UPDATED: Ebates Refuses To Pay Out Cash Back Credits After I Make Big Purchases

UPDATE: After she talked to people at Ebates, the reader who submitted the original complaint issued the following explanation:

I didn’t realize that certain types of discount codes could not be used in conjunction with Ebates. I assumed it was fine since Ebates often provides public coupon codes to use through their site. Apparently that is what was meant by “affiliate site.” It’s confusing and wasn’t explained well through customer service at all. But, apparently I should not have received the rebate in those instances and will ask Ebates to take back the amount they credited. [Ed. Note: When Ebates saw the story on Consumerist, it initially credited the reader the amount she believed to be due.] I have no complaints about Backcountry.com, they have truly awesome customer service which is why I order so much through their site. This was not meant to be a negative towards Backcountry, it was just this particular order that ended up being the catalyst at the point where I was truly fed up with trying to deal with Ebates. Ebates has been very helpful though since posting this story and I appreciate that.

__________________

H. is a fan of Ebates.com, the cash back site that works in conjunction with various retailers to reward shoppers for spending their money. But after being a member for over a year, and never having a problem, she ran into a big one during her holiday shopping.

She says she prepared to make two purchases for around $1,000 while shopping on Backcountry.com, after researching exactly what she would need to do on Ebates to trigger a rebate of about $50. She had even received a notice on her account that the tracking ticket was all set, and she needed to do was to go ahead with the purchase.

It still somehow managed to go all wrong from that point out.

She writes:

Once on the Backcountry.com site I added the items to my cart and completed my purchase, never leaving the site or opening any other browser windows. I made another purchase with the same site the next day. I never received the Ebates notice that I had earned cash back for my purchase but I wasn’t too concerned because that has rarely happened in the last several months.

I waited a week to contact Ebates about these two purchases plus 3 others that I had made to other sites and hadn’t been automatically credited for. I got a completely different response for every single inquiry. From you’ll have to wait two more weeks to contact us about this, to we’ve credited your account right away, and we’re looking into it and will get back to you. These were all purchases that had happened at the same time to the same sites so I thought it was odd that they were applying different policies to all of them. But, the one I was most concerned about, the one for $47 to Backcountry.com, they said I would have to wait two weeks to contact them about it. So I waited, and continued contacting them once a week always getting the same response that they were “looking into it” but that I would need to continue writing them back at a later time.

Finally after a month and a half and contacting Ebates 8 times I received this wonderful form letter, “Thank you for your patience. After researching your order, it has been determined by the merchant, that it was not credited to the Ebates shopping program. The order was credited to another affiliate site, not Ebates. As a result, Cash Back cannot be awarded. We realize this is a disappointing outcome, we too would have liked to have earned credit for this order. We hope that your next purchase will be credited to Ebates without an issue. We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding.”

I had already contacted Backcountry.com and they said they had told Ebates that the purchase had occurred and should be credited. Basically this looks like they just don’t want to pay out on a large purchase. They had no problem issuing credit right away when it was $3, but on a large purchase it seems that they have a policy of just hoping you’ll go away.

The biggest issue at this point is that this seems to be a systematic issue with crediting purchases specifically for Backcountry.com. Prior to receiving this rejection letter I had done a vast majority of my Christmas shopping through Ebates with Backcountry.com while they were running a 12% cashback promotion right after Thanksgiving. Another $1000 spent and I haven’t received credit for any of those purchases and I know other people who are having the exact same issue. At this point it seems like Ebates is running an advertising scam. I haven’t had a single Ebates purchase go through automatically without having to contact them in over two months.

What would you do? Should I return all of the purchases and let Backcountry know that it’s because Ebates cashback was not honored? I factored the cashback into the purchase price and many times I could have found these items for less elsewhere.

Comments

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  1. bethshanin says:

    I never even realized Ebates was not a scam. Sounded like one at first blush. May have to look into it.

    • ajaxd says:

      Personally I never had an issue – got over $200 back, including some from backcountry.com. The system is based on browser cookies and it is far from financial transaction grade. Errors do happen. Write down the ticket numbers and purchase amounts for large purchases.

