Rebate Company Sends Your Check To The Wrong Person, Tells You To Collect The Money

Reader Mike says that he contacted a rebate company after not receiving his check, only to find out that the company had issued a check to someone else — and then suggested he contact that person and “discuss the matter of your rebate being deposited in his account.” Um… what?

Mike writes:

Try buying any good deal at Fry’s that doesn’t have a rebate. You can’t. So I bought an EVGA video card in May 2008 with a $45 rebate. Having played the rebate game before, I know that filling in the form properly and reading the terms are key. The EVGA rebate form said “Limit ONE rebate per product, receipt, household, family or address.” I soon found out that the most key term is none of the above.

After waiting over 10 weeks for my check (2 weeks after the 6-8 week suggested processing time), I attempted to contact http://www.evgarebates.com/ by phone. No combination of button-pressing in the automated phone system would get me to a live person. You would think that the most common issue of never having received your rebate would be an option, but it is not. After some research I learned that evgarebates is actually Rebateshq which is the Parago corporation. After calling Parago corporate in Coppell, Texas, I was contacted by Kent [redacted] who is a Major Account Analyst. I explained on the phone to Kent (yes a live person!) that I had not received my rebate and that I had copies of my rebate form and receipt. After some research he sent me this email:

Attached you will find copies of the check in which we discussed. Please review the information and let me know if you have any questions.

The only problem was that the check was in someone else’s name at the same address. I checked my rebate form at noted that I had filled it out in MY name and no one else’s. Another email to Kent and he asked me if I knew the name on the check, to which I replied that it was a relative of mine living at the same address.

A week went by and I heard nothing, so after pinging Kent I got an email:

Thanks for being so patience with me while researching this matter. However, looking into this matter further, it appears that there are several submissions in our system for the same address for both Bob and Mike Jones (names changed on purpose). Here is what has appeared to have happened, our system is set up to auto populate using the most recent data. It appears that at the time of data entry, Bob’s name auto populated versus your name because of the address. Being that this has taken place, as you know Bob Jones deposited the check into account number: XXXXXXXXXX which has cleared our bank. So at this point we suggest that you check with Bob and discuss that matter of your rebate being deposited into his account. We apologize for the delay in regards to this matter, but had the check not been cashed, we could have updated the name and had the check reissued the rebate.

Should you have any questions please let me know.

At this point I was rather upset. They sent the rebate to the wrong person and now they expect me to go to that person and get their money back for them. What am I, a collection agency??

After doing some research, I realized that the only information on the rebate form that is actually entered into the system is the phone number. If you have filed a rebate previously for any of the MANY companies that Parago processes, it will pull up the name and address that is in their system. At that point, the data entry drone who most likely moonlights as the “officer” that verifies those red-light camera violations, decides if the information in their system matches your rebate form. One click and the operator saves the time of having to read in all of that information on the form and type it in. What a time saver! But on the off chance that two people have the same phone number (I guess Parago decided that most geeky Fry’s shoppers really do live alone), your roommate will get your rebate. The rebate form should actually say “Limit ONE rebate per product, receipt, household, family or address or phone number.”

After calming down, I finally sent out this email to Kent:

The facts are:
1. I filed the rebate properly in my name.
2. You incorrectly sent the rebate to someone else, through no fault of mine.
3. You have proof that someone else cashed the check.
4. You did not send ME the rebate.
5. I did not cash a rebate check from you.
6. You have not fulfilled the rebate to me.

At this point I would suggest to YOU that YOU get the rebate amout of $45 back from the person you sent it to.

Since I am only 20 minutes away from Coppell, I have no problem filing a case in small claims court locally stating the above 6 points and presenting the proof of the cancelled checks you have provided me. I have no problem presenting the email you have sent me suggesting that I go to a third party and try to get the money from them. The look on the judge’s face will be entertaining.

That email did the trick and Mike got this response:

Thanks for sharing with me how you feel about this matter. However, please be advised that tracking number XXXXXXXX-$45.00 has been created for processing. You will receive the $45.00 rebate within 7-10 business days.

