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The Almighty Buck

Are Rebates Scandalous? 685

Posted by Cliff
from the send-your-coupons-in-now! dept.
theodp asks: "Motley Fool offers a dead-on take on the computer mail-in rebate fulfillment process--Once I receive your 'claim,' I will begin to 'process' it. Assuming that you filled out all the information correctly, and assuming nothing is missing, and assuming your claim doesn't get lost somehow, and if you call or write a few times to check on your claim's status, then I will mail your check within 10 to 12 weeks. Maybe. Or maybe it'll be four to six months. Or never." What are your thoughts on rebates, and have any of you noticed who, at least in the computing industry, is more trustworthy with rebates than others? Update by J : Here's the short version of the article.
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Are Rebates Scandalous?

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  • by Alpha27 (211269) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:37PM (#5755549)
    At times I forget to send them in. What should happen is the selling company, should take it upon themselves to handle the rebate for you in store, instead of you dealing with the nonsense paper trail of it.
    • by martyn s (444964) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:39PM (#5755570)
      But that's kind of the point. Most people don't bother because it's such a hassle, but they still buy the product because they believe that they will bother. They think they're getting a deal based on the assumption that they will follow through with the rebate.
      • by Zenin (266666) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:09PM (#5755808) Homepage
        For myself I've realized I'm simply not going to send rebates in. I've let $100 rebates go at times that I thought when I bought the item, "It's $100, this I'll send in for sure, I'm not that stupid...". Yes, yes I am...

        I must say that my buying life has been much, much less stressful and guilt-free since I adopted the position that rebates simply don't exist. Whatever the non-rebate price is, that's my price and my choice to buy it or not will based on that, not the mythical rebate/smail spam sign up that won't ever actually happen.

        Rebates suck.
        • by SacredNaCl (545593) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @09:01PM (#5756482) Journal
          I've let a few rebates go, and been mad at myself for it. However, my experience this Yule actually trying to claim them irritates me to no end.

          PNY -- Denied both rebates. Reason? They paid a rebate for ram for me before. Even though it was a completely different rebate offer on a different kind of ram and it was ages ago. I expected them to pay at least one of them. A year ago (or more) they paid a rebate in about 7 weeks. Not a lot of money.

          CyneDyne -- Sent in Dec 11, heard nothing, call ..voice jail. $50 down the drain most likely.

          Jensen (speakers) -- Sent in in November. They claim they recieved nothing. I sent them the origional reciept as per their rq, and didn't make a photocopy of it because I didn't figure I would need it. Not much I can do about it. Ripped off for $40.

          Going to have to send this stuff registered mail if I ever bother with it again. I prefer just to buy online with no rebates. Less hassle, more honest. I wish I had instead of visiting Best Buy, Office Depot..etc

          I'm 0 for 4 with xmas/yule rebates. That's not good, and it wasn't this bad a couple years ago.

          • I've only actually sent in 2 rebates, both were for Western Digital hard drives, both purchased at the same time, both purchased on the same receipt.

            Sent in both rebates with 1 receipt in 1 envelope.

            Got 2 checks in 2 envelopes about 6 months later. Little late, but no hassle. I haven't even recieved any snail-spam from them either. Definately a plus for them when I look to buy more hard drives in the future [assuming it's not to replace the ones I bought that've been running well for 3 years now]
      • 1. Buy a bunch of crap.
        2. Cut out rebate form and UPC.
        3. Send everything in.
        4. Wait.
        5. Wait.
        6. Wait.
        7. Complain.
        8. Wait.
        9. Complain.
        10. ??????
        11. Profit!
        • Interesting. Mine goes more along the lines of:
          1- Buy a bunch of crap.
          2- Cut out rebate form and UPC
          3- Make copies
          4- Fill out little "return receipt required" form at the PO and pay a buck or so more
          5- Send in.
          6- Wait 2 weeks to a month
          7- Recieve check.
          8- Let check sit on my desk until it is almost bad, then make a mad rush to the bank to cash it.