  2. George4478 says:

    I have never used Ebates before and your issues are not making it likely that I ever will.

    Probably not the publicity or word-of-mouth they wanted.

  3. Marlin says:

    Send items back so they don;t get the credit. ;-)

    Also join fatwallets cashback program. Never had a issue with them.

    http://www.fatwallet.com

    • coffeeplease says:

      Plus one on this, Fat Wallet is great. No problems with the click thru and no problems with payment.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        Fatwallet and Ebates are both owned by PMB, but worlds apart.

        PMB

        Fatwallet has awesome customer support and they communicate one on one with You. Percentages rates are somewhat lower, but I guess You do get what You pay for after all. More account detail at Fatwallet.com also.

    • SiD says:

      Agreed, Fatwallet customer service & cashback research has been great so far.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I might contact backcountry again and tell them they can either credit the purchase appropriately or you will simply cancel it – might also help to conference call with ebates.

  5. comedian says:

    There exists an entire class of malware that makes money for its coders by hijacking links and replacing affiliate codes.

    http://www.askdavetaylor.com/how_do_i_avoid_affiliate_link_hijacking.html

    I wonder how clean the OP’s computer might be?

    • Azagthoth says:

      My first thought as well. Run a scan and if it comes back clean get on that conference call with both companies. Return the whole shebang if needs be.

    • Stella says:

      It’s possible she has a deal toolbar installed which is taking credit for the sale or clicked through to use a promo code on top of the Ebate rebate and the sale was credited to that promo code site rather than Ebates. Trying to stack deals like that rarely works (you think backcountry wants to pay commission to two different sites for the same sale?). Personally I prefer to get my discounts up front rather than deal with rebates.

  6. Red_Eye says:

    Some of the shoppin BARS in browsers have been know to STEAL the referrals, and redirect affiliate credits, perhaps you have one such toolbar installed in your browser?

  7. ThinkingBrian says:

    I never used Ebates before and I have wouldn’t anytime soon. If I want something online or in-store, I will just go buy it where I fell the most comfortable shopping at and for the best price possible.

    But as far as returning the items goes or not…if your happy with the items, I would just keep them. I mean I don’t see why you have handicap Backcountry for Ebates fault. Besides, your not going to get all of your money back if you are returning the items via shipping because you have to pay the return shipping of at least $6.99 (via UPS) which you don’t get back in your refund.

    The magic question is, are you going to be able to save enough money on your purchases to justify the time, the extra $6.99 for return shipping and find the stuff in time for Christmas. And how fast is that refund coming in?

    Personally I would just keep it, blog on the story like you are here on the Consumerist.com and learn from it. Maybe Ebates will get the message and give you your money that they owe you. All else fails, report them to the BBB.org (if possible) and don’t use them again.

  8. Megladon says:

    Small claims court today!

    • rob391013 says:

      H. Hh. HHHHHH. Y wn th wrd fr th lst snsbl/mst nn cmmnt vr md n ths st. nd th cmpttn s frc.

      • Hawkins says:

        Rob:

        I don’t understand. Why is this bad (or funny) advice? If Heather is in California (but maybe she’s not), it’s straightforward to look up the address for service, and serve them properly. If they really owe Heather the money, and there’s documentation, it should be possible to convince a small-claims judge. And if Ebates won’t pay, they have assets in San Francisco that can be seized.

        Is it because it’s only 47 bucks?

        • rob391013 says:

          Small claims makes you whole, and does not entitle you to recover what you never lost.

          Ebates shares part of its referral money when you purchase items through partner sites. On one of those partner sites, she paid a certain amount of money for an item, and received the item. Again, she purchased an item, and received the full value of that item. Transaction complete.

          Now, in comes Ebates. They share their referral profit because it’s a win-win situation for them. However, Ebates is under no obligation to give her free money. She paid them nothing, and they owe her nothing. What exactly would she sue for? Hint: nothing, because she has no grounds to do so.

          Small claims court would get her absolutely nowhere. At best, she gets laughed out of court, leaves with nothing, and loses court costs.

