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)