We apologize for the delay and inconvenience.

Either way, remember to keep track of each and every rebate!

You’re not kidding, Mike. Personally, we don’t bother with rebates because we know that we will never, ever, ever be sufficiently organized/willing to a) fill them out correctly b) remember that they exist and c) fight for them the way Mike did. (In other words, we’re the target audience for rebates, which is exactly why we shouldn’t bother with them.)

Some people, however, are rebate warriors. Kudos to you for making them pay up.

Comments

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  1. timmus says:

    From Wikipedia on Parago:

    a recent article in BusinessWeek Magazine reported of widespread consumer discontent with rebate programs and rebate processors. The story was very critical of the level of customer service and the fulfillment processing methods of all rebate companies in general and Parago specifically. Parago is frequently mentioned negatively at consumer protection sites such as Fatwallet.com and gripe2ed.com.

    Source: [en.wikipedia.org]

    But ironically maybe we should be thanking Parago, because the practice of rebates are something that should be sabotaged. Why not let a Fortune 500 company do it? Maybe this is what it will take to get into the concrete brain of Joe Consumer that rebates are a Bad Idea.

  2. MeOhMy says:

    Maybe Ken just figured it would be faster and easier for Mike to get his $45 from his relative who lives in his house instead of having to wait another 2 weeks for a new check? Not to mention then they wouldn’t lose the extra $45.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Is Bob the roommate? How did he get the check if he is not at the same address?

    Still the fault lies with Parago.

  4. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    …for the six reasons Mike states above.

  5. incognit000 says:

    I have filled out dozens of rebate requests and only a handful ever actually came to me.

    I think a big part of the industry is that they hope that you’ll forget you had the rebate coming and you won’t ask them for it, or they can claim that there was some cause to not give it to you, or they’re so insanely incompetent that you give up without getting your rebate.

  6. MelL says:

    The suggestion to talk with his roommate is actually pretty good. The catch, though, is that it should not have been the company that made it, since it is essentially them pushing the work to rectify the error onto the customer.

    Bad company, bad!

  7. sooner2k1 says:

    Fault lies with the Rebate company, but why did your relative cash a rebate check without having any idea why he received it?

    Also, why do you take so much offense to the guy suggesting you talk to your relative who lives at the same house as you about your check that he cashed? I could understand if it was a stranger at a different location.

    I would think that it would benefit both of you. 1) He doesn’t get dinged with an invoice from them, with the possibility of issues for cashing check he wasn’t owed. 2) You get your money much faster.

  8. ViperBorg says:

    @MelL: “Bad company, bad!”
    No cookie for you, bad company.

  9. neilb says:

    Dang, the 3 EVGA rebates I have sent in have been among fastest to get back to me. I actually see EVGA rebating as a more positive incentive to buy their products than any other rebates are for their respective products.
    This discourse proves that there is a way to get satisfaction from the company. This is more evidence of EVGA being a great company for rebates. The worst rebate companies (e.g., myrebates411) would not have communicated with him at all.

  10. Canino says:

    What kind of moron came up with a data entry system based on the assumption that no one would ever change their phone number? It must have been some kid straight out of college with a shiny new systems degree or a foreign national from one of those countries where there is one phone per 1000 people.

    Note to Parago: Have someone who has lived in the real world design your systems from now on.

  11. AnxiousDemographic says:

    Just say “NO” to rebates by mail! I find the typical practice of sales rebates despicable: The payment of the rebates is handled by a third party, not by the retailer, and the third party has little interest in maintaining good customer relations but very great interest in increasing their shareholder value. In my experience, the greater the rebate, the less likely a check will be in the mail.

    I’m not suggesting you buy an item and skip sending in the rebate. What I do suggest is you comparison shop without considering the value of a rebate, because chances are fairly good you won’t be getting the rebate anyway.

    I also find it aggravating that the transaction is dragged out past the point of sale, and the onus is upon the consumer to follow up on the sale. One small error and you’re out the rebate.

    Last and not least issue with rebates: The information the consumer provides is most definitely used for mass market mailing.

