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.

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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.