The Houston Astros win!!! The Houston Astros win!!!

This is a phrase all too rarely heard during recent baseball seasons, much to the sorrow of the team’s remaining diehard fans.  The club’s rate of winning games apparently has been less than satisfactory, even during the soon to end current season, where many analysts had expected the club to turn a competitive corner.  Thus the team’s manager Bo Porter, was recently fired.

Actually, this firing might have had more to do with Porter’s disintegrating relationship with the team’s general manager, who just last year, after hiring Porter, predicted this could be the club’s manager for decades.  However, certainly the firing was also a sign of the club’s slow return to baseball relevance.

Indeed the club has already won over 60 games this season and has about three more weeks to up that total.  This number easily eclipses their win totals during each of the past three seasons, when the team reached its recent high water mark of 56 wins in 2011.

Aside from some loyal Astros fans, who hold out hope for the club to eventually reach the postseason for the first time since its unique World Series appearance in 2005, not to mention its surprising move to the American League last season, there are a few local fans who are actually ecstatic for even what little winning the club has managed this season.

Recalling and even eclipsing those rare and noteworthy local industry promotions, such as Westlake Hardware’s zombie invasion spoof which went viral before viral was a commonly mentioned term, Gallery Furniture of Houston is set to reward 500 of its loyal customers who responded to the retailer’s stunning but, for the company, hardly unique promotion, earlier this year.  The promotion offered the first 500 customers to purchase at least $6,300 in furniture, refunds, should the Astros win at least 63 games during the 2014 season.  As a side note, apparently the magic number 63, relates to the current age of Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale.  Losing the bet is expected to cost McIngvale around $4 million.

Still, based on the past three seasons, 63 wins was a considerable jump for the recently beleaguered club.  The Astros are now tied for the having the second youngest roster in the majors, 3/10th of a year older than that of the Chicago Cubs.  While the Astros traded their few talented veterans for promising youth in recent years, there was no guarantee as to the success of the maturation process.  While some youngsters might surprise and excel quickly, there is a greater likelihood that most will need considerable time to make a mark at the major league level, while others will never really make the grade.

Apparently this was a bet that McIngvale was almost happy to lose.  It was the third such offer McIngvale had made to customers in less than a year.  The others were football related.  One was simply that any customer purchasing more than $6,000 prior to kickoff, would get their money back if Seattle beat Denver for the NFL’s championship.  The odds were in favor of the customers.  All told, McIngvale issued over $12 million in refunds for the three ‘losing’ offers during the past year.

Of course a large part of these promotions were deemed to be more than paid in full, based on generated publicity.  Unlike most public relations stunts, fans here could see a real commitment to the customer.  There were very likely to be payoffs, and as it turned out valuable ones.  Also the company sported a sign in left field, counting down the number of remaining wins entrants needed in order to gain their very valuable refunds.  The Astro’s organization reportedly fielded numerous comments every day about the sign.

This week, Ikea is opening a new location in the Kansas City area.  As can be expected at Ikea grand openings, prizes are being awarded to early shoppers.  These include thousands of dollars in company gift cards, 40 Ikea designed sofas, followed by 100 armchairs.  There are toys being given to the first 100 children entering the new facility.  More, gifts are being given away on the next two days, including 40 mattresses and 40 monthly meatball dinners for a year.

As with most giveaway promotions, in addition to valuable publicity, these are designed to generate customer traffic.  A meatball dinner a month pretty much guarantees 40 store visitors each month, and more likely at least eighty.  On the local level, in addition to generating traffic the goodwill and media buzz alone should generate considerable future profits, even if the prizes aren’t worth millions.