Use Electronic Postage And Highlighter To Guarantee Mail-In Rebate Success

Rebates are one of those “sales games” where the companies use all sorts of rules and tricks to reduce the likelihood that most consumers will “successfully” complete all the steps, but if you’re anal and like getting money, like this guy over at the SlickDeals forums, you can do a few things involving highlighters and electronic postage to improve your odds:

I always use electronic postage when sending my rebates. This prints the mailing date very clearly on the envelope. Then I make two copies of the envelope itself, I keep one with my copy of the rebate forms and I attach the other copy to the packet I am sending in for the rebate. I also highlight the date on the photocopy of the envelope so that it’s very clear to them that I mailed my documents before the rebate deadline. So even if they mis-file your packet or if they lose your original envelope or if they claim it was mailed too late there will always be a record of when the rebate was mailed attached to your packet. When they see this level of detail they know you mean business and that you are diligent. So maybe they are less prone to mess with you? I don’t know. But I do this religiously and have had great success.

What do you do to make sure you get your rebates?

Tips to ensure you get your MIRs [SlickDeals]

(Photo: ninjapoodles)


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  1. ClayS says:

    Thanks for reminding me. I sent in the forms for a rebate from Sandisk about 2 months ago, so I just googled sandisk+rebate and stumbled on a site that allows you to check the status of rebates submitted to some of the larger processors. details the rebates you’ve submitted and when the check was mailed to you.

  2. smirky says:

    Pretty anal….that’s great.

  3. I scan the envelope w/stamp, the UPC(s), and the completed rebate form, and email it to myself. This way it’s dated, and the date could not be altered by me, and I have at least a fighting chance of getting my money.

  4. Justin42 says:

    I’ve only had 2 rebates out of hundreds never show up, and 1 of those was to some extent my fault for not following up and totally missing the deadline to call and complain about not getting my money (the other was $11 for an ugly clock from Cyberrebate, who went belly up). I think this guy’s process is just a tiny bit TOO anal– sure rebate processors will do anything to deny but there is a point where your OWN time is worth money, too, and if you spend 2 hours preparing your rebate, is it worth the $5 you get?

    I always STAPLE everything together, use arrows to indicate what is where (UPC CODE ->, etc), make a copy of all submitted materials (and date it with the date I mailed it), and put it in a file that I then remove things from when I get a rebate back. If the rebate is for over $100 (rare) I may send it certified mail, but that’s about the only concession I make to this level of tracking.

    Then there are people like my brother in law, who complains all rebates are scams and refuses to buy certain brands based on denied rebates, but then it turns out he “didn’t think he really needed to include the UPC” or something stupid like that.

    note: I am NOT saying everyone who doesn’t get their money screwed up. I think a lot of it is trying to stay with reputable companies/brands and be willing to follow up– i.e., I tend to not buy products with rebates from small companies I have never heard of, as if they go out of business, you’ll probably never see your rebate. And you have to be willing to call and follow up, I have had NUMEROUS scams of the “You forgot your UPC code” variety– including EVERY Sandisk rebate I have EVER submitted– that one call and they mysteriously decide that yes, indeed I did include the UPC.

    I DO avoid Sandisk products after that, since it was beyond a mistake on their part when I had 2-3 rebates over the span of a year all rejected due to lacking UPCs (Which they did include and did magically find when I called).

  5. jackjackson says:

    Watch out for the highlighters, some of them will cause the thermal “ink” to fade on some receipts. I used to do this for all my expense reports, but after a week or so, it causes the receipt to fade where the highlight is.

  6. Justin42 says:

    @Justin42: (Argh, last sentence: “Which I did include and they did magically find when I called”)

  7. jmschn says:

    I use Certified mail for my rebates. I’m out about $2.50 but worth it for peace of mind.

  8. PunditGuy says:

    Rebates, meh. Got burned on a major rebate about the time Windows 95 came out. If you ordered Windows, a digital camera, a memory card and some photo software, you essentially got the last three things for free after rebate.

    No problem, except that the company I ordered from couldn’t send me the cheapest part of that order — the software, which was worth $19.99 — because they were out of stock. I called and bitched repeatedly before the rebate time was up, and was told each time that the software was “on its way.” It never was. I finally got it two days after the rebate was up, sent in my UPCs along with a note about the software, copies of all the shipping invoices and receipts — and got denied for sending the rebate in late.

    There’s a circle of hell designed specifically for those who push rebates.

