Why Rebates Suck: TigerDirect and OnRebate

Look, you guys are all savvy, so there’s no need to remind you: never buy anything because it is on rebate. Don’t even factor a rebate into your purchasing equation: nine times out of ten, rebates are scams.

Companies love trying to get you to make a purchase based upon a rebate discount, comfortable that most people will tear long strips of flesh off their own face with their fingernails long before they summon the patience and sanity together to get together the paperwork. Even if a customer does manage to fill it all out and send in their rebate form, companies can deny your rebate easily, either by some dreamed-up technicality or by their own incompetence. And even if you do get your rebate check, finally, think of the interest that the company has made off of your money by drawing out the process and frustrating you as long as possible. It’s in the best interest of a company to either never pay you or draw the process out as long as possible. If you see a good price on something you want to buy and it has a rebate on top of that, heck, buy it, but don’t count on that rebate. If you manage to successfully complete a rebate application, bonus.

If you still don’t believe us, here’s a reader account of his recent attempt to get a rebate from TigerDirect and OnRebate.com. Tex Texerson (possibly a nom de plume) purchased a hard drive from Tiger Direct and submitted all the proper documentation, but was still denied his rebate check. Why? Because OnRebate simply denied ever getting the paper-work.

Tex’s account after the jump:

I recently bought three items from TigerDirect.ca, all of which had mail-in rebates through OnRebate.com. One of the requirements listed was proof of purchase. I said to myself “Great, I can send them all in one envelope with one copy of the receipt and I’ll save myself the trouble”. WRONG. I got two statements from OnRebate saying the receipt was missing, but they let one go through.

Of course I disputed this. The “helpful” help desk replied:

> /If you have a copy of the Invoice,please fax to 888-426-9467,so that
> we can process ASAP/

My reply:

> But you HAVE the invoice! I sent three rebates in the same envelope,
> all of which had the same invoice! You accepted one with that
> invoice already!

Their reply was this very informative and obviously spell-checked beauty:

> We have looked into our records in an attempt to help you with your
> rebate status. After review, it seems your rebate submissions were
> denied for lack of invoice, no upc bar code, or outside the Postmark
> date.
> Here is your rebate tracking information we have on file:
> Reason: PLEASE FAX A COPY OF INVOICE TO 305-514-4400
> You may check the status of these rebates as well online at
> http://www.onrebate.com .
> If you do not have the required documentation as stated on the rebate
> form you will unfortunatelly be subject for denail.
> We hope that we have provided you with excellent service. Shouold you
> have any further questions or concerns please contact us at
> 1-888-222-9300 or simply reply to this email. Thank you for using
> OnRebate.com

Of course, since this particular purchase was for a hard drive to replace one that had failed and was subsequently removed from my system, and it contained the scans of my invoices, well, that didn’t happen.

Sure, I might have been able to get my money had I faxed two more copies of the *same* invoice which they already had on file, but I just got fed up and really annoyed that I had to jump through hoops over something so stupid.

Rest assured, I won’t be buying any OnRebate’d items from Tigerdirect again.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ReiBeatAll says:

    I sent out 13 rebates once for my girlfriend’s computer, and we’ve gotten them all back. But, we sent a reciept with each one; which is something it plainly says on the rebate form. To me, this all seems like “Tex”‘s fault for just thinking he’s special.

  2. OK, it’s a given that the 3rd parties that companies engage are going to collude with the retailer to screw you. CompUSA or whoever get’s plausible deniability because some 3rd party, whose name is not even provided on any rebate material, gets to anonymously control your fate.

    Having said that, I’ve never failed to get a rebate or overcome a denial. On the rare occasions when I have been denied, I always track down the number of the comapany from the form or Internet. I call and tell them their response is wrong and unacceptable. Keep in mind these people are in a wholesale business. They deal in volume and pennies profit. If you work through their automated mail system, then it costs them virtually nothing to keep denying you. If you occupy one of their flesh units, then it’s going to bother them more.