          If you send them in with proof that they were sent in, the person doing the signing doesn't want to get in trouble, and ensures that it is processed.
    • Better yet, they should just call it a 'special sale price' and charge me less to begin with. If I'll buy it with a rebate, then I'll buy it on sale. But then they wouldn't make as much money - they know a lot of people don't send them in, or won't fill out the form correctly, or will send them in late, or whatever. So they get the additional sales because it seems like 'a bargain' without having to actually cut the price. What a deal.
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:40PM (#5755589) Homepage
      The way rebates work is that the seller gets almost all the benefits of a sale price - getting to list something as being $300! (after rebate) for only a fraction of the cost. It's simply a fact that only a fraction of the people who buy the goods will successfully apply for the rebate: multiply that fraction by the amount of the rebate, and you have the amount they actually have to lose per unit sale while getting virtually all of the competitive advantage of announcing the discount.
      • by Dudio (529949) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @08:07PM (#5756161)
        You're forgetting another key advantage to the seller - rebates generate float. Put simply, they hold your money in interest-bearing investments until the point, 6-8 weeks after the purchase, at which you receive and cash the rebate check. This is why, unlike mail/internet orders that also say to allow 6-8 weeks for delivery yet typically are delivered within 10 days, rebate checks invariably take the full 6-8 week period to actually arrive in your mailbox. Also notice how the checks are always drawn on obscure banks in places like Lake Lillian, MN; this gives them an extra day or two of interest while the check waits to be cleared after you deposit it. The Straight Dope [straightdope.com] goes into this in more detail.
        • Just a comment on the 'obscure' bank in minnesota thing. Several rebate fufilment centers are actually located in minnesota. Why would they use a bank in another city, to write the check than the one that happens to be in the same place as the fufilment center?
          You might be wondering "why are the fufilment centers located in minneosta?" they could find cheap, reasonably reliable labor up here, when they decided to build a rebate fufilment center. Or maybe they got a tax break from the state to locate her
    • That's exactly why these companies like to use rebates. They attract you with a rebate, but they know half of the people will be too lazy, lose the receipt, forget to mail it in, etc. Personally, I've never had to deal with any fraudulant rebates. Sometimes they are slow, but I've always gotten the money eventually. Slow rebates are better than no rebates.
    • At times I forget to send them in.

      How is that the fault of the company? I'm a bit of a rebate junkie myself. I don't know why people complain about it being such a "hassle". How is writing your name and address on a piece of paper, sticking it in an envelope along with a copy of the receipt, and mailing it out a hassle? It takes what? 3 minutes tops? I can't remember the last time I paid more than tax + the cost of a stamp for a stack of blank CDRs. Some rebates are slower than others but I always
    • I find that my forgetfulness depends on the amount :). If a rebate is above a few dollars I am usually pretty good at sending the forms in. Experience has taught me that the rebate has maybe has around 50% chance of being mailed to me. Thus I count around half the rebate to be the actual discount :)

      Also, a legend has it, that this rebate practice is slightly subsidized by the post-office as each rebate requires a stamp to be purchased.

    • by Lobsang (255003) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:50PM (#5756060) Homepage
      The idea is to make you take care of it. Most people are lazy or careless and end up never receiving their rebates.

      Rebates are bad for consumers due to a number of reasons:

      1. Companies get a chance to advertise at a lower price when only a fraction of their consumers will actually pay that price. They promise, but statistically, they will not deliver.

      2. Rebates must be filled-in precisely. A slight mistake gives them the "right" to reject your application. There's normally no communication from the company when that happens.

      3. Rebate promotions always require you to cut out the UPC barcode from the original box. Many people throw the box away. Also, when you remove the barcode, it's a guarantee to the store that the merchandise WILL NOT BE RETURNED. I wonder if it lowers their insurance rates.

      4. You're exposing information about you and your buying habits. They're probably making money selling your information to third parties.

      5. Who guarantees that rebates will ever be honored? A company can use rebates according to their cash flow. Lean times? Just delay (or throw-away) some rebate coupons. A quick way to make cash. If consumers complain, blame it on the postal office or some other force of nature.

      6. Did you notice that your rebate checks look just like ordinary printed propaganda? This is done on purpose, to increase the probability of the check being thrown away together with all the other bulk mail people receive. Moreover, those checks have a fairly short expiration date (Sometimes, one or two weeks after the date you receive the check).

      7. Loss. Yes, you can lose the checks after you get them. I've lost two (total = $70, ouch!).



      As you can see, it's a "no win" situation for us consumers. Unfortunately, this practice seems more and more common these days...

