U.S. News: It's Your Own Damn Fault You Can't Redeem Rebates

U.S. News & World Report hates our inability to redeem rebates. If we only tried harder, they say, we might be able to conquer our “tendency to procrastinate and inability to follow multistep directions.” Yes, that must be the problem.

…research suggests that much of the time it’s not the companies offering rebates that are creating the problem. It’s the customers. Their tendency to procrastinate and inability to follow multistep directions–albeit often explained in tiny print–result in as many as half of all rebates going unfulfilled. “It’s their own inability to have self-control and say, ‘I’m going to get this done,’ ” says Tim Silk, assistant professor of marketing at the University of British Columbia.

Because people tend to believe they will redeem the rebates and then they don’t, they often pay more for items than they expect. “You see something that has a rebate associated with it, and you are overly optimistic that you will do all of what’s required,” says John Gourville, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School.

With rebates, we are anything but optimists. Readers who keep meticulous spreadsheets and take photos of their completed rebate applications are still rejected by crafty rebate processors who rely on a patented process to keep redemption rates artificially low. How low? Let’s ask assistant professor of marketing Tim Salk. According to his research:

…promotion managers informed us that redemption rates tend to be “very low” when the reward is below $10, that rebates of $10 to $20 on a $100 software product range between 10% and 30%, and that redemption rates on consumer electronics average approximately 40%.

Don’t count on rebates when making a purchase. If they come through, great, nice surprise—but rebates should never serve as a deciding factor.

Why Shoppers Love to Hate Rebates [U.S. News & World Report]
Why we buy but fail to redeem? (PDF) [Tim Salk]
Managing Mail-In Rebate Promotions (PDF) [Tim Salk]
PREVIOUSLY: Rebate-Processor Parago Caught In A Lie
HOWTO: Rebate Whore
Redeem Rebates With Hard Work And Luck
(Photo: Mecha Wendy)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. D-Bo says:

    It surely doesn’t have anything to do with the rebate processors throwing out the submitted forms…

  2. number8 says:

    I agree. Some people don’t follow the rebate instructions carefully resulting in rejection.

  3. SkyeBlue says:

    So who got their pocket lined by advertisers for agreeing to run that story? Who cares what they say, “Newsweek” sucks anyways. By the time you get the magazine you’ve been already reading everything in it from other sources for a week!

  4. headon says:

    @Skyblue: What does Newsweek have to do with this. The article was in US News and World Report.

  5. MelL says:

    @SkyeBlue: So stating a truth means they’re taking bribes? Be for real, there a re a lot of people who procrastinate and there are a lot of people who cannot follow directions. Those are facts.

  6. catskyfire says:

    Let me think. “their own inability to follow multi-step directions–albeit often explained in tiny print.”

    To me, that is not a fault of the consumer, that’s a deliberate effort on the part of the rebate offerer to limit redemption.

    I think a proper rebate offer would be: “The form, the proof of purchase. Mail here.”

    That’s it. Not, “The form, the proof of purchase, three pieces of identification, a live frog, and mail here, then here, then here.”

  7. Islandkiwi says:

    I like when they ask for a piece of the box, then six weeks later they tell you they needed a different piece.

  8. ShadowFalls says:

    I sent mine in very quickly, but that didn’t stop one company from saying they didn’t get the UPC. Fortunately, I had made a copy of it all, they told me to send that in and I got my rebate.

    One could say, well maybe you forgot to put it in? Nope, I make sure to include everything, going through each step so they have no excuse.

    I never once though count on a rebate, and actually prefer to avoid them. It would be a wonderful thing if you could price match rebates too… I would prefer that they stopped them all together and just discounted the items so we don’t have to pay tax on the extra amount that they rebate.

  9. warf0x0r says:

    I worked for a rebate processing center, entering the rebates, for 1.5 years while I was in college.

