In the last couple of months, as the economy has turned sour, we've seen a couple companies offer deals that don't leave customers out in the cold if they lose their jobs.
Hyundai started it all with their "Walkaway" clause. If you get laid off, and all your debts are paid up to date on the financing of the car, you can walk away from your car lease and your debt will be reported as full, so as not to affect your credit rating.
Then came Toll Brothers , who is trying to galvanize the market by offering to cover up to six months of a mortgage if there's a job loss. The rules are simple: You would have to lose your job within 24 months of closing on the home and you couldn't of had knowledge that you were going to lose the job when you financed the house.
Yesterday, the folks at Citi offered a similar deal. If someone loses their job, and their mortgage is owned serviced by CitiMortgage, they would only have to pay as little as $500 a month for three months, as long as they are at least 60 days past due on their mortgage or in foreclosure and show proof that they have been unemployed for six months.
So we weren't surprised when yesterday the Minnesota Timberwolves offered their own version of this deal. It's called the "No Risk" Pledge. Here's how it works. If any season ticket buyer loses his/her job at any point during 2009, the full value of the unused tickets will be refunded.
I can't see many catches with this program -- though you do have to file for unemployment and show the government paperwork -- so I think it's a really good one.
The Timberwolves have done something like this before. Last year, they offered the "Pay The Pick" promotion, where 500 fans got to pay the position of the Wolves lottery pick (No. 3) for each game during the season, resulting in a $129 season ticket.
Well, trust me, when I say that the Timberwolves have to be among the most creative teams in the NBA for a reason. Their average per game attendance has plummeted steadily over the last five seasons by almost 20 percent.
03-04 17,635 --------
04-05 17,181 (-2.5%)
05-06 16,150 (-6.0%)
06-07 15,998 (-0.9%)
07-08 14,476 (-9.5%)
08-09 14,184 (-2.0%)
It's no wonder the team is only one of two teams in the league whose arena is filled less than 80 percent. The Timberwolves are 18-42 this year and tied for the worst record at home at 8-23. Last night, they lost at home by 24 to the Golden State Warriors, who also isn't a playoff caliber team.
While we wait for more teams to do this, which we think will happen, let's give you a review of the history of money back guarantees.
1987: The Pittsburgh Penguins were likely the first team to do this, offering to give the previous year's increase on season tickets back to the fans if the team didn't make the playoffs. They sat home during the postseason, reportedly resulting in a $500,000 payback to fans.
2001: The Seattle Storm of the WNBA offered a refund for three games during the season if fans weren't satisfied with their time at the game. The catch? You had to collect your money a half an hour after the game, fill out a feedback form and you wouldn't get anything back on food and parking.
2002: This was the year of the money back guarantee in sports, but all three teams -- the Atlanta Hawks, the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators -- failed to make the playoffs after they promised their season ticket holders they would pay them back, in some way, if they didn't go to the postseason. The Hawks reportedly lost $500,000 after cutting $125 checks to each of their season ticket holders. The Panthers returned the equivalent of the six percent price hike season ticket holders paid for that season, while the Predators credited the five percent price hike they charged off tickets for the following season. We thought the Predators offer was the least risky and also the most hollow offer of the three.
2008: In the craziest money back guarantee the sports world has ever, the AFL's Arizona Rattlers risked their entire ticket revenue for the whole season on the promise of making the playoffs. If the team, which had gone 4-12 the previous season, didn't make the playoffs (12 of 17 teams do in the AFL), they'd give season ticket holders a complete refund. With $2.2 million on the line, the Rattlers made it. The Arena Football League did not, as it shut down for the 2009 season.
2008: Stanford University became the first college team to offer a money back guarantee of sorts. Fans -- who paid an average of $130 for a season ticket — who weren't satisfied with their experience at the football games, could get a complete refund, as long as they requested that refund before the USC game on Nov. 15.
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