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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, January 18, 2001

Rain checks should
be handled fairly

Question: Are stores required to have a rain-check policy and if so, is there a standard policy all companies must follow? A store recently ran an ad for an item that had sold out by the next day. The clerk was vague about when they would get the product in again and wrote me a rain check on a business card. I called every day until I was told the shipment would arrive the following day.

But when I went the next day, I was told it hadn't come in. When I asked when it would be in, the clerk shrugged and said to come in again tomorrow. I asked to be put on a call list so I wouldn't waste my time. She said they didn't do that because the list was already long. This is a large retail chain. What is the company's duty to provide an advertised product to their customers? I feel like I am being given the runaround.

Answer: There are no state guidelines specifically regarding the giving of rain checks.

The issue is whether there were "unfair or deceptive practices in advertising."

The primary concern is that a merchant who advertises a product has enough merchandise "to meet a reasonably expected demand," explained Stephen Levins, acting executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection.

"If not, then the ad should specify how limited the quantities are," he said. "Sometimes, we understand demand will outstrip supply. In those cases, merchants will provide rain checks, but just providing a rain check does not excuse a merchant" who did not have an adequate supply in the first place.

Also, the mere practice of giving rain checks does not absolve a merchant from complying with the rules regarding advertising, he said.

But while the rules for unfair or deceptive advertising allude to rain checks, they don't set out specific guidelines, he said.

There may be legitimate circumstances for a supply shortage, such as a shipment failing to come in on time, Levins noted.

"However, if it happens repeatedly, that becomes a problem and we'll take a look at it."

Another option for you is to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii, 536-6956.

Q: During the harried holidays, I saw a story on TV about a Hawaii woman who refurbishes dolls and then gives them away to the less fortunate. Would you know who this person is and if she welcomes donations? My daughter has suddenly decided she's too old for her Barbies and some of them are still in good shape.

A: Does anyone know this woman? If so, please call Kokua Line at 525-8686 and leave a message.


To everyone who helped when my car got stuck in a cane field in Wahiawa and caught fire on Dec. 20, especially Timothy Nation of Wahiawa, the Wahiawa Fire Department, the Honolulu Police Department, Mr. Leone of Del Monte Co., and my neighbors and friends. Mr. Nation was my angel. I was trying to avoid traffic that morning and trespassed into the field hoping to get home right away because I wasn't feeling well. That's when I got stuck. I thank God I wasn't hurt because I had noticed a strong gasoline odor inside my car but did not pay attention to it. I'm grateful to Del Monte for not pressing charges against me. Mahalo to Mr. Leone and Rudy for telling me when it was safe to tow my car out of the field. God bless everyone who came to my aid. -- No name

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
Email to

E-mail to City Desk

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