    Once I filled out a $50 dollar rebate for an ATI graphics card. I filled the form out in print and submitted it the way I wanted to have it when I used to enter the data, no staple with a tiny bit of tape connecting the UPC to the form, which is the preferred method for most of the data entry people. The rebate never shows up. I call the line on the ATI website and they tell me that I didn’t send in the UPC code. I have no recourse and they’re basically tell me too bad for you no rebate. I did everything exactly right, but they didn’t care. They saved 50 dollars not sending me my rebate.

    Well too bad for ATI, that was my last purchase from them. I have since purchased an Nvidia 7800GT and a 8800GTS 512MB(G92)…

    What do all those model numbers mean?

    about 600 bucks in lost revenues for ATI.

  10. humphrmi says:

    I bet we could get lots of stories here from people who followed directions to the letter and still didn’t get rebates. I know I have my own stories, and I’ve actually stuck to my guns (two years now): NO Products with Rebates! Unless I’m already happy with the pre-rebate price.

    I think the key point in the article is this:

    research suggests that much of the time it’s not the companies offering rebates that are creating the problem. It’s the customers.

    I disagree. You may agree, but I don’t. I believe that retailers and rebate processors make a concerted effort to avoid paying rebates.

  11. cde says:

    @mell: Sure, there are alot of people who DON’T redeem rebates. The issue is people who DO redeem rebates get screwed.

  12. ogman says:

    Bullshit! Just today I found out that Microsoft’s rebate handlers, the ever-crooked Young American company, claim that they never received my Tax Cut/Money Plus rebate. Unfortunately for them, I kept copies and even took a picture of the envelope dropping in the mail slot.

    The problem is NOT the customer, but the usual corporate slimeballs trying to ripoff customers.

  13. bohemian says:

    Retailers know that a certain percentage won’t follow through on a rebate. That is old news. So in order to lower even further the number of rebates actually sent in they make them artificially complex or with downplayed rules making them impossible to redeem.

    None of this explains the behavior of some fulfillment centers simply never processing or rejecting rebates for reasons that were not disclosed to the buyer before they sent it in.

  14. MelL says:

    @cde: No, the issue raised in the article is that there are people who put off redeeming until it is too late and there are people who don’t follow directions. Fraud by the companies is a different matter.

  15. HooFoot says:

    This does not suprise me in the least. I work for a government agency and see mail-in applications and forms every day. For every correctly filled out application I receive, there are at least two more that have mistakes or missing information. A common mistake I see is where the person misspelled their street name or city in their own address. How someone manages not to know how to correctly spell such vital information is beyond me.

  16. cde says:

    @mell: I meant the issue raised HERE. The article makes no mention of possible fraud on the rebate company’s part.

  17. tinmanx says:

    I don’t understand why rebates take so long to process. The last time I did a rebate it took 3+ months after they received it. I guess they just want to sit on the money for as long as they can and earn some interest. Either that or there is only one person in the whole company processing the rebates.

  18. brokeincollege says:

    It’s like the internal revenue code. It’s deliberately written to confuse.

    Penny wise, pound foolish.

  19. i know that i’m only just one consumer… but i will never, ever purchase anything with a mail-in-rebate.

    on sale? fine. instant rebate applied @ cash register? fine.

  20. donTHEd says:

    At my job we get people coming back in, complaining they didn’t receive their rebates…I’d say it’s 70-30 as to who’s fault it is, with 70 being the company.

  21. Mariajl says:

    Oh please… the only time I have ever gotten rebates is after making many copies and THEN — weeks after it was overdue — calling and following up on it. They work like insurance companies… the count on you not fighting the rejection.

  22. ShortBus says:

    Always use USPS “delivery confirmation” when mailing in rebates worth more than a few bucks. Grab a handful of the little forms and some additional stamps next time you’re in the post office. You can easily add the label and additional postage when dropping it in the mailbox.

    Or… just refuse to play the rebate game in the first place.

  23. eeebee says:

    I’m not stupid and I can read and follow instructions and I’ve often been denied a rebate. I am quite certain that they train the people to open the mail and “accidentally” drop some of it on the floor. I refuse to purchase anything based on the rebate any more.

