GARDENDALE — Jeff Dennis has beaten the odds yet again.
The Gardendale jeweler, who gained nationwide fame for offering customers a refund if either team was held scoreless in last year’s Alabama-Auburn football game and then paid off when the Tigers were shut out, will hold another “refund party” for customers who made purchases at his store during most of August.
This time, customers will get their money back after Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport received more than an inch of rain on Labor Day.
Dennis first knew there was a possibility that rain would hit when he heard raindrops on the roof of his lake house early Monday morning. He checked National Weather Service radar, which showed a large mass of showers and thunderstorms creeping southward from north central Alabama.
“I was like a kid at Christmas Eve,” Dennis said. “I was checking the radar every other minute.”
Then he got a call from a customer who works as a firefighter at the airport. The rain was coming down there in buckets.
Dennis kept on eye on the NWS website that shows hourly observations. By the time the 10:53 a.m. information was posted, 1.42 inches of rain had fallen.
Dennis then posted on his personal Facebook page: “It. Just. Happened. AGAIN!”
The promotion ran from Aug. 1 to Aug. 26. All of Jeff Dennis Jewelers’ customers will get their money back on purchases made through that period. Dennis put the total at just under $90,000.
As with the similar Iron Bowl promotion, the refunds won’t come out of Dennis’ pocket. He had once again contracted with the world-famous insurance cooperative Lloyd’s of London to cover the possible loss — or gain, depending on one’s point of view.
Dennis likened the chances of two straight promotions of this sort paying off akin to those of a state lottery.
“That’s Lloyd’s business, that’s what they do,” Dennis said. “They didn’t tell me the odds. They just did the research, and came back to me with a figure that it would cost.”
The result is not official. Lloyd’s, which is a group of individuals and partnerships that take on unusual risks as well as more conventional ones like ocean-going ships, will certify with the NWS the actual rain amount. That’s pretty much a formality, Dennis said. “They’ve asked me to keep from making it official until they say so.”
So will two straight payoffs make Lloyd’s scared about insuring such a promotion yet again?
“It’s actually good publicity for them, as it was for the Iron Bowl. I happen to have defied the odds twice in a row, but there are all sorts of other companies they insure [where’s there’s no payout],” Dennis said.
A football game outcome is a little more conventional for Lloyd’s to cover, especially considering that betting on sports — primarily soccer, but also American football — is a way of life in England where Lloyd’s is based. Weather outcomes are a bit more unusual.
“After we had so much rain earlier this summer, I came up with the idea. It turned out to be a perfect storm — pun intended,” Dennis said.
But after two big payoffs, what does the jeweler have up his sleeve next?
“I’ve already got something in mind, but I don’t want to play my hand just yet,” Dennis said. “The marketing guy in me wants to go for the trifecta.”