Sales Offer Consumers An Out If Hard Times Hit

As companies try to jump-start sales in a sour economy, many are offering risk-free deals to consumers: Purchase their products, and if you get laid off, you're off the hook.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And here's another new business trend. Companies are trying to jump-start sales by offering risk-free deals. Buy the product, and if you get laid off, you're off the hook. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Everyone from airlines to car makers to clothing companies are advertising what they hope are recession-proof sales.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Man: Now finance or lease any new Hyundai. And if you lose your income in the next year, you can return it with the no impact on your credit. Sound too good to be true?

DEL BARCO: Hyundai promises it is true. They'll take back cars from customers who lose their jobs or are forced into bankruptcy this year. And there's more. JetBlue Airlines is offering refunds for laid off workers who made travel plans before they were axed. And the Joseph A. Bank clothing chain says customers who get canned can literally keep the shirts and suits on their backs.

Professor DOMINIQUE HANSEN (UCLA): I think it's actually quite interesting and in fact quite clever. They're shifting the risk of a somewhat risky purchase onto themselves.

DEL BARCO: UCLA marketing Professor Dominique Hansen says during other recessions companies offer discounts to entice sales. But this is new.

Prof. HANSEN: They're trying to lower, obviously, the perception of risk and increase demand at a time when it's very difficult to get consumers to commit to a rather risky purchase.

DEL BARCO: Hansen says if the marketing strategy proves successful, other companies are sure to imitate them, and that, he says, is good news for consumers.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

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