  24. BalknChain says:

    Yes, it’s all our fault if we could only focus more we would be able to process.. MultiCat..uh, Fresh Step….? Yes, I use those for my cat. Is there a rebate? What..? Do cats have UPC’s? Oh, yeah, got it. Git r done..What’s this string on my finger? I need stamps. There’s a 10% chance of rain so I might not make it to the mailbox.

  25. Joe S Chmo says:

    @warf0x0r: I had a bad rebate experience with HP and so they did not get my laptop purchase that I made 2 years later. The rebate company they used cost HP over $2,000.00 in sales all because of a $100 rebate they did not want to fulfill.

  26. discounteggroll says:

    if all rebates were like Staple’s “Easy Rebates” life would be SO much easier.

  27. matt says:

    The first example that the article gave was a guy who “didn’t buy the computer at the appropriate price”. Yet the store surely advertised the rebate, and did not explain that he would not be eligible for the rebate. In fact, he had no way of knowing about the terms and conditions until AFTER he had purchased the item, when the forms printed out.

    No, US News – the rebate system is an elaborate scam, that, quite like gift cards, subsists solely on the hopes that people WILL NOT USE THEIR GOOD/SERVICE.

    My family purchased an eMachine computer (466 Mhz, 128 MB RAM – enough to run half life), way back when. The rebates that came with it really made it feasible for my dirt poor family to put one in our house. The rebate company went out of business between the “4-6 weeks” it would take to get our money back, and we had to eat the cost. That’s when we started to drink powered milk. No joke.

    I hate rebates, but I understand that if played correctly, you can end up with some fantastic deals with them. You only have to bank on others falling into the trap.

  28. Infe says:

    I never consider a rebate when purchasing something…if I get it, great, but the price+shipping+tax better be good without the rebate!

  29. smitty1123 says:

    I graduated from public high school and I’ve never been denied a rebate and can’t remember ever spending more than 5 minutes filing out whatever the required forms are. Then again, I was one of those freaks who actually passed that “following instructions” test schools give (the one that has around 5 pages of instructions, the first one being “read all instructions before proceeding” and then the last instruction is “ignore all the preceding instructions, sign your name at the top of the test and turn the test in”).

  30. jeffe says:

    As a long time rebater I’ve got my technique down and everything, but I still get the rejection letter about %50 of the time. Recently I’ve been thinking about recording myself filling out the form, dropping it the mail box, and the suing the f*cks when they say I didn’t include something. I keep copies of everything so I’m prepared to send, fax, etc. whatever they need, but I’ve gotten the same line, “we sent that rejection letter in error” too many times to believe it. Most recently a Microsoft Office $100 Black Friday rebate got rejected for not including the manual cover. I called and said I have a copy and that I’m positive I sent the cover, the response was that the rejection letter was ‘improperly sent’. I asked if they would have sent the check if I hadn’t called, but didn’t get an answer. Shady

  31. XTC46 says:

    it is both. The companies make rebates the way they do becasue they know that customers are lazy and stupid for the most part. I can’t count how many time people called my store asking how to fill out a form and my typical response is “what does step 1 say…ok do it…now step 2…ok do it..” people need their hands held. The companies assume very few people will turn them in, then do the least amount needed to process those who did do the work. Id say the split for failed rebates is 75 percent customer’s fault, then 25 percent the company messing up.

  32. camille_javal says:

    My rebate experiences with Apple products (bought through the website) has been consistently very good – fill out the form, saw out a piece of box, rebate check in 6 weeks. Pretty much every other rebate situation has been a mess.

    My favorite was on a router I bought on Amazon (at the same time I bought some Apple stuff, which processed just fine) – I went through the steps, nothing. I called the number on the application, explained my situation – they told me the offer had ended by the time I’d sent in my rebate. As the offer form I had said it was running until January, and it was not yet January, I questioned this reasoning. Then I was told to send in copies of everything again – which, fortunately, I had, and I did. Still nothing.