    Whether or not you actually kept copies of your receipts, claim you did. If you did, offer to fax them and at every stage of sending or receiving info, insist they fax back an answer rather than mail it.

    Usually, they will pretend to check things and quickly approve the rebate. They’ve agreed so easily some times, I’m actually surprised people don’t just call them up and raise hell for rebates they never sent.

    If you are not able to get them to agree using these tactics, then kick it up a notch. You have several threats they actually take somewhat seriously. Tell them:
    a) You will be contacting the retailer to complain AND if the retailer does not intercede, you will be contacting your credit card company to reverse the transaction. You would be surprised how much cooperation this produces. (I had a sunglass web vendor in Spain pissing his pants to send me $150 sunglasses after I had AMEX reverse a payment on the unacceptable glasses he sent.) This reverses the situation re: who holds the money and gets the benefit of it while the dispute is settled. I’ve yet to have a credit card complaint go against me (though mine are always valid) and for small items, the vendor often doesn’t even want to bother having the opened item returned.
    b) Look up on the internet the Department of Consumer Affairs and State Atty General for the retailer and rebate handler. These have more weight than usual recently since several state atty’s general have opened investigations into rebate rigging and abusive denails. Inform the rebate company, again by phone, not mail unless you absolutely can’t reach them, that you are prepared to complain to all four. (You can throw in the Better Business Bureau if you like, but they are complete crap and I’ve never seen them do anything for the benefit of a consumer.) Many of these companies also must pass certification and respond to a board what they have done to respond to consumer complaints filed with DCA and Atty Gen.

    If you’re still denied at this point, and it’s more than a few bucks, you can always wait a few days and call back to talk to a different person or demand a supervisor. Again, the more you occupy their flesh units, the more likely they are to give in. In theory, their profits are not tied to individual rebates, so their profit motive is pretty thin on an individual rebate.

    Buona fortuna

  3. Jay says:

    It’s likely that, regardless of whether all the items are on the same invoice, the company needs each rebate to have its own set of paperwork for tax purposes, accounting, inventory, and whatever other reasons there might be. So by sending one invoice for three rebates, that means the company has to either make copies themselves in order to complete the files, or simply deny two of the rebates for being incomplete. And it’s no surprise which one they choose to do. It’s not the company’s job to compensate for someone’s laziness.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    Rebates are a real pain in the butt, but they allow smarter shoppers who are willing to trade some time and energy for a cheaper price the chance to get a better price. Most of the tech stuff I have around the house I get for free (or even better) after rebates. I’ve been denied a couple of rebates in the past three years, but all because I didn’t read the instructions carefully enough or I did something stupid. Most of the processing companies will fold like a house of cards when you push. Keep good records and go online to get help.

  5. Chris H says:

    The only point of rebates are 1) to put barriers in place so that the lazy or disorganized won’t get the deal and 2) to collect your personal information.

    Onrebate.com has a really misleading privacy policy and the company whores out your data to anyone with a few bucks. See:


  6. Paul D says:

    I buy stuff on rebate ALL THE TIME and have never had a problem. I mark calendar on the day by which I’m reasonably sure I’ll receive the rebate, and I usually receive it on or before that date. (Rebates from Best Buy, CompUSA, etc.)

    I don’t see what the big deal is. A pen, a stamp, and a pair of scissors is all I’ve ever really needed to get a rebate from these companies. If you follow the instructions and keep copies of everything you send (as any sane consumer would do), you have plenty of recourse to raise a stink if they pull shenanigans later.

    Also, I feel it’s my duty to point out that Consumerist regularly includes rebated items in the Morning Round-Up, including a recent “free after rebate” X-Connect power supply from Radio Shack…which, sure enough, was handled by OnRebate. I know this because I bought one.

    So which is it? Do we hate rebates or do we love them?

    I’m so confused!

