February 28, 2012, 4:44 PM

Rare deals for a rare day

Feb. 29 represents a once-every-four-year opportunity to offer online shoppers quirky deals.

Lead Photo

Online shoppers buying shoes and apparel from Zappos.com tomorrow will have an unusually long time to figure out if they really like their purchases.

To mark Leap Day, the e-retailer says consumers who buy items on Wednesday will have four years to return their purchases, instead of the one year normally offered by the retailer, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc. That comes out to 1,461 days compared with 365 days.

"This was less of a way to drive sales but more of a way to highlight our customer service policies," says Michelle Thomas, senior brand marketing manager for Zappos. "Customer service is core to the DNA of our brand and this is just another demonstration of how far we are willing to go."

Thomas says most Zappos returns take place within two months of purchase, but that some customers do take more time. "We’ve heard from people who have put products in their closet and forgot about them, and those who buy products and hope that they’ll fit into them," Thomas says. "We hear about people who move and find them to those who simply change their minds. Everyone has a story."

The promotion comes a little more than a month after the shoe and apparel e-retailer informed some 24 million customers that their personal information may have been stolen by hackers.

Zappos wasn’t the only e-retailer hoping to gain sales by playing off the once-every-four-years pseudo-holiday that is Leap Day. Alice.com, an online marketplace for consumer packaged goods, sent an e-mail marketing message today offering “29 deals at 29% off.” The coupons expire at 11:59 p.m. Central time on Wednesday.

Alice.com is No. 467 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Amazon is No. 1.

Meanwhile, a box at the top of QuiltersWarehouse.com today was counting down the hours and minutes until Leap Day. That’s when shoppers who buy three items will receive a fourth item for free; the promotion applies to multiples of four, so that a consumer buying eight items receives two for free.

Online shoppers outside the United States also can enjoy Leap Day offers from e-retailers. Consumers in the United Kingdom who go online tomorrow to order pizza from Domino’s, and who spend at least 10 pounds (US$15.90), will receive four free cookies from the chain.

“Leap Day only comes once every four years so what better way to celebrate this free day with some free cookies,” says Simon Wallis, sales and marketing for Domino’s Pizza in the United Kingdom and Ireland. “In every box, there’s a cookie for each year since the last Leap Day.”

Wallis did not say what kinds of cookies the chain will give away.

Some e-commerce operators in India, too, were pumping up excitement for Leap Day. Fashionandyou.com, a site that sells fashion apparel, is offering 29% off purchases made tomorrow.  

The Leap Day promotional activity also applied to at least one online retailer of adult products. GameLink.com said it would offer 15% off online orders until March 4.

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