Anyone up for Snowflake Roulette?
The odds are probably shorter than Lotto and you don’t have to travel to some smokefilled casino to grab a piece of the action.
Just head to Mandell’s Jewelers, 221 N. Wall in the downtown skywalk level, and buy something between now and Christmas.
Diamonds. Gold. Rings. Watches .. Whatever.
After that it’s up to the weather gods. Should it snow four or more inches between 6 p.m. and midnight on New Year’s Eve - every cent you spent will be refunded.
“This isn’t a scam. This is a legitimate, fun thing,” says Dottie Skelton, Mandell’s manager. “And we’re praying that it does snow four inches.
“If Mother Nature says OK, everybody wins.”
Skelton can afford to be magnanimous. The store bought an insurance policy which covers all losses in the unlikely event of a snowfall windfall.
Even if the sky refuses to yield a single flake, this is still a lot better than gambling, says Mandell’s owner, Barry Solomon, because “the customer gets to keep the merchandise.”
It’s encouraging to see a downtown merchant having a little fun. Life in the city’s central business district has been nothing but heartburn and slumping sales for the last few years.
There have been some terrible hits: The Crescent closed. J.C. Penney moved out. The west side of Riverpark Square went dark.
Then there was the marathon construction of Crescent Court and adjoining bus barn. All the barricades, holes and torn streets made the city look like Beirut on a bad day.
“The jackhammers were going all day long,” says Skelton. “You could watch objects on my desk go bouncing across. There were days when we all went home with headaches.”
This holiday, the torn up streets and big gaping chasms of Christmas past are gone and downtown again tries to become a glittering wonderland. But so much damage has been done, it will take a load of imagination and ingenuity to lure back all those shoppers who fled during the mess.
So why not Snowflake Roulette? If Solomon can attract some extra business, good for him. Maybe he will inspire others to stick their necks out.
For example: All the city’s merchants could offer refunds if, say, the City Council came up with a decent idea.
The snowfall gimmick is the brainchild of Long Island-based Worldwide Weather Inc. It began in 1991, when the firm insured a jewelry store. This year, says spokesman Michele Borday, the company is writing more than 200 bad-weather insurance policies.
Sometimes the payoffs involve whether it will rain on the Fourth of July. Other stores offer full wedding ring refunds should rain fall on the holy rite.
Like “the house” in a casino, Worldwide Weather won’t stick its corporate neck out too far. The company only backs a bet when the odds are stacked heavily in its favor.
A region’s climatological patterns spanning 50 to 100 years are scrutinized before a policy is issued.
That doesn’t mean they can’t lose. Worldwide Weather once paid off big on a Fourth of July rainfall. The company has also bought more than a few wedding rings.
The company, however, has yet to lose a snowfall bet.
Could New Year’s Eve in Spokane be the first?
Current weather patterns look ominously similar to the heavy winter of 1992, says Jim DeBerry, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Four inches of snow fell within six hours a couple of times.
“I’m sure it will happen again, but who can say when?” asks DeBerry, who calls the refund bait “an extremely big longshot.”
According to the rules, the weather bureau will have final say on measuring the snow. And that measurement, warns DeBerry, will be made fair and square.
“I just hope all those customers don’t come out here and try to show me all the jewelry they bought.”