  9. theysaidwhat says:

    Staples lets you apply for their rebates online. It’s a great system and works rather well. I had a rebate of 15 bucks due from the purchase of a shredder. Rebate received 3 weeks after signing up for it online. It would be wonderful if everyone went the online redemption route.

  10. Crazytree says:

    I make my wife notarize mine. :)

  11. bohemian says:

    I hate rebates. They have to be either really straightforward easy or for a very large amount of money before I will even consider it as part of a purchase decision.

  12. Copper says:

    I’ve only done a mail-in rebate once and I actually got it. But now it’s too much work. I don’t like having to wait for my money. I’d rather just wait for a sale and have the money come off the top.

  13. razremytuxbuddy says:

    This week I had my first-ever declined rebate (Office Depot). I have a copy of the documents I submitted, so I was able to get them to correct their error with just a phone call. My check should arrive in 2-3 weeks, which is when I’ll know if the correction was made correctly. Getting the error corrected was a pain-in-the-butt on top of the original pain-in-the-butt of applying for the rebate in the first place. Maybe I should stop falling for the rebate promos.

  14. samurailynn says:

    I don’t do a lot of rebates, because I know myself and know that I am prone to bouts of forgetfulness (especially when due dates are involved). Of the ones I have done (maybe a couple per year) I can only remember one that I didn’t get the rebate back for. It was actually during a time period when I’m pretty sure my mail was being stolen (we lost about 4 Netflix movies in one month) and I kept forgetting to call and follow up with the company during their business hours. So, I chalk that one up to being partially my fault.

  15. samurailynn says:

    Oh yeah, I think I even mailed one rebate a day late and I still got it.

  16. dweebster says:

    @Justin42: Substitute “Symantec” for Sandisk and I could have written your post verbatim (down to circling and writing “UPC—>).

    I ALWAYS get my rebate, but it’s my money, I always read the entire form and meet all requirements (or call and get a personal guarantee from an exec at the rebate house on any fuzzy ones) and I don’t take “no” for an answer from these shysters. 90% of luck is preparation, 10% is perspiration (willingness to shake the tree when you are in the right).

    As I said, my rebates ALWAYS come through, eventually.

  17. PinkBox says:

    I just sent in a rebate the other day.

    I just make sure I have scans of the UPC codes they required me to mail in, and send my rebates via certified mail.

  18. dorkbear says:

    I always print a copy of this article and include it with my submission. Never had a problem.

  19. randombob says:

    I fail to see how this might prevent one from having their rebates snuffed at the processing center. Yeah highlighting here and there might make it easier to see, but if they “lose” it they “lose it,” and really whether you have a copy or not means jack at that point.

    You say you copied the envelope? Nice, but to that I would say it’s not proof you mailed it on that day. All of this is still he said/she said as far as I’m concerned. It’s just that the OP is putting in a lot more effort to say “but I say…” than the processing center is to say “but we say…”

  20. Hoss says:

    The postage meter date can be changed to whatever date you desire, can’t it?

    I save my stuff in a folder that says Rebates. Without that I would easily forget I sent one in.

  21. Corydon says:

    I don’t know what all the hubbub is about these mail-in rebates (aside from it being inconvenient to wait 6-8 weeks to get your money).

    I’ve only ever had one rebate denied, and that was for some RAM that I bought a day or two before the rebate period began (I found out about it and tried to sneak it in; they caught me).

    I don’t shop on the basis of mail in rebates because I don’t particularly care for waiting to get my money, but I’ve never run into a rebate that was that hard to submit. Usually it’s just a copy of the receipt, a straightforward form, a UPC code and a regular first class postage stamp.

    This isn’t exactly rocket science.

  22. Jevia says:

    I usually circle the item on the receipt and the date, copy everything. Haven’t date-stamped an envelope though.

    My main complaint with rebates these days is that instead of getting a check (which I would then take to the bank and cash for lunch money – or deposit and pay off a bill if it was a biggie), they’ve started with these rebate cards (like gift cards) that you have to use to buy something else within a time limit.

  23. Not Alvis says:

    Doesn’t this just show when you printed the postage, not when it was mailed? A skeevy company could just say you forgot to mail it for a week or two.

  24. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    I’m still waiting for a rebate from Fry’s.
    I always tape everything together & those bastards keep saying I never sent in the rebate receipt.
    They deliberately threw away the receipt & keep making me jump through hoops for my money.
    They even changed their fax number, but kept sending out emails with the old, now incorrect fax number.