  12. bananaballs says:

    I am slowly getting more and more into rebates. The last two I completed (for Lexar and Staples) came back to me in a reasonable amount of time, and I am thinking the rebate on my Instinct will be legit, as well. It’s a bitch to remember, but hey, money’s money. Some companies even let you fill out rebates online (like Staple’s).

  13. floraposte says:

    Good for the OP. I had an AT&T rebate (the wireless router was essentially free with the rebate, and I had to have it either way) where they sent the check to my name at an entirely wrong address; if it was an autopopulate situation, I got mildly lucky, as the check was returned to AT&T as undeliverable. Of course, they waited for me to call before doing anything about it, and then they seemed baffled that I wanted to confirm the sending address: “But we just take your billing address, ma’am.” Except when you take a random address unrelated to it, you mean.

  14. matdevdug says:

    I hate rebates and won’t buy products with them. It never works out for me.

  15. backbroken says:

    Rebate = retail bait. Don’t be a fish.

  16. realjen01 says:

    wait…what? It might just be Monday morning, but Kent wouldn’t discuss this matter with his relative that was living with him about the rebate? wtf?

  17. bobpence says:

    My Parago experience was with an Office Depot Black Friday special. After two confirmation emails from them followed by months of nuthin’, I started emailing inquiries and got nothing useful. Finally I carpet bombed the two email addys plus a third I extrapolated from the pattern, plus the OD regional manager. Only then did Parago tell me that Navman had “not funded” the rebate, while OD reacted with a check for the rebate amount, plus a gift card for my troubles.

    OD acted right in my case, Parago are scum, but even w/r/t OD I have to wonder how many others waited in the cold on Black Friday and never even learned why their advertised rebate was not honored.

  18. esd2020 says:

    @incognit000: No offense, but… duh. Of course they’re hoping you’ll forget the rebate or fill it out wrong. If they really wanted to give you a discount there are many ways they could make the process easier for you (and cheaper for them to administer — scanning paper forms ain’t free!)

  19. LinkDJ says:

    I’ve always had really good experiences with rebates. Recently I purchased 2 Filtrete air purifiers from woot.com, total cost with shipping was $90. Each had a $20 rebate, so when they came I cut out both UPCs and sent them in seperately with complete documentation, just to be safe. About 3 weeks later, I got 4 letters in the mail… They sent me 4 $20 checks! The total cost of the air purifiers was $5 each, and they are sold on Amazon.com for $100 each. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy.

  20. james says:

    I hate rebates. I probably have lost $1000s by not sending them in on time or forgetting to send the pint of blood with them as per item 14b.
    Hell, when I bought my phone recently I actually went to mail in the rebate (which I rarely do) only to find I had exceeded the 4 days I had to get the form postmarked after receiving the phone.
    They are a scam. Almost no one mails them in.

  21. wiggatron says:

    My wife and I both bought Moto Razr’s a few years ago and each filled out the same 100 dollar rebate. Mine came in the allotted 6-8 weeks, while hers never showed. I called 4 or 5 times, each time being told that “the check was in the mail” only to never receive it. The 6th and final time I called I insisted that they refund the CC while I as on the phone. They did, and two days later a check arrived as well. I accepted it as payment for my time spent trying to retrieve the rebate that I was promised.

    Those rebate companies all suck and it’s almost impossible to get an actual person on the line, no matter how many menus you wade through. Congrats to this guy for sticking to his guns. Persistence pays in the rebate world I guess.

  22. MelL says:

    @realjen01: The burden is on the entity who screwed up, this case, it being the company. Whether it the other person is in the same house or the far side of the moon, it is the company who should be doing the work and they should never have been the one suggest doing it himself. A friend making the suggestion, sure, but the people who messed up? No way.

  23. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Canino: I’m thinking their system shouldn’t be auto-populating at all with everything that can (and apparently does) go wrong with it.

    Am I the only one bothered that Kent sent a checking account number to someone he KNOWS it doesn’t belong to? To me that’s much worse than suggesting that he talk to his relative about the check.

