Canon's Rebate Program Is Blurry And Poorly Lit

Brett has now been the victim of two failed rebate attempts through Canon. They ignored the first one, and rejected the second one with a claim that he can clearly disprove. He’s trying again. Unfortunately, it looks like Brett’s experience with Canon isn’t unique.

Brett writes:

I’ve just failed to have my second rebate attempt honored.

The first, was a lens rebate for $100, last winter. That rebate hinged on making two expensive ($400 & $1,200) Canon lens purchases within a several month window. They never even acknowledged that the rebate had been submitted.

My second try, I’ve now learned the $50 rebate I qualified for has been turned down. This later rebate required that as the original owner of a Canon Rebel SLR and and purchaser of a new Canon 5D [I] hack up my product box for the original UPC, [include] copies of receipts, etc…

Annoyed by my imaginary lens rebate, I made sure that all the hoops were jumped though in the rebate fine print, only to have my legitimate claim denied. I was encouraged as they at least let me know that I had filed for this rebate. However, they now cite that my original Digital Rebel has an unknown serial number. Unknown, but promptly registered when I’d first purchased it several years ago.

I have the mailing from Canon, informing me of this, telling me to resubmit my missing rebate information by the end of October. I’ve now re-registered my 4 year-old camera and will be mailing their card back with a note of my own, certified mail.

Based on a quick web search, it appears that I am not the first the hit roadblocks with Canon rebates, and think it would be helpful for other Consumerist readers to know about.

A Google search for “Canon rebates” turns up warnings and complaints from people who have been screwed over by Canon. Bryan at The-Digital-Picture cautions that you’d better follow the instructions precisely, and prepare to settle in for a long wait and potential fight:

As of the original authoring of this page, the last Canon lens rebate I participated in required me to send the complete information 3 times and took about four months until fulfillment. I followed the procedures to the letter – it could not have been more clear to the rebate fulfillment center. Still, I had to play the frustrating and time-consuming game.

Meanwhile, the “Canon Rebates” page at consumeraffaiirs.com is filled with complaints—at least one for every month so far this year—from angry consumers. By their accounts, it sounds like Canon is deliberately playing the stall-and-reject game with their rebates, in an attempt to keep the number of payouts as low as possible. You might want to keep that in mind the next time you weigh the value of a promised Canon rebate against the purchase price—even if you receive it, you may end up sinking many hours into the ordeal.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. CrackerJaX says:

    In the past Canon has used a company to handle all their rebates. Its been my understanding that whatever rebates the gobetween can reject, they keep for themselves, so why not screw the consumer.
    BTW, the best place for mail in rebates I’ve ever been to was at JC Penny’s (in Florida at least) because all mail in rebates are instantly refunded at the register, no mail in BS required. I hate to say it, but a simple law making all rebates effective at the time of purchase would fix all of this.

  2. LoganAdams says:

    Canon is somewhat legendary among photographers because of the supposed difficulty of getting money out of them.

    On the other hand, I sent in a rebate for a body and lens I bought a couple years ago, and it came through just fine.

  3. GMFish says:

    By their accounts, it sounds like Canon is deliberately playing the stall-and-reject game with their rebates…

    This reminds me of the good old days, well, not so good, when I used to buy peripherals from Diamond Multimedia. Back in the 90s the company made nearly everything, e.g., sound cards, video cards, modems, etc. So you were nearly certain to buy something they sold.

    Of the probably five rebates I sent to Diamond Multimedia, I to wait months and then call in. The person I talked to would always say that the rebate was approved two weeks ago, it was always two weeks ago, and I should be getting the check shortly. And, then about two weeks later I’d get my check.

    Obviously they were just waiting until the buyer forgot about it. Since then I’ve stopped relying upon rebates. They’re simply not worth my time.

    Now I’ll find what I want at a price I’m willing to pay. That’s easy enough.

  4. Technick says:

    In the past couple of years I worked closely with local news publication photo team. The guy in charge of purchasing equipment always talked about buying canon lenses based on rebates and all of the great deals they get. According to him, the rebates were the only perk that kept the team shooting Canon over Nikon. Apparently, Canon never denied a claim for him or the company.