      • by true_majik (588374) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @08:50PM (#5756429)
        Although I agree with your ponts #1, 2, and 4, I would have to disagree on the rest...

        3. Rebate promotions always require you to cut out the UPC barcode from the original box. Many people throw the box away. Also, when you remove the barcode, it's a guarantee to the store that the merchandise WILL NOT BE RETURNED. I wonder if it lowers their insurance rates.
        I'm not sure what stores you shop in, but usually the ones I shop in will take it back and refund all my money minus what I would be getting on the rebate. So once you receive your rebate, you've recouped your losses...Of course except if you don't depend on rebates, but then if you don't, you wouldn't go off tearing off UPC barcodes.

        5. Who guarantees that rebates will ever be honored? A company can use rebates according to their cash flow. Lean times? Just delay (or throw-away) some rebate coupons. A quick way to make cash. If consumers complain, blame it on the postal office or some other force of nature.
        Yeah, that's something to think about, but the *great* majority of the time, I get my rebates.

        6. Did you notice that your rebate checks look just like ordinary printed propaganda? This is done on purpose, to increase the probability of the check being thrown away together with all the other bulk mail people receive. Moreover, those checks have a fairly short expiration date (Sometimes, one or two weeks after the date you receive the check).
        ...like ordinary printed propaganda...What in the world are you talking about? Rebate checks usually come in smaller than 4 1/8" x 9 1/2" (No. 10) envelopes, thick paper (and not see-through because of the "security sheet" that has a dark patterns), and perforated in 3 of the sides. As for the expiration date, 2 weeks? WTF? Yes I know the rebates take a long time to arrive, but when they do arrive, they are dated a few (4-5 days) prior and are usually valid for up to 90 days.

        7. Loss. Yes, you can lose the checks after you get them. I've lost two (total = $70, ouch!).
        How are rebates bad for consumers due to loss? I would say that's the customer's fault...stupid ones at that. If you loose your keys, is it too the dealership's fault?

        • I'm not sure what stores you shop in, but usually the ones I shop in will take it back and refund all my money minus what I would be getting on the rebate. So once you receive your rebate, you've recouped your losses...Of course except if you don't depend on rebates, but then if you don't, you wouldn't go off tearing off UPC barcodes.

          I don't return things very often, but I've never heard of such policies (not to say they don't exist). I used to work retail, and at our store our policy was that we would n
      • by kesuki (321456) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:01PM (#5756799) Journal
        2. I agree -- they need to be required by law to accept computer or pre-printed address labels. Instead of 'rejecting' them based on not being 'handwritten' This is a Rebate, not a contest.

        3. Then why have I seen 'open items' at 'best buy' with no UPC? Either A. an employee did it on mistake, or b. did it to pocket the mail-in rebate for themselves.

        5. The government.
        Remember that E-rebate company? the one that claimed to get you stuff for free after rebates and crap? Government shut those fuckers down, siezed thier assets, and did thier best to give the money they could back to victimized consumers.

        Basically, if you're running a scam you've got about 6 months-1 year to try to get the money and run. All things considered rebate scams aren't the best scam option available. If you're crafty enough to design and run a rebate scam there are a plethora of more lucrative scams where you can rip off each victim for thousands instead of tens of dollars.

        6.
        It is against the law for them to refuse to honor the check within the first 90 days, and in some states that law is 6 months or even a full year.
        It is against the law to 'pre-date' checks.
        If they're 'holding' checks up from being mailed intentionally then they are again breaking the law.
        Basically they're required to disclose how long thier check processing process takes, and if they're routinely holding checks longer than that, or have an obsurdly long process that causes checks to bet mailed way below the 90 day requirement then they're gonna get in trouble with someone -- if a disgruntled employee decides to rat them out.

        7.
        I've lost one $5 'rebate coupon' (store credit only, stupid menards) and one $10 check.
        The former I knew about but I didn't have a need to go to menards, and the one time I did before it expired I didn't think about it until I got home and saw it sitting there. The latter got mixed up in junk mail, and when I finally found it was 6 months expired.
  • I have participated in several rebates involving computer companies like Crucial and have not had any problems. I always got my money within 2-3 months like they said. I just don't bother with them unless the rebate is substantial- at least $25. Also, I ALWAYS photocopy everything I submit, so in case I don't see the check, I can call and have proof that I sent something.
    • I just don't bother with them unless the rebate is substantial- at least $25. ...because the cost of a stamp isn't worth a $10 or $20 rebate?
    • I've had a good and bad experience.