  7. CTSLICK says:

    My success rate on rebates is very good overall but a recent failure has made me more cautious. In short, website says $XXX after rebate, I buy it, send in the rebate form and it gets denied. Not because its incomplete but because the website had connected the wrong rebate to the wrong product. It deteriorated into a bunch of finger pointing so I ultimately sent the product back on their dime. But it has made me notice that many websites often fail to list any model#, sku#, etc that you can cross-reference to the actual rebate form. I now avoid these offers.

  8. Roadgeek says:

    When I worked at Sears as a salesperson, I was told by someone at corporate headquarters that there was really only about a 55% return rate on the rebate forms. 45% of all customers who qualify for a rebate don’t respond; leaving Sears to keep the rebate money….which had been mostly supplied by vendors and placed into some sort of co-op fund. The low return rate is why companies persist in offering rebates. It’s a way of offering a discount without having the gross margin affected.
    Rebates won’t be going away anytime soon.

  9. Tex Texerson says:

    I’m not anti-rebate, although.. Well, they’re evil and everyone knows it. But to state they did not receive an invoice (twice) when they clearly did is disingenuous. And since when is it OK for corporate laziness to trump customer convenience. Yes, when you’re a consumer it’s convenient, when you’re a corporation it’s lazy. Everyone loves a double standard.

  10. lax2prg says:

    I purchased a video projector from TigerDirect with an OnRebate rebate offered at $200. It was a huge pain getting them to honor the rebate…they did everything they could from putting the bar code on the outside of the outer shipping box (it was a refurb) to denying anything had ever been received (after their website stated everything had been received properly, and in fact at one point stating it had been processed and the check had been sent). I pursued and pursued, because $200 was a substantial percentage of the value of the projector. Finally, after months of pursuing them, I found a name on another website of someone higher up at the company. I called her, she gave me the number of someone else (another human) and I pursued and pursued until, about 20 weeks after the purchase, 2 separate checks arrived for $200 each. They were immediately deposited and cleared…and my projector wound up costing me all of $249! :-)

    So will I ever purchase from TigerDirect again? No, never. Their emails are now filtered as spam. But ultimately I won this painful, heated, and ridiculous battle.

    I encourage others to keep fighting the good fight. Get what’s due you!

  11. akalish says:

    I’ve received over 50 rebates with no problems whatsoever. My only difficult experience was with a TigerDirect rebate that was handled by Onrebate.com. I realized at the time that they do something that is particularly tricky: they tell you that they want the original receipt, but they don’t define exactly what they mean by that and they are highly specific. Did they want a printout of my email receipt, the invoice that came in the box with the item, or the packing slip that came in the box? After having them refuse me once, I sent them another request with _all three_ documents, and they fulfilled the rebate no problem. Usually printed email receipts count for originals in my experience, but Onrebate didn’t specify which one was needed and left me to deduce it on my own. As a result, I try to avoid purchases that have rebates through them.

  12. Shouldaknownbetter1 says:

    So I decided to build my son a new computer. I went to Tiger Directs website because I had dealt with them before many times. I picked out all of the parts I needed which came in at over $700 after the rebates. Ah, there is the rub. They work with a company who purposely makes it almost impossible to actually collect your rebates. It has to be THE BIGGEST SCAM ONLINE! I am a knowledgeable person and well versed in e-commerce and rebates. This company has sunk to the absolute bottom in my book and I WILL NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH THEM AGAIN! Google it. I have made numerous calls and sent emails to several managers most notably, Bernard. No promises kept and now he won’t answer my calls or return my messages. Thousands of people have been cheated by this company. It was about $50 from me alone. Now we now where they got the money to buy Circuit City. The Leeds family who control Systemax who owns this shyster outfit should be ashamed at best. Next time I am a.) avoiding all rebates wherever I shop and b.) not going to Tiger Direct no matter how sweet the deal looks. YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER, YOU”LL NEVER SEE THE MONEY!