 9, 2008 @ 6:30 pm
  12. Everywhere you look, companies are finding ways to make more money, without even a thought for the customer. Seems like deception is the route to go anymore. That’s why if I ever want a vacation, I just use local travel agencies. They’re honest….for the most part.

    Comment by Shadeus — July 13, 2008 @ 2:46 pm
  13. Also, I did some inside studying.

    Everything but Trip Protection is refunded.

    For purposes of the Sunshine Guarantee, daily rainfall is measured at your destination airport and not at your hotel or other location. (I wonder what “purposes” they’re talking about?)

    The daily amount of rain that falls at your destination airport will be determined from measurements provided by the National Weather Service or other independent agency. Rainfall will also be audited by a private independent provider of weather information. Priceline will use the data provided by these agencies to determine if a refund applies. (A “private” provider of weather info? If that’s not deceptive, what is?”

    Other than that, I don’t really see anything else that is too suspicious. Although, I don’t like the fact that you have to wait 21 days to get a check in the mail “IF” you do qualify for a refund.

    Comment by Shadeus — July 13, 2008 @ 2:58 pm
  14. I booked a trip on Priceline for this first time earlier this month, which happened to meet the criteria for the Sunshine promotion. I used Priceline strictly because it had the best price. I did not even notice the promotion was going on. If I had, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was going to a wedding no matter what and would not have been interested in trying to create a rainy vacation just to maybe get my money back.

    The wedding I went to was in Raliegh, NC on a weekend when a hurricane was developing. It rained quite a bit. This morning I got an email notifying me about my weather refund. At first I thought it was spam and was going to delete it unread. Then I read it and still thought it was spam. I searched the internet and found the details of the promotion, and then I went back to my contract email, and sure enough, the Sunshine Guarantee was included.

    All promotions promise something in the title and then get you in the fine print. I think it’s the first rule of marketing. Yes, the fine print might work in Priceline’s favor. But they didn’t charge extra for the guarantee, and from my experience, it is possible that you can collect. Hopefully at least…I don’t have the check yet. But they did contact me automatically, which is saying something. Had they not, I would have never realized that I was eligible for the refund. So I think the promotion was a smashing success :)

    Comment by Kelly — July 21, 2008 @ 5:56 pm
  15. Well, actually, if you plan your trip right, you could potentially have the free trip if you were to visit a vacation paradise in the off-season. Hawaii still is a great vacation in the rain since it isn’t always rainy on every part of any of the islands at the same time! –book a reservation in Kanaohe on Oahu December through March: it is very rainy compared with it’s neighbor Honolulu, and a mere 20 minute drive over the Pali will bring you to the lovely shores of Waikiki…

    Comment by Rachel — July 25, 2008 @ 4:24 pm
  16. Wow! Too funny, I can’t beleive you refund trip money if someone’s vactaion in Ft. Lauderdale is rained out. Great job.

    Comment by Minuteman Press — November 18, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

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