  24. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I go out of my way to NOT purchase items with rebates (unless they are on-the-spot instant rebates that reduce my total amount paid). I tell the sellers so, also. I’ve told Woot this several times. I think it’s fraud to claim the item price is, say, 20 dollars when it’s really 30 dollars minus a 10 dollar rebate.

  25. JGB says:

    I remember that Iomega was the first company to really push the envelope in not paying rebates.

    I remember them telling me once, when I called to bitch, that they were NOT responsible for the rebate application being lost in the mail. I pointed out that I had sent it registered and it had been signed for. Didn’t faze this guy a bit, he told me that the mail they were not responsible for included their own internal mail.

    Still, years later, my favorite customer service moment.

  26. RevRagnarok says:

    @LinkDJ: Apparently you got mine. :( I filled them out, etc. Never heard back. However one of the units sounded like a ball bearing was in the squirrel cage fan, and 3M not only shipped me a new one and postage for the return, but a whole envelope full of “we’re sorry, here are coupons for a ton of our products.”

  27. JN2 says:

    My last rebate attempt was from Western Digital for a HD I had purchased (through Fry’s now that I think about it). How naive I was. Despite adhering to the rules for the rebate I was shot down like a baby quail at a skeet shooting championship.

    Bad customer, no cookie for me!

  28. nix-elixir says:

    @speedwell: I totally agree. How unfair is it to lure people into the store or online with a certain price and then SURPRISE, it’s actually a rebate!

  29. Jevia says:

    I assume they figure that with so many people taking their telephone numbers with them when they move (or have cell phones) that people really do rarely change their telephone numbers. However, the addresses may change, so they really should double check those.

    I also assume that the roommate, ‘Bob’, got the rebate check and just assumed he’d forgotten about some rebate he had sent in many months before.

    I too try to avoid rebates. Seems like most of the time when I’ve filled one out, I get some letter in the mail that claims I didn’t mail in the proper UPC code. I always photocopy those things, so I have a copy of it, but the letter says it needs me to send the original (which I did the first time and now I don’t have, I just have a copy). I’ve called up the rebate place, which either lets me mail in the copy, or somehow ‘miraculously’ finds the original upc code I sent in previously. I get the rebate, but alway longer than the promised 6-8 weeks.

  30. unbelievable says:

    I don’t fault the roommate for cashing the check. I am reasonably certain that if you receive unsolicited items via snail mail then you are entitled to keep them without having to pay for them. That includes merchandise, return address labels, and I would think rebate checks :-)

  31. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    I hate rebates. What the hell is the point? Just knock the price down instead of making me send in my receipt, 10 Fruit Loops box tops, a kidney, and a phoenix feather. And as far as I’m concerned, showing the after rebate price in a manner that suggests it is the retail price with *after rebate* in 2-point font is maddeningly misleading. A manager smiled after helping me at CompUSA. I looked at the rebate information, and her look seemed to say, “Yes, I really do think you’re that gullible.”

  32. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    I mean, it’s like Blockbuster’s business model of making a ton of profits on late fees. Here’s a discounted price-if you remember and are enough of a masochist!

  33. bugdog says:

    Did they actually reply back with the roommate’s full bank account number when explaining where the money went? Because if I were the roommate, I’d be pretty upset about that.

  34. mph says:

    Really? It’s easier to go to small claims court than to just ask the dude you are already living with for your money back?

  35. mariospants says:

    Rebates are seriously just ass. Of the 10 or so I’ve sent in, only 2 were processed on time and without hassle. About 5 I’ve just given up on entirely (although small claims court could be fun the next time this happens). It’s no coincidence that they have a time-limitation policies that severely undermine your ability to contest a non-payment. By the time you receive notification that there’s a “problem” (my foot) with the submission it’s always too late to do anything about it.

  36. bobosgirl says:

    Ummmmm…. the rebate company obviously made a mistake here, but I think some of your “rage” is misplaced. How about you contact your relative/rommate and say “WTF? You got my check.” Maybe your relative/rommate should get a P.O. Box if you are going to continue to send in rebate requests to the same company. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that they honored the request at all. I see constantly “Only one submission per name and/or address” on rebate forms, so you’re lucky they honored it in the first place, and it is double kudos to them for cutting a second check in the interest of good will.