    When I tried to call the same number again, first no answer, and then, a couple weeks later, a message saying the number was disconnected.

    In short, bite me, US News.

  33. pigeonpenelope says:

    this one’s tough. i used to deal with customers who submitted rebates and didn’t get it even though they were fully qualified. some customers, though, were dumb and didn’t do the job right. my mom submitted rebates to the same company i work for and she got her rebates in a timely fashion. so i would say that there are companies who do screwy things but moreso there are simply dumb customers who cannot follow directions. i work in a different department of the same company and while i don’t work with rebates any more, i deal with employee requests and most get denied because they didn’t submit things correctly even though we have all sorts of tools to show them how to do it right. i would agree with US News.

  34. MelL says:

    @cde: Right, because the article is about what goes wrong on the consumer-end: procrastination and errors. It’s not saying that’s all that is wrong with rebates, it is saying “much” of the problem is on the consumer end.

  35. ClayS says:

    “Don’t count on rebates when making a purchase. If they come through, great, nice surprise-but rebates should never serve as a deciding factor.”

    The Consumerist advice on rebates is right on target. If you get a rebate check, think of it a little bonus. Don’t buy merchandise based on rebates. If nothing else, its more work you don’t need to do. Especially when it comes to rebates from retail stores…they could just as easily give you the rebate at the register.

  36. Sherryness says:

    I used to be a major couponer/rebater “back in the day” and know a lot about this. Having a consumer buy something because of the rebate, then not send in the rebate (or do it incorrectly) is called SLIPPAGE. There is an actual name for it. And corporations ABSOLUTELY RELY on it, which is why rebate offers are so prevelant. It’s also why they are so complicated, and increasingly so. My tip of the day? Often multiple rebates can be obtained (legally) because the same offer is processed at a different p.o. box. It is technically an additional offer, and you can get multiple good deals by paying attention. I was pretty hard-core about it, though, keeping records and such. Most people won’t go so far. I made enough in a year on rebates, though, to buy an additional free-standing freezer for our home! And that was mostly on small items!

  37. Nytmare says:

    I’ll tell you who “procrastinates”, it’s the rebate processers, and they do it on purpose. Why does it take 5 months to do 5 minutes of processing work?

  38. digitalgimpus says:

    I’ve got to admit, I’ve filled out sooo many damn rebates over the years. Sometimes need to call (keep a copy of the rebate for your records) to correct their rejections, but I get it every time.

    So I do think the majority of the time people try to pass the blame because they either didn’t follow directions, or just forgot.

    Do they try to cheat you? Yes, some routinely reject you until you call and question it, then it’s a “technical error”.

    But 95% of the time it’s because people are just lazy or incompetent. It’s pretty simple. Follow the directions *exactly* (no copies means no copies, etc. etc.) and they work.

  39. Amelie says:

    @Sherryness: Amen Sister!

    The marketing professor’s comments are such utter b.s.!
    More than likely, he’s a consultant for creating rebates.

    I have been doing rebates along with my mother since forever and they have become increasingly ridiculous in their fine print and requirements. Whereas once, one had to slap on the upc and a receipt, today one has to jump through enough hoops that increase the likelihood of a mistake.

    I recently completed a refund for a cable TV promo that was so nit-picky and bizarre, that the average person would likely have screwed up. There’s no reason that one has to be a “professional refunder” to successfully complete some of these refunds.

  40. Amelie says:

    @zouxou: To add insult to injury. The cable refund I participated in, sent a check that had to be cashed within six weeks of receipt.

  41. alexanderpink says:

    The fact is this is blatant BS. I did a rebate deal last year that entailed sending in nearly 50 rebates with UPC (no lie). When all was said and done I received a free Acer laptop, a free printer/scanner, and $300 extra. In any case, they flatly rejected a number of these rebates for one of the companies involved, obviously hoping the customer will not follow up. Of course I did get all my rebates, but only by staying on top of all 50, having a spreadsheet, and making scans of everything sent. Companies will find any reason to deny your rebate, and if they don’t have one they will make one up.

