Rite Aid Fabuary Free Flight Promo Going South?

Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be posting a couple of times per week. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.


A few days ago I wrote about Rite Aid’s Fab-uary promotion whereby you can earn a free domestic flight for $250 in spend on participating products. This February promotion follows on the heels of January’s Happy You Year promotion which offered a 2-night Hyatt stay. Theoretically, you can now get a free flight to go with your free hotel stays.

Here are my previous posts on the Rite Aid promotions:

2 Free Hyatt Nights For $250 Spend at RiteAid (Promotion Over)
4 Predictions For The Rite Aid Free Hyatt Night Promo (Promotion Over)
Free Domestic Flight For $250 Spend At Rite Aid

fabuary

Both of these promotions are being run by TRCo Marketing, sister company to TLC Marketing which was the fulfillment company for the ill-fated Dockers / JC Penney promotion back in 2008. That one also offered a free flight or free hotel stay. It generally did not go well and ended in a class action law suit.

Well, no sooner had I declared that TRCo was running a smooth operation this time around, then reader David L. alerted me that one of the destination cities had been removed from the Terms and Conditions. Whereas there had been 49 cities on the list of destinations, there are now 48. That might not be a big deal if they had simply removed Virginia Beach Airport from the list, given that it doesn’t have commercial service anyway. But that’s not the case.

The destination that was removed is Honolulu, Hawaii, perhaps the most aspirational destination of the bunch.

A fabulous view you won't be seeing for free
A fabulous view you won’t be redeeming for in the Fabuary promotion

When Was The Change Made?

If the change to the T & C’s was made prior to the promotion going live — as in when you could purchase the participating items — I guess I might be able to understand that. Maybe it was a mistake.

Except that’s not what happened.

I can definitely say that Honolulu was on the list as of February 1, the day that the promotion went live. That means its quite possible that some customers purchased their $250 worth of Anti-Monkey Butt Powder while the original T&C’s were still posted.

Anti Monkey Butt Powder
Anti Monkey Butt Powder

Is This Allowed?

Line item #37 in the T&C’s technically allows them to make changes such as this.  (Yes, there are 37 terms!)

Promoter reserves the right to change or modify the Terms and Conditions of the Promotion at any time during the term thereof. It shall be the bearer’s sole obligation to check the Terms and Conditions during the Promotion and when the bearer redeems the Reward.

I am not a lawyer, but I do wonder if such a term would hold up in a court of law for a couple of reasons. Consider a couple of hypothetical situations.

  1. What if TRCo removed 48 of the 49 eligible destinations, leaving just one choice.  Would it be reasonable to tell people “your free domestic ticket is now only good to Huntington, WV?  Sorry Suckahs.”
  2. What if they changed the terms on the penultimate day of the promotional period after almost everyone had made their purchases. Would that be acceptable?

To me, both of these cases would demonstrate that the company did not act in good faith. I can easily imagine a judge in a consumer-friendly state such as Massachusetts siding with the customers on this one.

What You Should Do Now

If you’re planning to participate in this promotion, or have already made your purchases, I would make screen shots of everything. That’s really just good practice for any deal. If you were planning to request Honolulu as your destination, I would still insist upon it. See what happens.

If they refuse to honor the original T&Cs, I would file a Better Business Bureau complaint in the state of Massachusetts. That was the course of action that ultimately got their attention in 2008.

My Plan

I participated in Happy You Year. As a Hyatt Diamond, I’m confident that I’ll get decent value from the 2-night stay certificate. It’s also a known commodity — many of us have experience with these certificates, and more importantly, have faith in Hyatt to make this right. The certificates also have a fixed value which is to say that TRCo and / or Rite Aid paid a fixed price for each one. This means that TRCo has no incentive to try to keep us from redeeming at a given property — either it’s available or it’s not.

A free flight is much different than a 2-night Hyatt stay certificate.

Since the cost of a flight is highly dependent upon where and when you are traveling, TRCo may be motivated to prevent you from redeeming for high value rewards. There’s no flat rate “flight certificate” for them to have purchased and thus hedged their costs. This is why they are much more likely to play games this time around.

So yes, I did do the deal in 2008 for a free flight. But I was a single guy back then who mostly just wanted to fly a lot to see his girlfriend. A one-off random free flight like this had value to me. And as I explained, it was easier to parlay it into a credit with the airline because change fees were roughly half what they are today.

But now I think taking advantage of this deal as a family would be difficult. Getting one free flight is nice, but that leaves me trying to pick up 3 additional seats on the open market. What if TRCo manages to book the last seat in a low fare class? I could be stuck overpaying for the 3 extra seats.