  9. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    I use ebates every couple of months (usually when I shop Old Navy or Gap online).

    The past 3 or 4 times I’ve opened a tracking ticket, I’ve had to contact customer service to get my rebate. And this was only for a few dollars. It’s almost not worth the hassle of filing the complaint. Definitely seems like something is fishy with eBates lately.

  10. crispyduck13 says:

    This has EECB written all over it. Someone get this girl some emails!

  11. GoldVRod says:

    Two pieces of advice:

    1) Shop on Amazon.com. I can almost certainly guarantee that whatever was purchased for $1,000 would cost less than $953 (which was the amount paid if the rebate had gone through). Backcountry.com has an actual presence on Amazon for what it’s worth.

    2) Simply pay less in the first place and be done, rather than paying more now then hoping for cash back later.

    • Murph1908 says:

      That’s more like 1 piece of advice split into 2 parts. I want my second piece of advice, pronto!

      [Just kidding. It is excellent advice, despite its numeric characteristics.]

  12. EbatesCustomerCare says:

    Ebates takes care of all our shoppers. We’ve been in business for over 12 years, and have 150,000 raving fans on Facebook. We have a A+ rating with the BBB.

    Immediately, upon seeing this complaint, we credited Heather for this Backcountry.com order. Over the years, we have mailed Heather over $180, and we look forward to sending her more.

    Sorry for any trouble,
    Ebates Customer Care

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Why did it take a posting to a consumer website to get her satisfaction? She says she contacted Ebates several times. Seems like you folks had plenty of chances to get this right without a public shaming.

      • EbatesCustomerCare says:

        Evil_Otto, we were working with Heather and Backcountry.com to earn credit for the purchase at the time this article was posted. We initially requested credit on her behalf, but were denied by Backcountry.com. We would have been glad to escalate the complaint further, then we saw this article. It’s a shame that this article was needed, we agree.

        • humphrmi says:

          If you were still working with her, why did you tell her “The order was credited to another affiliate site, not Ebates. As a result, Cash Back cannot be awarded. “? Did she misquote you? If not, why did you indicate that the case was closed if you were still “working with Heather and Backcountry.com to earn credit for the purchase at the time this article was posted”?

          It sounds to me like customer service tried to get Heather off their plate, and it only became important to you once it was posted here.

        • Skyhawk says:

          Your assertions would be more believable if it didn’t involve 8 separate phone calls and over a month and a half.

          Question- How many times have you OVERPAID a customer rebate?

          I’m guessing none, right?

          Simple system glitches and/ or processing errors should, theoretically, result in a 50-50 split between rebates that were too high and rebates that were too low/refused.

          So, unless your rebate discrepancies fall somewhere near the expected statistical breakdown of 50-50, then your program/system/process is designed in such a way that it pays out less/fewer claims than are due. Thus requiring a tedious process for the consumer to get the contractually required rebate, in the hopes that they will give up.

          Judging by many of the comments here and on other sites, you might want to keep that resume up to date.
          http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Ebates.aspx

    • caradrake says:

      Hey, eBates, why are you guys holding my money hostage?

    • framitz says:

      Wow, 150,000 raving fans on Facebook.
      I won’t be joining the 150,000 raving fanatics, thank you for the heads up!

    • ThomasCrown says:

      Stop lying, Ebates drone. I had the same thing happen to me at least half a dozen times in the last 3 years. Over the summer, without notice, my account was deleted. This is after years of loyal Ebates referrals. I was prompted to join with the same email address I’ve had for 5+ years.

      The company that owns Ebates recently purchased Fatwallet, so trying to dodge raindrops under the same broken umbrella is pointless. I’ve switched to BigCrumbs and MrRebates and am very happy with both. Ebates didn’t lose my business, they gave it away.

  13. Hi_Hello says:

    i used ebates before.. got over 50 bucks back on one check they sent….
    there’s a lot of weirdness…

    I waited a week to contact Ebates about these two purchases plus 3 others that I had made to other sites and hadn’t been automatically credited for.

    Have any of your order went through without a problem, ever?? maybe something is off with your computer.