  42. catskyfire says:

    Y’know, if I was a company and was serious about offering a rebate, I’d put a piece of paper with a code on it. Go online, enter the data, get the rebate. Done.

  43. MelL says:

    @cde: Yes, because the article is not all-encompassing research, it’s focus is on the consumer side of things.

  44. darkclawsofchaos says:

    circuit city and laptops, you get a good deal of them, but not all of them, sometimes its worth it to spend a slightly higher price than a rebated price since the cash savings are guaranteed

  45. rawrrawr says:

    As a few people have mentioned before, if I get a rebate rejected I stop buying from that store or brand. Kragen, was it worth the $4? Targus, was it worth the $10?

    And yes, while I realize the rebate processing is not done by the companies offering the product, they are complicit in the “slippage.”

  46. ninjatales says:

    I usually get rebates but Kworld is being a very tough customer. After following all the steps to getting it through, one of my rebates ($5) made it but the other ($35) went missing.

    Rebatestatus.com claims they mailed it and they can’t do anything after 30 days. But if you go to search for the rebate, there’s a notice asking you to wait for 60 days after it’s mailed out before making an inquiry to Rebatestatus.

    Went back and forth between Kworld and Rebatestatus and got numerous emails from the latter saying they would refund me only when I call them up, they would deny it.

    I say rebates are typically a scam. They “lose” a few rebate apps on the way, disqualify most, and “lose” a few checks after they “mail” em out to the customers.

  47. mwwilk says:

    Original Rebate Whore hear. I do think there’s a lot of shadiness on the part of rebate processors, but I’ve been cruising at about an 80-85% success rate on all my submitted rebates. With all the items I’ve purchased over the years, it’s amounted easily to over $1K. And no, I don’t purchase something because it has a rebate. I first have to have a need (or a *serious* want), I research the heck out of it, and if there happens to be a rebate, I consider it a bonus.

    The most insane rebates I dealt with were for a couple of cell phones (a BlackBerry and a RAZR) I purchased a couple years ago from buy.com. You had to wait X number of months into your cell contract before submitted, and provide paid cell bill statements, along with the usual shiz-nit. But if you waited too long, the submission window shut. I put reminders in my Outlook, which faithfully popped up 2 days before I could submit the form. I got both rebates, I think I actually made a penny on the BlackBerry (not including postage).

  48. Xkeeper says:

    @catskyfire: That’s the thing, most companies aren’t.

    Rebates are ways to have a sale without actually discounting anything.

  49. balthisar says:

    I’ve done maybe 5 rebates in my life. I don’t do those stupid $0.50 battery rebates (do they still offer those?), but for things like hard drives, yeah, definitely. Never had a problem. Doesn’t take spreadsheets or specialized knowledge. Just follow the basic instructions, and your check comes. Don’t know who all the alleged people with bad luck are.

  50. SOhp101 says:

    Make a copy, end of story.

  51. chutch says:

    I have some rebates out right now. More than I’ve ever done before. I took meticulous records of my contents of the envelopes. My lawyer and I dare them to not send everything they owe me back! :)

    I wouldn’t have any rebates – but it equated out to paying $10 plus tax for 3 PS3 games and a DS game. I figured that was worth a fight.

  52. Parting says:

    Some companies made the process easier. I like Staples web rebates. Easy to fill out and always received them within 4-5 weeks.

    However, anything paper, I don’t trust.

  53. Amy Alkon says:

    I’m with you on Staples. Easiest rebate process I’ve ever experienced. It’s all right on your check, and you can track it online. Here’s a link:

    [www.stapleseasyrebates.com]

    So many of the rest are hard work, and/or the companies sleazily make it near impossible to turn the thing in right.