I’m also afraid that this change could be a sign of worse things to come.

All that said, I think I’m going to sit this one out.


What do you think of Honolulu being removed as a destination?  Is it OK since the T & C’s basically say the rules can be changed at any time? Or is TRCo not acting in good faith?

Comments

  1. Side note – obviously whoever wrote the Terms and Conditions was geographically challenged – maybe a moonlighting USAirways reservations agent? 🙂 You are right, Virginia Beach does not have an commercial airport; the local commercial airport is Norfolk (ORF).

  2. This reminds me of the Pepsi Points Case where a guy tried to buy a jet by buying points in a contest. He sued Pepsi and lost but it affected advertising after that because companies became more viligent about such offers.

    I generally do not participate in such things as this, ironically I am a Rite Aid customer who occasionally will spend $250 a month for different reasons. The biggest issue with this, and a lot of offers, is the restrictions. Pick 3 cities ? Well I don’t plan on randomly flying to 1 of 3 places at some random time.

    I don’t think those rewards are particularly valuable anyways especially the cruises. We just booked a last-minute deal on a 5 day cruise from Charleston for March for 2 totaling $864 everything.

    Whenever I look at rewards it best to look beyond the stated cost/value but look at your opportunity and economic cost, put your MBA to work.

    As for the missing Honolulu destination T & C usually favor the offerer and they do state that destinations are non-negotiable. Not sure you would win a lawsuit since there is no way to prove TRCo had knowledge of your intention of using Honolulu as your destination. Now if they removed 48 out of 49, there might be a case for breach due to unreasonable expectations. Virginia Beach would probably be serviced from Norfolk.

  3. Are there any restrictions on how convoluted the routing could be for the free flight they give you? If you wanted to go from New York to Sacramento for example, could they give you an 18 hour long trip with three legs on two different airlines? That is what I would be most concerned about.

  4. Upset I missed last months promo, decided to give this one a go and saw that they removed the Honolulu. Kind of upset about that. Now not sure if I should do the cruise or the flight. However, I am concerned that the cruise choice might not be worth it. Do you think you can find dealt there that would be cheaper to buy two cruise tickets outright or would it be better to use this BOGO cruise option. We are fairly wide open for dates, so that is not a concern

  5. Tom — I probably would be less worried about that. You can probably get a pretty good idea of the flights they would offer you by pulling up Orbitz for the dates / city pairs you request. You’re most likely to get the cheapest of what is offered there. If there’s a 1-stop itinerary is the cheapest in the market, that’s what you’re likely to get.

  6. Tyler — I know nothing about the cruise industry, so I have no idea what the value of this might be. I do know that I don’t like the that it is advertised as free when in fact it is actually a BOGO.

  7. Hi I haven’t been able to book my two day stay. I received the emails, completed the forms and have been told now to call in to book. They said it will be void if not done by today. When I call them the phone rings and rings and then says to leave a message. When I have gotten through the “booking agent” is not available. Anyone have any luck connecting with them to book?

  8. I LOVE reading these posts by Travis and Tiffany. They are well-written and I think the contrasting perspectives really add a lot to the blog.

    But…I must admit to almost always failing to notice that I am reading a non-Lucky post, at least until something in the text doesn’t quite fit and I scroll back up to make sure. Would it be possible to somehow make the author tag at the top a little less subtle?

  9. Probably the disclaimer that changes the terms is legal, but there may be claims for fraudulent inducement for people who acted prior to the terms changing.

    (That is, someone could say “I’m out $250 that I never would have spent because I wanted that trip to Hawaii.”) Their damages would probably be limited to… $250.

  10. Alex — There is usually a header at the top of my and Tiffany’s posts with a bit of information about us. It got omitted this time. Thanks for pointing it out — I just added it.

    So in the future, just look for the header to see if somebody not named Ben is the author.

  11. I’m planning on redeeming for a flight… it’s a great opportunity for me to visit my family in Tennessee who I haven’t seen in a long time. The fine print looks like I’ll need to pay the taxes but overall seems like a good deal. I’ll let everyone know how it goes!

  12. Lawyer — thanks for the insights. “Fraudulent inducement”… sounds like legalese for bait-and-switch!

  13. The thing that makes me hesitant to do this Fabruary promo is that for both the flight and the cruise..it says you must book the dates within FOUR months….not 365 days. I don’t want to take a cruise or fly someplace within the next 4 months. Has anyone noticed this? Are you all willing to travel within the next 4 months?