  14. mbgrabbe says:

    Hi Guys, Ebates is the real deal. I’ve used them for several months and got a check from them last quarter for around $15. They are not a scam, and in fact, its a nice way to save a few dollars on xmas shopping.

    They’re an e-merchant referral site; they make money by charging e-merchants for referrals that make purchases. Ebates then turns around and gives some of the cash to their customers in the form of a % cash rebate.

  15. MaryW says:

    I used ebates on s sephora purchase for christmas and had no problem. The amount was $4.08 though. If It were me the stuff would go back to Back Country and I’d let them know why. Then they may pressure ebates.com into doing the right thing, exactly what I would do!!!

  16. mischlep says:

    It’s also possible that Heather’s computer and/or web browser had some malware that intercepted the referral click for Ebates and changed it to some other third party.

    Returning the items to Backcountry is probably the best solution. Of course, Heather might be hit by a restocking fee. Depends on their terms.

  17. EbatesCustomerCare says:

    We have credited Heather for the purchase. For some reason, my earlier response is being blocked.

  18. ZooKeeper says:

    It sounds like there really could be something on your computer causing this issue. From what you said it sounds like the problem came on pretty recently and . As others have mentioned there are programs that could be hijacking the credit away from Ebates.

    Have you made any changes to your browser in the past few months, like adding a toolbar or something similar?

  19. Captain Walker says:

    Call customer service at Backcountry and let them know what their rebate partner is doing to you, and tell them you are taking this to social media.

    Then do the same at Ebates.

    Your $50 is nothing to them, especially compared to what the negative publicity will be.

    If they don’t respond quickly, start tweeting about it, and post on their message boards (if they have one). They’ll take care of you PDQ

  20. caradrake says:

    I have around $15 sitting in my ebates account, have for around two or three years now. They refuse to cash it out, even though it is over the $10 minimum.

    **** ebates.

  21. lint42 says:

    Yea, I was denied my cashback on one of my purchases too. I have had quite a few not show up and they say they can’t do anything. I use fatwallet all the time without any problems. Avoid ebates! Not giving people the CB they deserve comes back to bite you ebates!

  22. SugarMag says:

    I have had many small purchases with ebates. I dont like the waiting with them though and when I have a problem it is many many emails arguing any point I bring up. Essentially, they would rather argue over $3 over the course of a week than to just agree (after I have spent proof multiple times). I finally just stuck with one site, the ebates hassel isn’t worth it to me.

  23. lostalaska says:

    Never been a fan or mail in or get money back later Rebates. I’ve filled out many and took high res pics of all the material only to be denied for not including the original receipt which I had included and had no way to send in after the fact since they already had it. Because of this I’ve always assumed the mail in rebate system was scammy at best.

  24. OutdoorsBen says:

    I’ve used ebates since 2009 and have gotten over $1,000 from them over the years. I’ve had no problems. I think the people on here need to take it down a notch. If you’ve never used them you have no place to voice your opinion. If you’ve had a problem then call and get it handled. I’ve called once or twice about various things and was taken care of right away with no issues.

  25. caffeyw says:

    +1 For ebates taking care of this. If anyone is confused read the comments section.

    -1 For Ebates making her go through all this and not fixing till posted.

  26. quieterhue says:

    I use eBates and I’ve never had any major issues. Then again, most of my online purchases are $100 or less, so the cash back rewards are small.

    However, based on the rave reviews from other posters, I will check out fatwallet and see if there is any benefit to switching.

    • rayrayus says:

      I also never had a problem with ebates. I’ve been using it since 2009 and I got over $100 in 2 years. I was never declined for cash back. However, I use it a lot less after they lost ebay.

  27. Duplo86 says:

    Ebates contacted me very quickly and offered to credit the purchase. I wish their customer service agents had been more helpful so it didn’t get to this point. But, they are being very helpful and responsive now. I will look into the malware issue, however I’ve used two different computers with the same result so I doubt that’s it. Maybe there is a problem with using Ebates through the safari browser.