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    Can lack of issuing a rebate (if the consumer can document all steps properly complied with) be a valid basis for a chargeback equal to the amount of the denied rebate?

    • JoeWaiver says:

      @SkokieGuy:

      Any rebate company worth its salt won’t let you know about the rebate rejection until well after the ~60 days you have to charge back.

      I think Tiger Direct patented the rebate-delay-chargeback-prevention method.

  6. agnamus says:

    Rebates are for fools. Don’t play their game.

    • Jon Mason says:

      @agnamus: Yep. After a Best Buy computer rebate that never got processd, I’m done with rebates. If a company uses rebates they don’t get my business. If you genuinely are offering savings, then offer the money off at point of sale, otherwise I’m not playing the game.

      • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

        @masonreloaded:

        Me either – Rebates no longer sway my purchase decision, as you have a 50-50 chance of actually getting the money back. If you can’t give me the deal right up front, I’ll go to the next retailer.

        One helpful site to check before diving into the rebate game (or deals in general) is slickdeals dot net. There’s a whole FAQ and section dedicated to which retailers use which rebate clearing houses and ultimately which ones to avoid.

        • danger the pirate says:

          @TheSpatulaOfLove: I must be the only person in the world who has had really great experiences with rebates. i’ve had them through best buy and tiger direct and i never had any problems. i sent in probably 15, minimum (modding origianl xboxs. the rebates were on hard drives. yeah, it was a couple years ago.) and all of them were redeemed. i guess im the (very lucky) odd man out.

  7. opsomath says:

    “it sounds like Canon is deliberately playing the stall-and-reject game with their rebates, in an attempt to keep the number of payouts as low as possible.”

    Yes. That is what all rebate programs are for.

  8. Rebate=Con game.

  9. FreemanB says:

    I don’t think a rebate can always be the basis of a chargeback, particularly since the rebate might be outside the control of whoever you actually purchased it from.(If it is a rebate from the merchant, then you might have a better case) In this case, the rebate is from the manufacturer, so unless you purchased it directly from them, the merchant has fulfilled their obligations to you. If it has jurisdiction, then small claims court would probably be your best bet, but I’m not sure if it would have the reach in this case.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @FreemanB: Why should a third party make a difference?

      If Cannon advertises the rebate and Cannon selects and contracts with a third-party processor, so what? Their choice of vendor doesn’t seem to be relevant.

      Cannon also likely has a third-party print their cartons and instruction manuals. If there is wrong information, is Cannon no longer liable?

      • jackal676 says:

        @SkokieGuy: Why should the merchant take a hit on a rebate from another company? Say you buy a Canon camera from Big Electronic Store; why would the store absorb the cost of a chargeback in the amount of a rejected Canon rebate? In this case, the store just sold you the item. The rebate is between you and the manufacturer. The chargeback wouldn’t hit Canon, it would hit Big Electronic Store.

        • SkokieGuy says:

          @jackal676: Okay, that’s logical, Cannon at fault, but Cannon did not charge the credit card.

        • FLEB says:

          @jackal676: Why should the merchant take a hit on a rebate from another company?

          The only entity the customer is directly dealing with is the retailer. It should be up to the retailer to recoup their losses if their downstream providers are unscrupulous. If the retailer published and promoted the rebate, the retailer is representing their faith in the manufacturer (and its agents) to deliver. If the manufacturer fails to deliver and the retailer refuses to solve the situation, the retailer’s reputation should be in just as much hot water.

  10. Mike8813 says:

    I recently bought a Canon printer with a $40 mail in rebate. Shipped it off, and got my money in about 6 weeks, hassle-free. I hope my case was the norm, and not those that have been reported.

    Not that anyone cares what I think (jerks!), but Canon makes great all-in-one printers.

  11. CrackerJaX says:

    Speaking of rebates, does anyone remember that website that sold stuff wayyyy overpriced, but then it ended up free after rebate in like 6 months? I guess they were investing the money but eventually I got a letter referencing a class action lawsuit against them. I did some dumb stuff in high school. What was that site’ name though?

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    Love The Nikon and never looked back. This makes me even more sure of my decision.

  13. tooki says:

    I shoot Nikon, but I use Canon printers, and the last one had a $100 Canon rebate on it, which arrived about 6 weeks later without issue. (As a bonus, this was on top of the Apple printer rebate and a discount, so I got it for a steal.)