  54. I like instant rebates at Fry’s…in fact, those are the only ones I’ve ever really bothered with. But I’m a dirty hippie.

  55. A few useful tips: staple the UPCs to the forms. That way, it’s harder for the UPC to fall out separately and get “lost” or be “not received.” Also, if you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, it’s helpful to fill out PDF rebate forms using the “typewriter” tool, which allows you to ensure legibility of your forms. {ProfJonathan}

  56. mmcnary says:

    I must be living a charmed life. I recently upgraded my machine with a new motherboard, memory, new graphics card and more hard drive space. I bought everything at MicroCenter, got all of the additional copies of the receipts for the 3 rebates, filled out the forms, copied everything, and forgot to put the receipts in the envelopes.
    I got a couple of emails telling me of my mistake, I asked if I could resubmit the rebate and I never heard back. I wrote the rebates off in my mind, even though I wasn’t really counting on them.

    Two weeks ago, I got a $40.00 check for the video card and last week I got $50.00 more for the motherboard and memory. It might just be time for another 500GB drive…

  57. darkened says:

    My father and I have been avid users of rebates especially for his cheap pc purchases that are $700-900 as a bundle and after all rebates $300-400.

    We have never had a rebate declined or “lost in the mail” excluding once where I sent the actual UPC to the one that needed the copy and the copy to the original and they still contacted me and informed me if i sent them the original UPC they’d honor the rebate still but couldn’t at that point since I had put it in the wrong envelope.

    Maybe it’d be worth spending the $2 to send rebates certified mail?

  58. Mr_Human says:

    I must be lucky — I’ve never had a problem receiving rebates. They’ve all come through. And I’ve filled out a lot of forms over the years. I guess that because of my good experience with them, I do make some purchase decisions based on rebates.

  59. psyop63b says:

    This brings to mind the entire “Gotcha Capitalism” phenomenon.

  60. kc2idf says:

    There is, actually, another problem with rebates, and that is this: When you redeem a rebate, you get the amount of the rebate, but you don’t get the sales tax back.

    As an example, if I buy a $100 item that is on sale for $75, it rings up as $81 (8% tax). My net cost is $81.

    If I buy a $100 item with a $25 rebate, it rings up as $108. Hopefully, if all goes well and the stars are in alignment and the moon is in the right phase, I get a $25 rebate. My net cost is $83, plus I had to go to a bunch of trouble for it, plus I have typically given up the ability to return it, plus I might get rejected by the rebate centre’s draconian rules, plus you never know if the rebate centre is just pitching out the requests.

    Just ignore the rebates. Also, tell the salesdroids why you are ignoring the rebates.

  61. ElizabethD says:

    I believe in my state (RI) there is now a law that retailers must give consumers the rebate at point-of-sale, i.e., when you pay for an item with an attached rebate. I’ll have to re-check that one.

  62. zibby says:

    Best rebate semi-scam I’ve seen is a demand for a copy of the UPC from a video card manufactured by PNY. Sounds standard on the face of it, except this UPC was printed in a recessed area on the video card itself in white – even if one was inclined to put the card on a copier, it wouldn’t have taken. I got the money in the end, but it was more trouble than it was worth.

  63. Pop Socket says:

    @discounteggroll: The Staples system is so easy. There is a code number on the receipt so there is no need to mutilate your box for the UPC number. No trip to the post office and you can track the progress online. That is a real rebate system.

  64. RandomHookup says:

    @tinmanx: It usually takes long because they’ve built it into the process. Processing company only cuts the checks after they get their money from manufacturer. Manufacturer doesn’t want to pay in advance, so only sends money when submission window has closed. If the manu. drags its feet, no checks go out.

    I got a rebate last week 10 days after I mailed it. That’s the way to handle it (I think it was handled in house).

  65. Corydon says:

    I’ve had pretty good luck with rebates. I can’t remember ever having been denied a rebate that I was eligible for.

