Rebate’s Extinction Draws Near

Soon, we may be able to visit the Museum of Natural History and point and guffaw at an ugly, overstuffed, extinct beast: the rebate.

Turns out, rebates weren’t always such a good deal for consumers. Manufacturers and retailers purposely designed the system to appear user-friendly, yet difficult for consumers to successfully complete (a process called “breakage”).

Furthermore, sales tax was on the full price. Consumers sometimes ended up paying more on a rebated item than on the same item sold elsewhere without rebate.

In its stead, we may see manufacturers shifting to using gift cards to drive sales. Undoubtedly, restrictions will apply. — BEN POPKEN

Rebates on the Way to Expiring [NYT] (Thanks to Joseph!)

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  1. mfergel says:

    So far the only rebate system I’ve cared for is the Staples Easy Button system. It really is easy. You just enter in a code from the reciept online and you actually get the rebate back pretty quickly. Otherwise, I won’t even touch a rebate anymore. I’m tired of the whole UPC, Receipt, wait 20 weeks thing.

  2. thrillhouse says:

    yao! been there, done that – no more rebates. Amazon has done away with them during the time I’ve been waiting to receive one from them. Not exactly making things easy.

    I hate rebates.

  3. RandomHookup says:

    CompUSA has a system pretty similar to Staples. It works pretty well, too.

  4. Gari N. Corp says:

    Brief shill for Apple here. They not only honored their perfect companion rebate ($100 rebate on an HP printer that drinks priceless ink like I drink Yuengling….grr…. well that’s another issue), but they sent out another check when the first one got lost. Made me wait a month, but never the slightest hint of a quibble.

  5. c-side says:

    My Dad is going to love this. He’s been complaining about the “inflexibility” of Apple’s rebate system ever since he missed the boat on it last year. “Inflexibility” just being another word for I-don’t-fill-my-rebate-forms-out-in-time. I, however, am one of those “diligent and fastidious consumers” (NYT) who reads the fine print and gets the catalogue of rebate info postmarked by midnight. And, eventually, I get my cash back. The NYT cites “breakage” as the design by which retailers manage to take advantage of lazy, time-pressed, or careless consumers. Hmm, sounds like America to me. Not only on the retailers’ end, but on the consumer end, too. You think it’s going to be any different when all consumers have to rely on are shopbots and giftcards (which, in my opinion, stink since a gift card dictates how the consumer uses their discount)? The same number of people who pay attention to rebate rules will set up their shopbot RSS and catch those “temporary promos”, while giftcards demagnitize in the wallets of rebate slugs. People don’t change easily, but the usability of a system can. I hope someone works on that.

  6. Anonymously says:

    13 months later and I’m still waiting for the rebate on the phone I purchased from buy.com. God Bless InPhonic.

  7. Demingite says:

    Good riddance.

  8. Demingite says:

    That “breakage” stuff is criminal.

  9. Starfury says:

    I’ve noticed that in last weeks Circuit City ad they have the price in large print and in much smaller print the fact that you have to send away for TWO rebates to get the lower price. I tend to avoid dealing with rebates as much as possible but will send the paperwork in. Then when (if) a check arrives I treat it like a small birthday gift.