I’m sure I’m not the only one whose eyebrows shot up into their hairline yesterday when they read the post from USEA saying that Point Two was giving away 1,000 free air vests to members. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who immediately went “What’s the catch?”.
And yes, of course there’s a catch. The deal was worded like this in the article:
ProAir Jackets are valued at $675 and Point Two is offering these vests at gratis to the first 1,000 current USEA members that claim them. Members must commit to a 5 year servicing package ($75/year), with annual service including: a cleaning of the outer shell, servicing and replacing piston, springs and lanyards if needed, a brand new air bag, and a lifetime warranty. Members must also purchase one CO2 canister at the time of the annual service.
That got my spidey senses tingling, because I just couldn’t see them handing vests out and hoping people actually sent them back in yearly for servicing (which almost no one does anyway). So naturally, because I’m the nosiest person on the planet, I emailed and asked for more details about the costs involved and the terms, which is when you get the full story:
“The terms of the promotion as follows. $375.00 paid up front for a 5 year service package. Every year when you send your vest in for service you will be required to purchase a canister ($30.00) as well as pay for shipping.( shipping is $17.00 )”
Ah, well, that makes a lot more sense doesn’t it. $375 up front (keep in mind they were selling demos for that much last year, so you know they’re making money at that price) means that they are assuring they see a profit regardless of whether or not you ever send it back for service, plus $47 a year on top of it. Because yeah, their normal annual service rate is $75, but it includes shipping and doesn’t require the purchase of a canister. Those terms make me think the number crunchers at Point Two did a great deal of thinking on this to figure out how to still come out profitable in the end.
I’m not saying this isn’t a good deal. If you really want a vest, were planning on buying this particular brand anyway (at which point I would urge you to compare/contrast), and you would actually be among the 2% of people that sends it in for service every year, you’re gonna come out ahead. But otherwise, make no mistake, this is a payment plan. $375 up front plus $47 a year (plus whatever shipping costs for you to get the vest to Point Two, probably $10ish) for 5 years is a $660ish commitment. Let’s call a spade a spade – this isn’t a giveaway, it’s a sale in fancy wrapping.
Point Two has done a very smart thing here; they’ve invented a way to “give away” product, still make money at it, and boost their repair/service rate. How’s that for a business rejuvenation plan? Anyone care to guess how many people will ever send those vests back in for service? Enjoy your $375 vests, y’all. 😉 Hey, maybe Point Two will use the profits to fund some research (specifically regarding: if the sudden and violent inflation – particularly the inward direction of the Point Two – exacerbates injuries that have already occurred, the risk of destabilizing neck and spinal injuries as the vest deflates, the failure rate of detachment, the failure rate of inflation, etc). Then again they’ve said in the past that they don’t have any interest in doing research, so I won’t hold my breath.
One really good thing that I do see coming out of this is greater public awareness of the fact that air vests need regular servicing. Point Two’s website recommends annually, after six deployments, or after a hard fall. While it’s true that the mechanisms inside are designed to last longer than a year, dirt and/or water in particular can cause them to massively fail, particularly at/near the canister and lanyard. Of the people I know that own air vests, almost NONE of them get the vest serviced regularly. If you’re going to attach yourself to your horse, at least make sure that your chances of coming properly UN-attached are as great as possible!