  14. kc2idf says:

    There is another, minor thing that has always bugged me about rebates.

    For my example calculations, I will assume 8% sales tax — this is what it is here where I live.

    Consider that you are buying a $100 widget, with a $20 rebate. The store will post that the price is “$80 after rebate”.

    If the widget had been on sale for $80, it would ring up as $80, plus $6.40 tax, and you pay $86.40.

    If the widget is $100 with a $20 rebate, then you pay $108.00 at the register, and then (hopefully) get $20 back in the mail. Your net cost is now $88, which is $1.60 more than if the thing had been on sale.

    Maybe not a big deal for a $100 widget, but what about a $1000 doohickey (such as maybe a camera or complete computer system)? What about a $5000 thingamabob (such as a large TV)?

    Additional costs of rebates, and why “rebate prices” are crap:
    – You might get your rebate . . . or not.
    – You have to fill out a form and meticulously follow very strict rules to qualify, wasting your time.
    – You wait for your money to come back, when you could be doing something else with your money.

    So . . . when a store shelf says $80 after rebate, look to see what the register price is, and use that, and only that, for your comparison shopping.

  15. Radoman says:

    My Cannon rebates usually go OK. Skip rebates for almost anything from FRYS Electronics though. You’ll never see them.

    Cannon’s warranty department is pretty bad in my opinion. I had a camera that started getting wierd black spots in the pictures even with a clean lens. I sent it in to be repaired within warranty. Mind you, this camera lived in a camera bag and had very light use. They kept it for a few weeks then sent it back claiming they’d fixed it.

    It wasn’t fixed. They argued with me via email for a couple of weeks claiming it was fixed, then said they couldn’t help me anymore because it was now out of warranty.

    Pretty common tactic to absolve yourself of warranty claims. Stall em. Cannon makes nice stuff, but not so nice that they should think they can get away with that kind of thing. Nikon’s take nice pics too.

    I do NOT let a rebate affect my purchasing decision for any item, as it’s a toss up as to whether or not it’s a legitimate offer. I submit alot of rebates, and I’d say it’s about 60/40. 60% of the time it’s no hassle and you get your rebate. 40% of the time the rebates are handled by some fly-by-night 3rd party company like myrebates411.com, and you’ll be lucky to see a dime ever.

    Pretty neat how they figured a legal way to scam the American people out of millions though. It shouldn’t be legal.

  16. Eigtball says:

    The company that Canon Canada uses is great. Can’t remember it right now, but it was done online ahead of time, then sent the information in. They updated the status online. OH just remembered, it’s [canon.resolverebates.com]

    No problems with mine here.

  17. QrazyQat says:

    I got a Canon rebate when I bought my laptop. It’s the only company I’ve had trouble getting a rebate from. Never got that one. I love their cameras but naturally don’t like their dishonest handling of rebates. They should really think about not souring their customers, who tend toward repeat business. They’re not the only fish.

  18. QrazyQat says:

    BTW, I wrote that way too hastily. I meant to say I got the rebate opportunity, but didn’t get the rebate.

  19. NikonGal says:

    Well I guess you can look at my name and know how I feel about Canon. :)

  20. squidbrain says:

    Canon has been using a company called “young america” for processing rebates. I’ve had two rebates processed by YA, one canon and one sandisk. In both cases they claimed I did not send in the UPC. In both cases I called them and they corrected the problem. What I’ve heard is that workers for YA will use this ploy to steal the UPC and claim the rebates from themselves.

  21. bbb111 says:

    Last year I bought a laptop and the best deal on what I wanted had a rebate. [Mostly, I don’t play the rebate game anymore, but this was the one I wanted at a price I was happy with before the rebate.]

    What I found was that Staples (office supply store) has taken control of most rebates – you submit through the Staples rebate page and they electronically send the rebate to the manufacturer. You don’t have to mail anything in.

    The rebate was rejected by HP due to missing information (all the info is based on a receipt number submitted online – no bar codes or serial numbers need to be included.) HP said that I had to resubmit everything…blah blah blah. I contacted Staples and they resubmitted it and the online tracking showed it as approved in a couple of days. The checks (it was a double rebate) showed up in a couple of weeks.