    And almost all of them have been along the lines of a form + a copy of my receipt (sometimes the original) + a UPC code sent to an address within a certain amount of time. Not too difficult.

    I did just submit a rebate for a monitor that I bought from newegg.com (which normally has great customer service btw) where someone, either Newegg or UPS, slapped a shipping label on top of the UPC code that I couldn’t remove without destroying the UPC. We’ll see if that one goes through or not (in 6-8 weeks, of course).

    All of my positive experience notwithstanding, I HATE rebates with a passion…they’re a sneaky means of advertising a lower price and getting you to pay a higher one (even if you do eventually get your money back). I tend to avoid places that advertised prices after the mail in rebate.

    Again, Newegg has always been great about how they handle them. Their prices are less than you’d find in a bricks and mortar store, even before the rebate, and prices before mail-in rebates are clearly listed and advertised, so the mail-in rebate really is a nice “extra”, not the advertised price.

  66. vermontwriter says:

    I remember buying anti-virus software when I bought my computer because Best Buy had a rebate program going. The rebate program had already expired, but I got it in writing from the sales person that the rebate had been extended. Sure enough, sent in the rebate with a copy of the letter stating it had been extended and got the notice back that the rebate had expired, so I called Best Buy and was told that the sales clerk had pulled a fast one and there was nothing that could be done.

    I always use my rebates and send them in, but the amount of crap I put up with gets tiring. I’ve had companies say the UPC code was not attached, though I know I had taped it to the form. I’ve had others say a copy of the receipt was not good enough – it had to be the original, though the form never said original it just said send proof of purchase with the date and price circled. My favorite was the company who sent it back after the expiration telling me that the mailing address had to be handwritten and that using a printed mailing label was no acceptable. Again, no where did it say handwritten only.

    I compare rebate companies to health insurance companies now. They automatically reject the first time just to get you to eat the additional fee. Only if you fight do they give you your money.

  67. csdiego says:

    I learned not to count on rebates at an early age (around 13, I think) when I mailed in a rebate coupon (printed by the manufacturer and included in the box) for some L’Oreal hair product only to get it sent back as “addressee unknown”.

    Forget all the elaborate rules and hoops for the customer to jump through: just shut down the P.O. box printed on the rebate offer. THAT’s the way to run a proper rebate scam.

  68. Starfury says:

    I don’t buy stuff just because of a rebate. I figure that they could lower the price if they can afford to cut me a check.

    I did switch to DSL and I did get my ATT rebate in the expected period. Now I’m waiting for my 3 months free amount to be credited to my bill.

  69. FreemanB says:

    My wife tracks all of our rebates on a spreadsheet and keeps copies of all the necessary forms, UPC codes, receipts, etc. We get the usual rejection notices, requiring us to send them copies of information they claim they lost. The worst is when they don’t send a rejection notice or check. If they just sit on it without rejecting or accepting it, then it is up to the submitter to remember the details. Fortunately, since my wife tracks the dates as well, we call when the rebates are overdue. Nothing is more irritating then to hear them check the files and say “Yes, we have everything, we’ll mail your rebate immediately.” So basically they only mail them out if you call to check on it. Otherwise, they assume you’ve forgotten about it.

  70. quail says:

    For those who’ve ever messed with rebates the best ones are the hassle free, online ones that never require anything to be mailed in. But on the whole I never let the rebate price persuade me on a purchase.

    My first bad rebate experience was on some language software. The cost was $49 but they offered a $40 rebate. I bought the package, and took it home only to find that their rebate form was the tiny round, half-dollar sized sticker stuck to the side of the box. It was printed on glossy paper and the instructions said that they would not give rebates unless all of your information was placed on the form. Thankfully I had a Fisher Space Pen (can write on grease) and filled in the form. Got my $40 but vowed never to let rebates be a deciding factor ever again. (Oh, and the software was crappy too.)