      Bad- I bought a Samsung 17" in aug,2002. Sent in the rebate form in nov(dec was the deadline). Called them up in jan to ask why the delay.

      They had'nt received the form! I faxed the forms this time but since I was new to this rebate system I sent in the UPS shipping label instead of the UPC label. Called them up that day and they said they were going to process the forms and I should wait for a month. They did'nt tell me I sent the wrong label. Called up in April and they
  • i have done this forever and got $500+ that i wouldn't have received had i not called.

    right now for example i have $125 in pending rebates that are still within the 4-8 weeks 'processing' time... it's good to know.
  • by tuxtomas (559452) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:38PM (#5755565)
    What sucks is the junk mail and phone solicitors that follow!
  • Good and Bad... (Score:2, Informative)

    by mgrassi99 (514152)
    I've had experiences both ways, sometimes with the same company. Bottom line with rebates is don't pay more than you would otherwise counting on a rebate to bring you back. They're gravy, nothing more.

    Wonder how much collective interest companies earn by holding that money for 8-12 weeks...
  • and my domain is OfficeMax. Rebates require patience. Dell's got a great program. I sent in for a rebate a few weeks ago, and now every time I turn around there's an e-mail in my inbox with a rebate status update. No check yet, though. At least I know it's on the way!
    • I like OfficeMax. From my experience, they're usually the fastest on resolution, and (one of?) the first retailer to print out separate reciepts for each rebate item purchased.
  • by Levine (22596) <levineNO@SPAMgoatse.cx> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:39PM (#5755574) Homepage
    Like most Americans, I like my free money right here, right now -- mostly because I won't remember the purchase when I finally get the rebate. Getting a check for $50 in the mail three months after I bought that hard drive is like winning the beauty contest in Monopoly. Wow, fifty bucks out of thin air, cool!

    So for that reason I don't like rebates. I like my savings at the register, not in my personal cash-flow analysis at the end of the quarter.

    levine
    • Like Livine, I don't bother with mail-in rebates. I don't for the same reason I don't do the special points credit cards. It is just not worth managing it and following after to make sure I get the good deal.

      I don't think they are scandalous, by and large, but they are there to serve the manufacturer's marketing interests.
    • You don't win the beauty contest in Monopoly, you only get second place. So there!
  • by realdpk (116490) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:39PM (#5755578) Homepage Journal
    They're buying your personal information so they can either use it to fill your mailbox with their junk or everyone's junk. There's no other reason for them not to do rebates at the POS/cash register.

    Regarding computer-related rebates, they are even worse. I bought some CDR media that was "$2 after $10 rebate". I had a weak moment and figured it was worth the $10. The Best Buy receipt offered a way to file your rebate request online. I thought, great! Mailing rebate requests is sure lame!

    So I go to punch in the rebate information and am presented with a page that I can print and USPS mail in.

    Completely worthless, except now some additinoal "rebate processor" company also has my information.
    • by Chris Carollo (251937) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:45PM (#5755622)
      There's no other reason for them not to do rebates at the POS/cash register.
      Of course there is! Few people actually go through the process of filling out and sending in the rebate. So they can get customers to think of the price in terms of the rebate, but often don't actually have to "honor" the price.

      Personally, I'm pretty religious about sending in my rebates and have only ever had good results. Of course, if everyone did that they'd stop offering them, so for all you folks that don't send in your rebates, thanks!
    • There's no other reason for them not to do rebates at the POS/cash register.

      A lot of people forget or are too lazy to mail in rebates, which means more money for the company.
    • They're buying your personal information so they can either use it to fill your mailbox with their junk or everyone's junk.

      So? I mean, so long as we're clear that's what they're doing and are ok with it, what's the problem?

      There's no other reason for them not to do rebates at the POS/cash register.

      Actually, another legitimate use of rebates is as a method of a company to borrow very short term money. Again, the rebate form says right on it how long its going to take, so what's the problem?

      Completel

    • They're buying your personal information so they can either use it to fill your mailbox with their junk or everyone's junk. There's no other reason for them not to do rebates at the POS/cash register.