    Dealing with Staples took less than five minutes – they apologized and said that there was a problem with the first batch of rebates with HP on that offer.

    Staples has realized that they lose customers over manufacturer rebate hell and did something about it.

    [As a bonus, my local Staples store actually has competent staff – your mileage may vary.]

  22. I recently bought a Canon 40D camera, and found out about a $50 rebate for “upgrading” from a previous EOS DSLR (I had the Rebel XTi) only AFTER the fact, so the rebate was not part of my cost consideration.

    I found the rebate form online, filled it out, followed the (easy and clear) directions, and six weeks later, I cashed my rebate check.

    Not to directly blame the OP, but did he follow the original instructions? Also, I make a scan of EVERYTHING that I mail them — The UPC code, the rebate form, and even the stamped envelope I mail it to them in. I do this for EVERY rebate I ever send in, to ANY company.

  23. econobiker says:

    Viva La Rebate “Breakage”!!!!

  24. mike says:

    When I run for president in 2020 (I’ll be old enough then), I’m going to make mail-in rebates illegal without an escrow account that covers at least 50% more than they are expecting. If they fail to fulfill the rebate, the customer gets triple what they should have gotten plus punitive damages not to exceed double the amount of the product price.

    So vote for me!

    Seriously though, why isn’t this against the law yet? It’s an illegal lottery.

  25. MasterShazbot says:

    Maybe Canon USA, but I’ve had no real issues with rebates from Canon Canada. 2 years ago I bought a Rebel XT with a $100 rebate although I did get it about 2 weeks after the 6-8 week processing time. Earlier this year I bought a 40D and a 580EXII flash and got my $260 rebate no problem

  26. jcoltrane says:

    Not surprising that it’s being serviced by Young America. They have lately become notorious for massive numbers of improperly denied rebate claims. They serviced (through their web-rebates.com site) a rebate for Kaspersky/Amazon earlier this year in which they fraudulently denied and ignored thousands of submissions, enough that both Amazon and Kaspersky had to be brought in to force them to pay off. It took me four submissions to even get them to acknowledge they’d received my paperwork. I got the check, but the amount of time and effort expended and the frustration endured made it a Pyrrhic victory.

    There are still good deals to be had using rebates, and the vast majority of them do pay off properly most of the time, but from now on, I’m avoiding Young America rebates like the plague.

  27. Boulderite says:

    I am also not a rebate fan. I refuse to play that game it’s just too frustrating and time consuming.

    Hopefully the OP gets his rebate checks.

  28. shinseiromeo says:

    I agree with most comments here. If a company uses a MIR, I will refuse to purchase said product from the retailer. I’ve had a horrible time with Sony and BB honoring a rebate from a $2,000 system I purchased around five years ago, and after months of snail mailing info back and forth, I gave up.

  29. nsv says:

    I don’t even consider rebates in my purchasing decisions unless it’s a Staples rebate. Ever since Staples launched their rebate website I’ve never had a problem with one of theirs. Anybody else, I won’t buy the item unless the price is acceptable without the rebate. If I actually get the rebate I consider it to be a bonus.

    (And because it’s a bonus I usually turn right around and buy something else from the same retailer with the rebate. I’d think that would be incentive for them to honor their damn rebates.)

    • Parting says:

      @nsv: I’ll have to second you there, I had no problems with Staples rebates. No refusals, no delays.

      Everything else, I had to fight to get back (*hit* Best Buy*)

  30. mikey07840 says:

    I’ve also had good luck with Costco rebates. I don’t know if they do it like Staples, but they print out the second form as another receipt out of the cash register. I mail it in and get the money a few weeks later.

  31. Bog says:

    Perhaps (mail-in) rebates should be no-longer be allowed and the savings be passed on at the register (or the rebate be given at the register). I really hate some of the deceptive pricing I have seen at many stores – where the product is displayed as $45.00 but in small print it will then say “After $25.00 rebate.)

  32. friedduck says:

    Canon is infamous for using Young America for its rebate fulfillment. Based on the number of people I’ve heard complain about it over the past five years I’d say maybe 20% get through without a hitch and the rest of them get the shaft. Caveat Emptor. They’re crooks.