  37. coren says:

    The OP lives with the person who got the check. Said person is a relative. I’m with the people who said that the OP had an unreasonable reaction the the suggestion that he talk to his relative. Yes, the company screwed up, no doubt about it. But how hard is it to ask someone you live with about 45 bucks that they got?

    And sorting by phone # totally makes sense – just not the way they did it here. I can say that I live at 123 mystreet road, apt 4 and get one rebate in my name, then have a roommate or my girlfriend or someone with a different last name say they live at 123 mystreet road apt 8. All the mail still gets to me, but they won’t deny the rebate on account of it apparently being an apartment building. Using phone numbers cuts down on that ability to defraud them, even if it’s just a little bit.

  38. seamustry says:

    at least they sent a check…

  39. Petra says:

    Auto populating is no excuse, the form was filled out correctly and the issue was by no means the fault of the consumer. For them to even suggest that they were not to blame for the incident is atrocious! Good on you Mike for standing up for yourself and getting them to correct their mistake! So many consumers just roll over and take what they’re dealt, and that’s what companies count on happening.

  40. admiral_stabbin says:

    @coren: I disagree with the portion of your comment that sorting by phone # “totally makes sense”. Using the phone number as part of uniquely identifying a customer is fine, but, it shouldn’t be the only metric used. Phone numbers much more of a finite resources than say…an e-mail address. The entire concept of a “hash” (no, not that kind…but that was funny that you thought it too ) is to combine such different forms of data into a unique identifier.

    I’ve personally had bad experiences with Parago rebates, and, as such I won’t buy anything that has one associated with. OTOH, I’ve had great luck with rebates from large online retailer (e.g. Newegg).

    Now if Parago would just learn how to use the right kind of hash…they’d save everyone a lot of headaches. ;-)

  41. generalassembly says:

    @mph: I’m with you. I mean, what kind of bad blood must be between him and his relative?

  42. AD8BC says:

    I still can’t believe the number of people on here who have had difficulty collecting on rebates. I probably submit 10-15 per year, keep careful records, and can only recall one instance of a rebate not coming back to me.

  43. MelL says:

    @coren: Again, the idea that he should do the work to correct the company’s mistake is wrong. Whether the brother is 5ft away from him or on another continent, the company should never have suggested he do it himself.

  44. InThrees says:

    It’s amazing to me that you were able to strongarm the guy into sending another check. (Let’s face it, he’s only claimed to send another one, though.)

    I won’t buy products with a mail-in rebate unless I like the price I pay at the register, because a) I’m lazy about sending the stuff in, and b) I have this picture of the rebate house being run by mob guys.

    Regardless, the rebate house’s job is to fill as few rebates as possible, and I just don’t agree with the practice. Loan them money they can earn interest on and then have a very good chance of denying the claim “because the stamp was a little crooked, and that’s just not allowed.”

    Shenanigans!

  45. hottiearchitect says:

    I am crazy about rebates and I have an awesome rebate story….
    BLACK FRIDAY about 9 years ago. Best Buy had tons of wonderful deals including a scanner for $9.95 after $70 rebate. It was a huge fight getting the scanner, they didn’t give out numbers or armbands at this time, it was free for all. So I fill out my rebate form the weekend after Thanksgiving, make copies for my records and send them in. I wait about 2 weeks more than they ask and call the phone number on the rebate form which is the Best Buy rebate center. The guy that I talked to was very aplogetic. Said this was not a Best Buy rebate but the scanner company’s rebate (not a big name brand either) and the company is very slow and sometimes never gives rebates. The guy said Best Buy’s policy is to mail me another rebate check. So I ask, what if the other check comes and he says “I shouldn’t say this but you have waited long enough for your money and had to take the time to call us so you should cash them both” He said the they do not trace the rebate checks so I might as well get something for my effort. Of course I received both rebate checks within 2 days of each other, 3 months AFTER I should have gotten the first rebate. I did cash them both so they paid me for the scanner! I guess it was worth the hour on hold!