    • Kathlene says:

      It sounds like an issue with “stacking” too many discounts (see comment from jnc2001). In the end, you came out ahead and got all the discounts you wanted.

      I have had good luck with ebates (over $300 back). I have had a few orders didn’t process correctly: one because of a similar “discount stacking” scenario, one because I opened too many tabs (when you go through ebates you have to stay in that tab to complete the transaction otherwise it doesn’t register correctly). I’ve gotten so comfortable with ebates that I no longer “print screen” my transaction (which is always a good idea for future claims).

      They’re not perfect, but they are a great substitute for all the Bing cashback deals that went away.

  28. framitz says:

    In depth malware scan is in order based on Ebates response.

  29. jnc2011 says:

    I work at Backcountry.com and have looked into this issue extensively. We take all customer concerns seriously, any customer who shops at Backcountry.com regularly knows how great our customer service is. This particular customer used what we call a “bro.code” on her orders. This is a code each of our employees receive that they are allowed to give out to family & friends. It provides a very significant discount and as a result cannot be combined with other discounts, such as cash back from an affiliate site. If we were to pay affiliates commission on these orders, in this case Ebates, which they in turn pass back in cash to customers who purchase through their site, we would be in the hole. I work closely with Ebates and they have a really good reputation, and in fact confirmed to me that they ended up giving this customer her cash back even though they didn’t receive commission from backcountry.com. Now, who is at fault here?

    • rubberduckythug says:

      Wow, can’t believe I’m the only one whose commented on this. I’m always slightly leery of posting transaction specific things in an open forum like this however I wasn’t too worried as it was fairly innocuous. THEN I saw the last two lines and completely lost any and all respect for the company. You could have left those last two lines off and most would have understood discount on top of discount = verboten, but instead you decided to take a shot at what seems to be a fairly valuable customer and losing a prospective customer in the process. Way to do it!

  30. Yo Howdy says:

    I just checked my ebates account and I’ve gotten $965.32 back from them over the years, so no complaints from me.

  31. ecvogel says:

    Maybe she went to a deal site that uses their affilates. If I am on a deal site say in Firefox. I then go to ebates or now mostly fatwallet on IE and make the purchase to make sure I get it.

  32. Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

    I had this same issue with eBates years ago when I used them. Small purchases went through fine. Larger ones (and by “large” I mean “a whopping $12 credit”) never showed up. The first time I figured I’d accidentally closed the browser or forgotten to click through properly, but after that I was very careful and it still happened the next time I had a larger credit coming. Both times they used that excuse about it being credited to another affiliate, even though I wasn’t involved with any other rewards programs. I knew it had to be a strategic move on their part, denying x number of large claims as often as they thought they could get away with it, and never used them again.

  33. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    You have to ask yourself, is it worth it to have to call multiple times, get a kafkaesque runaround, then finally post to a major blog to get ebates to simply live up to their agreement? Not worth it to me. Maybe ebates doesn’t “accidentally” screw up every time there’s a big rebate, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle to bother, knowing they probably will cost you hours of time eventually. This, “give it a couple of weeks” BS is just to try and make you forget or give up without trying. Just find the best price online and go with that. Even if ebates could have saved a couple of bucks think about how much time you saved not needing to wait a couple of weeks, then remember to call, etc.

  34. dilbert69 says:

    I’ve used eBates for years and have never had a single problem with them.

  35. ecuador says:

    Wow, she forgot to say she used a friends & family code in her original complain. Way to go!

  36. jewpiterjones says:

    What you should do is STOP USING EBATES. Merchants build the cost of advertising into their prices. Ebates is just another advertising cost. So by all means go ahead amd support this vampiric business model of forcing everyone to raise their prices 5% so you can get 3% back six weeks later. Idiots.

  37. SharonHill143 says:

    Ebates is one of the best cash back sites. Irrespective of occasion, it keeps on offering exciting deals throughout the year. If you have not yet signed up for Ebates, do it right now! Grab the offers! You will also get some exciting deals on FatWallet, ShopAtHome, AAfter Search. Moreover, you will get $2.5 to $5 as sign up bonus as well as huge cash back.