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Snowfall can mean windfall for lucky customers

About eight years ago, Roxann Dulce came oh, so close. Another quarter-inch of snow on Christmas Day, and Anthony Jewelers in Palmyra would have refunded the cost of purchases all of its customers had made on Thanksgiving weekend.

About eight years ago, Roxann Dulce came oh, so close.

Another quarter-inch of snow on Christmas Day, and Anthony Jewelers in Palmyra would have refunded the cost of purchases all of its customers had made on Thanksgiving weekend.

This year, the Palmyra financial controller had a hunch that she would win - just as she predicted the Giants would beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl.

New York did win, in an all-time crazy nail-biter.

So, on the Saturday after Turkey Day this year, Dulce went to Anthony Jewelers and bought a rainbow sapphire bracelet for herself, a couple of ornaments, and a gift for a niece.

Now she's dreaming of a white Christmas coating her bank account to the tune of $700.

Anthony's is one of several merchants in the region - and scores nationwide - that tempt customers every holiday season with an unusual guarantee:

Customers get their money back if so much snow falls in such-and-such a time frame on some date.

"White Christmas sale. Free hot tub if it snows on Christmas," a banner on a sample outside West Chester Spas on Westtown Road proclaims this month.

Shop until Christmas Eve at Corinne Jewelers in Toms River and get cash back if an inch falls on New Year's Eve. If it does, customers will collectively recoup perhaps $1 million, said Ryan Blumenthal, general manager of the store that bears his grandmother's name.

Around the nation, even some car dealers get in on the action.

The merchants aren't losing sleep, because the gamble's all paid for through insurance. The insurer is the Grinch who prays for clear skies.

In 2002, Anthony Fratto, co-owner of the Palmyra jewelry store, was thrilled as he stepped out of church to see snow on Christmas Day.

"This is way cool," he remembers saying.

"Yeah, it would be great free advertising" if customers cashed in, said Larry Granger, who launched West Chester Spas and the promotion six years ago.

The come-ons lure mostly those already thinking of buying. "They're in the market for a hot tub to begin with," he said. "It kind of pushes them to get it sooner than later," or from his firm instead of a competitor, he said.

By having just a two-day promotion - the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving - Anthony Jewelers keeps costs down and still gets shoppers' attention.

"It gives us a good way to get our message heard on a weekend when everybody is blaring, screaming these unbelievable sales," Fratto said.

Picking a policy is a bit of a balancing act. If the promotion's too easy to win - one flake! - the premiums will be sky-high. If it's too tough to win, don't expect an avalanche of customers.

"The idea is to make it believable to the public and make it affordable to the retailer," said Patricia Sleicher, president of Global Weather Insurance Agency Inc., the Long Island insurer backing the deals at the spa and Corinne Jewelers.

Her company covers 50 to 100 weather-based promotions a year, with end-of-year snow deals being the most popular.

But other special days are targeted, too, and not just winter ones such as Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, and Super Bowl Sunday. Wedding rainouts can mean ring refunds. Hot-weather deals have been tried for the Fourth of July.

"We've even done wind in Wyoming," she said.

Such promotions are small potatoes in the weather-underwriting industry, though. "Our main business is insuring concerts, movies, TV commercials for weather," Sleicher said.

Her firm's biggest payout was about $6 million over the filming of Cliffhanger, starring Sylvester Stallone, when production was delayed because "they got blizzard after blizzard" in the Italian Alps, she said.

With store promotions, fine-tuning often shows up in the fine print.

Anthony's pays off on just an inch of snow from midnight to midnight on Dec. 25.

But for a free hot tub, two inches or more must fall between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Dec. 25, as measured at Pottstown-Limerick Airport.

The odds might seem slim, but similar conditions paid off last year for patrons of Geis Perry Jewelry in Atlantic, Iowa.

"We went for two inches of snow in a six-hour period, and they actually got like eight," Sleicher said.

"I felt fantastic about it. I had the happiest customers around," said Rich Perry, co-owner with his wife, Nedra.

Of course, it snows more in Iowa than in the Philadelphia area.

In the 1960s, Philadelphia had five white Christmases - more than in all the decades since combined.

A White Christmas?

In only 4 of the last 41 years has there been an inch of snow or more in Philadelphia on Dec. 25.

Dec. 25, 1969: About 4 inches fell.

December 1998: 2 inches fell in a storm that began Dec. 23, and 1 inch was still left on Dec. 25.

Dec. 25, 2002: About 1.1 inches fell.

December 2009: About 23.2 inches fell Dec. 19 and 20, and 8 inches were left on Dec. 25.

SOURCE: National Weather ServiceEndText

For National Weather Service records from 1958 through 2008, go to