      Are you crazy? There's a big reason: most people are so damn lazy and/or disorganized that they never send in their rebate. If companies gave the rebate right there at the cash register without the customer doing anything, they would HAVE TO pay out the bucks. I'd be interested in seeing statistics on ho

    • I'm guessing the reason you had to print out and snailmail your rebate form was because they almost always require either (1) the original UPC, (2) the original printed and dated receipt, or (3) both. I guess the added advantage of the "pre-processing" of a rebate online is that you can at least track it and see when it has been approved...or not.

  • Get over it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:39PM (#5755581) Homepage Journal

    They send you a check in return for the marketing information that you provide them. If they don't send a check, complain until they do. How is this a scandal, again?

  • by TheDanish (576008)
    It's about as much of a sham as extended warranties. I mean, if you lose the paper, you're SOL. Some can track it to your in-store credit card, but still, who keeps their items long enough to need 'em?

    And about the rebates -- I was once promised a 10% refund by Sears for getting a $700-ish washer/dryer combo. I got $30 back, because only ONE of the appliances was $400. Incredible. If they're going to give a rebate, I think it should be done right away. Or just have the price lower in the first plac
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Um, yeah I want some guy to hold my money; who has no accountability, etc.

    Ever notice when they send the check back to you it never says what the original item you bought was? This is so you cannot be pissed at the store or manufacturer because it took forever!!

    Boycott teh mail in rebatez!!!!!!!!!!1
  • The followup article (Score:5, Informative)

    by truesaer (135079) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:41PM (#5755597) Homepage
    That article is from a while back. The Motley Fool just recently posted an update based on feedback from their online community:


    Part II [fool.com]

  • Some links (Score:5, Informative)

    by prostoalex (308614) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:42PM (#5755600) Homepage Journal
    Rebate tracking [fatwallet.com] - great forum from FatWallet.com, search for company name before you purchase anything that requires a rebate.

    I would recommend Dell, Amazon.com and Viking Components for rebate deals - never had problems with either one of those, and just got another $50 Dell Axim rebate in the mail today. The rules are always clear, the fulfillment is on time.

    The whole rebate thing does strike me as odd - if they can pay you back the money, why not lower the price right there in the store? You still have to pay state sales tax on the before-rebate price.
    • I too have absolutely no complaints about Dell's rebate program. Have spotted a few great deals on Dell's at FatWallet that were heavily rebate dependent and they have always worked out smoothly. No need to ever call and ask what the problem is or anything, the check just shows up by the date it's supposed to.

      Would definitely be nice if other companies handled their rebate promotions in the same manner
    • Re:Some links (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msimm (580077)
      I *like* the rebate scheme. I am cheap (read: poor) enough that I *do* send in my rebates. Rebates tend to be (at least the ones that catch my attention) pretty great deals. I'd imagine a strait price discount would be lower, but with rebates they can count on only a percentage actually being returned.

      I can afford that 20" monitor because of the lazy/forgetful or those who can't be bothered. I salute you!
  • After all, you pay sales tax on the full amount of the sale. That adds up to a lot of revenue that does not get refunded.
  • by eyefish (324893) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:45PM (#5755620)
    When you think about it, companies offering rebates could have as well simply lowered the price of the product and make more convinient for consumers.

    However, they *know* that most people: (1) forget to send them, (2) lose them, (3) fill them incorrectly (even a misspell of a city name is "wrong" for them, (4) or simply cannot fill them because the box where the product came in (and that had the barcode scan number on it) has been long gone in the trash.

    In other words, it's a way for them to screw you. I have to admit I only received *one* check in my entire life out of a rebate, and it arrived so long after the purchase that I had already forgotten about it.

    My thought is that any self-respected company who *trully* cares about customers, should simply drop rebates and lower the price of the products (even if not by as much as the value of the actual rebates).
  • I got my rebate from Microsoft for Age of Emipres II. I try not to be too rabidly anti-Microsoft, and take a balanced view of things, and so forth, but I can't deny that it felt oh-so-good to deposit that check, knowing that my purchase of the game actually cost them money.

    I also submitted a rebate to Amazon a little while back... haven't been home to check the mail (I'm at a university on the other side of the country), so I don't know if I got the check from them or not.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:46PM (#5755633) Homepage Journal
    For a company, rebates are wonderful:
    1. They get you to buy one product over the other.
    2. The probability of a person filing for a rebate is less than 1.0, therefor a rebate is less expensive to the company than an equal price cut.
    3. By adding arbitrary restrictions (no P.O. Boxes for one) they can further reduce the probability of you getting a rebate.
    4. They get to use your money for a while - that "float" can make them even more money.
    5. They get your name and address to add to their mailing list. They can also sell that information to others, making even more money.