  71. dlab says:

    @mell: I think skyblue’s point is that most of us have failed to receive rebates, even in cases where we went through the whole spreadsheets/polaroids exercise. Personally, I have only ever received 3 rebates out of at least 10 that I recall applying form, so based on my personal experience, I would argue that most folks get screwed on rebates.

  72. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, geez, if you leave it to your cat to fill out the forms, no WONDER you later find all the requirements haven’t been met… Unless the rebate is in the form of plump, lazy mice, of course.

  73. whydidnt says:

    My last attempt at a rebate was for some Security Software. A big sticker on the box offered a $40.00 upgrade rebate for users of competing products, which I was, with “details inside box”. I opened the box to find that to qualify for the rebate I had to not only provide a copy of the previous software disk or manual cover, but also a copy of the receipt showing purchase of the previous software. Who the heck keeps receipts for a $50 piece of software for 2 years? Total scam. I wrote the company and they told me to stuff it. Since then I have never made a purchase based upon any sort of promised mail-in rebate. To be honest, it’s a lot less hassle to not even worry about rebates. I often end up buying products that don’t have a rebate because their up-front price is cheaper than the pre-rebate price of their competition.

    For all of the bashing of Best Buy that happens here, at least they have gotten out of the mail-in rebate business, which I find refreshing.

    One other gotcha, and why I always waited to send in rebates (as mentioned as an issue in the article). Most stores won’t accept returns if the UPC is missing from the packaging. I always wanted to make sure whatever I bought worked well before cutting off the UPC and eliminating any chance of a successful return if the product was defective.

  74. the_wiggle says:

    @catskyfire: lol. of course not. they’d never do such a thing.

    love to have your rebate reform pass!

  75. ninjatales says:

    @trai_dep: Or unless they “lose” the damn check which they claimed to have “mailed”. And then they tell you they’ll reissue you a new check and when you call back they deny you another check even though they can check the status of the check and tell that it’s not been cashed.

    How bout that? Not everyone who don’t get their rebates messed up in the application process. Sometimes the companies use phrases like the check was mailed out and got “lost” in the way somehow.

  76. aaronw1 says:

    Never had a rebate fail for me, and I’ve submitted at least a dozen over the past 6-8 years or whatever.

  77. RokMartian says:

    I must be lucky. I’ve done at least 20 rebates in the past couple of years and not one has been rejected. I even had a $100 rebate come in and I know I had mailed it in too late.

    I guess that makes me a master rebater.

    oh wait….

  78. jcoltrane says:

    I’ve had a 100% redemption rate for a while, with only a few that I had to follow up on… until recently.

    A current $65 Kaspersky/Amazon rebate being serviced by Young America has taken 3 submissions (once by mail, twice by fax) and 7 phone calls over 5 months to make it into their system. Supposedly the check’s in the mail, but this experience shows that even the most conscientious rebater can have no end of problems redeeming their fully legitimate properly submitted rebate. It doesn’t have to be a small player like Vastech… Even the big fulfillment companies throw out rebate applications. (Threw mine out twice!)

  79. tweaked says:

    i noticed a few people mention Young America. funny company. as a former YA employee however – Chatham, ontario, canada call centre – i’d note that it is 100% at the client’s discretion how easy or difficult it is to get a rebate. which is to say, the company ‘offering’ the rebate. and it’s not all just companies out to screw customers, although there’s certainly a decent amount of that. while there, I worked for two companies, Nokia and Circuit City. CC’s rebate system was excellent, all computerized receipts and everything so if there was a problem with a customer’s rebate I could process a cheque right away. Nokia by contrast demanded that the customer resend everything, which naturally most of the people calling didn’t have. It was pretty clear that they just made the submission process as difficult and problem-ridden as possible to lower fulfilment rates. Either way, it’s up to the company, not some decision on the part of a fulfilment centre… some companies do everything up to and including flagrantly messing up rebates to hassle the customers into not getting their funds, others go out of their way to make it easy to process. If I was a US customer, I wouldn’t think twice about getting a CC rebate, but I’d never touch a Nokia rebate!