  14. Hello, I am almost at my 250 point reward for Fabruary promo and my goal is the free 7 night resort stay. Do you know if a timeshare presentation is mandatory or optional? I wouldn’t mind sitting through it but we’ll be traveling with a toddler so it’s not really an option. I wouldn’t want to be charged in full if its mandatory and we can’t make it. I am hopeful you can offer insight, if not, Iwill make as many phone calls as possible to the marketing company to answer my questions. Rci.

  15. Why not just have your flight start in Hawaii and then get the airline to switch it around? (For a fee of course)

  16. I would strongly prefer Alaska or Southwest ex-SEA to whereever – does anyone know if the booking agent only works with certain carriers?

  17. Fwiw, the redemption form that you have to originally mail in (I just entered all 5 codes), still lists Honolulu. I’m still going to still pick Honolulu!

  18. OK – I have my e-ticket receipt on AA – Maui to Jacksonville round-trip – taxes charged $110.73 (actual taxes plus $10 fee it appears). Ticket has a value of $1065.49 (charged to TRCo credit card) – I’ll hope for a schedule change and get full value voucher (if not voucher less $200 fee). Truly “gaming” the promotion……

  19. @Travis – I’ll tip my hat to Sean when he has an actual e-ticket lol…….we’ll see how it goes for him….

  20. @jack w: How long did it take for them to get back to you? I’ve waited now 8 business days and still haven’t heard from them. Who was the email from? I’m worried I missed something and they’re going to rely on their onerous Ts&Cs to try and exclude me from the promo.

  21. @X – I had called because I hadn’t received my Hyatt Certificates from the January promo and got connected to the concierge who apologized and said she’d have them out the next day – so I also asked “since it’s been eight days, can you work my Fabruary flight?” and she agreed. Just dumb luck and timing….

  22. Jack,

    So you were able to book the departure city as Maui? I thought the terms stated that you must depart from one of the listed cities? (Depart and arrive at the listed cities)

    I will give them a call later today as it has been 8 days now

  23. The form says you can depart from anywhere, but have to travel to one of the listed cities. But, it also says that the tickets aren’t changeable, which is contrary to reports. Just wanted to confirm that they are normal, nonrefundable, changeable-with-a-fee economy tickets

    We haven’t heard back yet from mailing in our form. Should be soon.

  24. I booked a flight out of a city only Delta flies to. It ticketed in K and they told me if I wanted to make any changes to call Delta. It’s a 600 dollar ticket. So for 250 bucks, I got a bunch of stuff and either I get a schedule change and 600 credit or 400 after the change fee with no schedule change. I made the flight for the end of the booking window for best chance of schedule change.

  25. Great news, thanks! I’m going to try to stack this with Alaska’s free changes for any ticket as long as the change is made 60 days in advance of travel.

  26. got my schedule change of over 60 minutes (as I had hoped). Full value voucher on the way ($1065). I win.

  27. Travis, can you run an update on this topic so people will comment on their experiences? I submitted my booking form more than two weeks ago and they were supposed to respond in 8 days. I’ve called them twice and they promised to get back to me, and I sent two emails. Still nothing.

  28. I’ve been getting the run around for a month now David. I think the next step is to threaten to go to the better business bureau.

  29. Well sent in my registration on February 22, 2015 for the Cruise. Have not received the booking email. I have called the Rewards toll free line 3/25, 4/21,5/1,5/5. and 5/6. I have been told anything from they will have a supervisor call me to the latest that they sent the booking email on 3/5 (never told that when I called on 3/25) and they will resend. I have emailed 3/17 and 4/6 to the Rewards center. No response. I wrote to Rite Aid on 4/20 and they tell me that the Rewards Center has to handle it. Yesterday I was told the fulfillment manager would re-email me the booking within the hour yesterday. No email. Called again today and spoke to the same lady as yesterday and she said she would have the manager email me right away but I had to return the booking form TODAY! I think this was a rip off and Rite Aid could care less.

  30. I managed to get my flight! How do I cancel without the charge just going back onto their credit card? I’m not worried about change fees because I can use a credit card promo to pay for them. I just don’t want to screw up and have TRCO get their money back and me to get nothing. I’m flying Alaska if that helps.

  31. I had a fairly simple flight request of any of 3 Bay Area airports to Minneapolis.
    In this case TRCo/RiteAid was only offering the cheapest Southwest Airlines flights and so would not provide me with my desired dates and time of day. And they made me wait and wait and wait and wait for the very limited option they did offer.
    The kicker was that I had to pay $77.09 for the privilege of the *free* flight. Asked Melissa to break that down and most of it was for the travel agent fee. Ugh, the “travel agent” provided aggravation, not service.
    The only good thing is once I had control of the reservation I was able to modify one of the segments to a reasonable time of day for only $20 more.
    I will not do something like this again. The savings was not worth the lack of control and the time spent.

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