    Curiously enough, these are much the same set of reasons that a rebate is bad for the consumer.

    There is one other bad thing about rebates from a consumer's point of view: you pay sales tax on the non-discounted price of the item.
  • The industries that exploit aspects of human nature or vital necessity are the ones that are the most successful. This is why rebates are work. Companies know that people are typically lazy and don't fill out the rebate forms. People make mistakes. Mail gets lost. Someone fails to send in an original receipt. There's only a certain percentage of these that get fulfilled, which means the companies pocket the difference.

    Then there are the deals that are "too good to be true" like the $20 product - $2
  • Assume you won't receive the rebate when deciding whether to buy a product (just assume you'll pay full price), and then if you get the rebate, consider it a bonus.
  • ...they like to hold it in the first place is that the company is actually making money off the interest of it's holdings. That's part of the reason it takes 6 friggin' months for you to get your money back. In that time, the vender(like Viewsonic, where my friend works) will have made some more change off that original $200 rebate of yours that they hold.
  • by Brian Stretch (5304) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:51PM (#5755673)
    Seriously, most of the time, I can buy gear via mail order for about what the store price minus rebate is. I've had enough rebates "lost" to be very, VERY wary of them. Just give me a decent price to begin with and quit wasting my, the post office's, and some minimum wage working stiff at the processing center's time.

    I can't help wondering whether these rebate processing companies aren't a variant of the coupon fraud crooks, where criminals gather those grocery store coupons and submit them for credit without anyone actually buying any items. al-Qaeda is/was involved in those. "When big corporations use rebates, they're funding terrorism!" (cue scary music...)

    I'll give Best Buy credit for having the best rebate system out there. They print out separate "rebate receipts" and rebate forms at the cash register. I emailed them a complaint about the racks of rebate forms they used to have at their stores so I'd like to think I had something to do with that, even though they didn't quite get the hint that rebates in general are fscking repulsive. I think I've received every rebate since they started their new system though, averaging 2 months turnaround time.
  • Dell Canada is very bad.. or you could say very good at that game.. So I bought a computer last summer... and first I had to find the rebate form. I didnt find it on the website, so I called the Dell person and she filled it on the phone for me.. So I though, ohh great service! (I was wrong).. But I ended up finding it on the website (by accident) a few days later, and it said I had to include all kinds of papers with it. So I wasnt really sure that the dude on the phone did it right, so I printed the form,
  • I move every few months. And I have an affinity for tech hardware. I have yet to have a problem with rebates, and have always received them in the allotted amount of time. Though I have heard plenty of stories of people who haven't.

    One was for a M$ sidewinder game pad... check came. Never got any form of spam.

    One was for Covad to refund my installation ($100!!). Of course, the agent said it was still valid when the rebate clearly said it expired months ago. However, wrote a false date on the form, sent it
  • ...so I always shop for the best deal assuming I won't get around to sending in rebates.

    Usually this means buying the $40 spindle of CDR instead of the $50 with a $20 rebate.

    There are occasional offers worth it. Once bought a PowerBook that got me a free PCMCIA modem if I sent in the magic post card. Though, I would have bought that anyway.
  • If the Store ever even advertises a rebate price, don't buy that item. If that was really the price, the store can fill out the rebates themselves.
    I have sent in ~10 rebates in my life.
    I have received: Zero.

    And once you've sent your rebate, guess what? You can't even prove that you ever actually bought it, let alone that you sent off for a rebate.
    It doesnt matter if there's some honest rebates out there- the system is set up like fraud, no way to check, no way to prove, and no system in place making sure t
  • Worst Buy Ad Fraud (Score:2, Informative)