    When the hell are the weasels in Congress going to get involved and at the least force all rebates to be redeemable online with just the codes on the receipt?

  25. Thanatos- says:

    Rebates are a waste of time so i refuse to buy something with a rebate.

  26. The Bambino says:

    I send in a rebate to Seagram’s (yeah, the liquor company) almost every week. They have $5 off fifths, and $10 off handles of their gin. Makes all the booze totally affordable, despite the pain in the ass of sending everything in.

  27. @Hossofcourse: No, tried that once at work. Didn’t work. I do remember a SNL commercial which dealt w/ a company that would trash your late package, then take the blame for what happened off you.

  28. rtwigg says:

    This rebate processor game of “screw the consumer” is why I refuse to make any purchase that requires a MIR. I buy where this game is not part of the transaction.

  29. heavylee-again says:

    Hey Ben, the SlickDeals OP isn’t just anal, he’s a psycho!

  30. lastingsmilledge says:

    if you stay away from “K World” rebates (they make TV-related computer peripherals) you’ll be fine.

  31. deserthiker says:

    I’ll have to do this next time I send a rebate. I bought a PanDigital frame for my mom for Xmas (I know, boring, but it’s what she wanted) at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a twenty dollar rebate. I followed the instructions perfectly and mailed everything to them. I got a letter later saying I didn’t include something. My wife said I did because she watched me do it. But did I have any proof? No. So I’m out twenty bucks.

    At least Mom liked the frame.

    But I will NEVER buy anything ever from Pandigital again.

    And I will avoid Bed Bath and Beyond as well.

  32. MrEvil says:

    I generally do Certified mail for any rebate of $50 or more. When the rebate company claims “oh we never got your rebate” I say “Well somebody signed for it at your mailing address.”

    Certified mail = PWNT rebate processor.

  33. Taed says:

    I’ve done maybe 50 or more rebates over the years and have gotten my money on EVERY one. On two, it took a phone call. And on one, the company eventually went out of business, but after 2 years (I’m persistent), Fry’s did make good on the rebate (even though at that time, they were not legally required to do so; now they are).

  34. scoosdad says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Outlook has an “Edit Message” function built into the drop down menu that allows you to make changes to an email after you’ve received it. What’s to stop someone from using that (or moving the email into just about any text editor for that matter) and just changing the dates?

  35. I wait until the last minute. And then I wait until the next morning, hoping they won’t notice the postmark. When they send me the notice saying that it was rejected because I sent the wrong documentation, I wait until months after the new deadline to call. Then, when they tell me I can still send in the right documentation, I choose not to.

    At least that’s what I did the last time.

    @rtwigg: A buddy of mine used to answer phones for a rebate processor. He lied to customers as a form of amusement.

  36. racermd says:

    Easy solution – don’t buy things based on the rebate offered.

    My own method is to ignore most rebates and base my purchasing decision on the price WITHOUT the rebate.

    The only time I pay any attention to rebates is when the rebate amount is over $100 or so. Usually, things that carry that much rebate are things like furniture, cars, etc. In those cases, the ‘rebate’ is instant and the whole thing is done at the time of the sale, anyway. No worrying about sending paperwork in and waiting 6-8 weeks to find out if they didn’t screw anything up for you.

    That’s me, though, and I’m pretty cynical. YMMV.

  37. LUV2CattleCall says:

    CompUSA screwed me over by going out of business….I’m out nearly $1k in rebates from Black Friday deals. I could have used a keg full of highlighting fluid and I’d still be screwed…

  38. buckfutt says:

    I’ve never gone as far as photocopying the envelope, but I’ve used the highlighter method for a long time now, and I think I’ve missed out on exactly one rebate (it was for $5, if memory serves). I’ve collected on hundreds of dollars worth over the years.

  39. ThunderRoad says:

    I’ve taken photos of all the materials before I stuff them in the envelope, especially for anything over $10. Only once did I get static from some company for a CD-R spindle about missing the UPC. Once I told them I had photographed it, it was magically resolved.

    Rebates are such a scam.

  40. freejazz38 says:

    Very simple, when/if your rebate check hasn’t arrived after 8 weeks, simply e-mail the rebate company. retailer AND the manufacturer and tell them that if the check is not in your hands by the end of the week, you’ll file complaints with their local BBB’s, AG’s and FTC. And then, do so, online. Doesn’t even cost you a stamp. I have received ALL my rebates, and sometimes even get paid double