  46. coren says:

    @MelL: I didn’t say he should act to correct their mistake. I said there wasn’t any harm in suggesting he talk to a relative about a check they got out of the blue. 45 bucks you weren’t expecting is kind of a lot. Hell, dude should have asked about the check to begin with – how does he know someone didn’t just forget to give it to him?

    @admiral_stabbin: Not the only metric, but probably the most easily trackable, and most likely to be unique. Not that I would ever scam a rebate company *coughfreewebcamsonblackfridaycough* but phone number is the hardest detail to fake out of all of them. They clearly screwed up here, but I at least understand how the snowball got started rolling down the hill.

  47. coren says:

    @hottiearchitect: I know what you mean – on Black Friday, Amazon had “instant” rebates on these logitech cams, normally around 80 or 90 bucks, reduced to 68, and then with the rebate, 18. Like I said “instant”. Problem being, it was meant to be a mail in rebate, and they had the form linked from the page. So buy a webcam (and get enough for free shipping), make 30 or so bucks. I bought two, and got lucky, both got honored. But man, they were really jerking people around on those, and on a nice gaming mouse. I think it even made Consumerist at the time

  48. MeOhMy says:

    @MelL: Why not? The customer is pissed off because he hasn’t got his check and it’s been 10 weeks. Cutting a new check will take another 2 weeks (assuming they are good for their word which is a stretch), plus who knows if the company will be able to get back the extra $45. In a fortuitous turn of events, it turns out that the person who got the check both lives with and is a relative of the customer! What luck! If the customer can get his relative to help out, he can get his money in less than 2 weeks (hopefully) AND the rebate company doesn’t lose the extra $45 since it seems unlikely they’ll be able to get the money back from the other person otherwise.

    Now I can think of a lot of perfectly good reasons you might not want to go to a relative or friend and tell them the check they cashed – the one with their name on it – was actually intended for you and could they please give you $45. Therefore I don’t think it’s out of line that Mike preferred not to go this route and asked that they just send him the check they should have sent if their entry system wasn’t fubar.

    But it’s not an outrageous suggestion by Kent and any amount of indignation beyond “Thanks, but this was your mistake not mine so please issue me a check in my name” seems over the top.

  49. HogwartsAlum says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles:
    “I hate rebates. What the hell is the point? Just knock the price down instead of making me send in my receipt, 10 Fruit Loops box tops, a kidney, and a phoenix feather.”

    LOL!!! That was funny.

    I hate them too because they are a bother, but so far I’ve sent them in on my desktop, my laptop and something else I can’t remember and have gotten them all back with no trouble. On stuff like cleaning supplies at Walgreens, say, I won’t buy it.

  50. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    Yeah, he could have talked to his roommate, or relative, or life-size Chewbacca doll or whatever the rebate was addressed to. If he were my friend, that’s what I’d tell him to do. But where does the rebate company get off telling him to solve a problem they created on his own? Sheesh

  51. krunk4ever says:

    I agree the customer has the right to be pissed off, but I can’t understand why he won’t talk with his relative about this. It’s not like they’re completely strangers living at different locations.

    Given that he never talked to his relative about this (claiming he felt like he was asked to be a collection agency), I can not help but feel a small part of this is just simple human greed trying to scam the rebate center out of more money…

  52. krunk4ever says:

    @krunk4ever: I had actually meant to say: Given that he claimed he never talked to his relative about this…

  53. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles: Two words: unprofessional and presumptuous

  54. shepd says:

    To those suggesting he get the cheque from his roommate…

    …what bank do you have that lets you cash cheques written in someone else’s name and can I get an account there?

    I suppose you could make him cash it and give you the money, but that’s unfair and presumptuous.

  55. aaronw1 says:

    I generally like mail-in-rebates. I’ve never had a problem getting one, and I figure that there will be more of the item available because of all the people that boycott it.

  56. coren says:

    @shepd: He’s already cashed it. Is it too much to ask that money that shouldn’t have been yours go to it’s rightful owner?