    by cyberguyd (50420)
    I have participated in many rebates. I have had very good success. I have received approximately $500 in rebates. I use those free return address labels from charities on them to save time and ensure clarity. However, I have found some of Best Buy's adverts misleading. For instance, they post a sign in front of the Linksys 10/100 PCI NICs saying 9.95 each when you buy two with multiple rebates. They imply you need to buy two to get the rebates and that they are marketing the fact that you can get 2 fo
  • Plain and simple. The whole purpose of rebates is to rip people off by maximizing the likelihood that they won't get it, for whatever reason. For example, making it look like junkmail when it finally comes after 6 months and the person has already forgotten about it. Or they could just "lose" half the rebates, and nobody would ever notice because they're not guaranteed to come back within a year anyway. The only legitimate purpose of rebates is to give the rebate supplier what amounts to an interest-fre
  • Be Careful (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:55PM (#5755702) Homepage
    A little less than a year ago i bought a Maxtor 160Gb hard drive that was advertised as like $200, after $30(store) and $40(mftr) rebates. I bought the drive, got both my rebate recipts and the forms, sat down to fill them out, and hey, guess what, BOTH CompUSA and the manufacturer wanted an original UPC, no photocopies. There being only 1 UPC on the box i was SOL on the $30 rebate, kinda sucked.
    • Re:Be Careful (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bios_Hakr (68586)
      Cut the UPC bar code in half and send each company one of the havles. All they need is the bar code, so if it is readable, they should have no qualms.

      You could also try to have the store charged with fradulent advertising. If they publish a rebate that you cannot possibly collect on, then the FTC or other local consumer rights groups should get involved.

  • ..but I've never had a real problem getting a rebate.
    Yeah, they take forever. But isn't it a nice suprise to get a check you have totally forgotten about?
    Assuming you don't toss it in the trash, they're usually not well marked.
    Never noticed a substantial increase in junk mail or phone solicitations.
  • As far as rebates go, I usually forget to mail them. (Companies love me for this, I'd imagine.)

    I don't know specifically which companies have screwed others over (if they even have; I'm sure a lot of it is sheer exaggeration) but I can vouch for D-Link. I got a rebate on my cable modem from them, and damn promptly.
  • Large rebates? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suidae (162977) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @06:59PM (#5755727)
    I went to Best Buy recently to buy a nice big memory dimm for my computer. Now, everybody knows that damn near everything at best buy has a rebate, and that they even give you extra receipts to mail in to the seperate companies (its not uncommon to get 4 or 5 receipts with your purchase). Anyway, the memory is behind the little counter in the electronics section, back where all you can easily read is the big tag that lists the after-the-rebate price, $25 for a 256M dimm in this case. So I have the guy give me the package and I take it up to the counter. It rings up at 96 bucks.

    Thats a $70 rebate. Uh, I don't think so. I made the guy go verify the price, and he told me, with a straight face, that it was a $70 rebate.

    So, I buy something else with a $14 rebate (I forget now what it was its been so long). And this check finally shows up, made out to 'UNKNOWN'. How am I supposed to cash a check made out to 'UNKNOWN"?

    Rebates are a scam.
  • Tricks (Score:5, Informative)

    by WatertonMan (550706) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:01PM (#5755747)
    The trickiest rebate offer I dealt with involved cutting off thick cardboard UPC stickers. Unfortunately the company in question had three different bar code stickers on the box -- all apparently different. Yet only one was acceptable for the rebate. By the time I found out the wrong one had been sent in the rebate was over. Very, very annoying and ended up "costing" several hundred dollars.
  • by jelle (14827) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:02PM (#5755756) Homepage
    I hate mail-in rebates. Either you get a rebate or you don't. They should make a law that the customer can give the rebate form directly to the cashier and immediately get the rebate deducted from the purchase price. Then the stores can mail the paperwork around and wait for checks, and call, and get impatient/annoyed...

  • by wikkiewikkie (596205) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:06PM (#5755778) Homepage
    on MSFT Flight Sim was so small I had to take it to that guy in the mall that writes your name on a grain of rice so I could fill it out properly.
  • Lexmark (Score:3, Informative)

    by ruszka (456169) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:18PM (#5755857)
    Rebates have always seemed a joke to me. They do take weeks and that's only when there aren't any 'problems'. There have been two instances where I haven't been screwed. Once with HP and more recently, once with Lexmark. Lexmark seems to be right on top of things when it comes to sending their customers rebates and free stuff. *hugs her crappy Lexmark printer*
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:18PM (#5755860)
    HP gave me a $150 rebate on my PC, and a $50 one for my inkjet. Had to wait 8-10 weeks, but it did come. I've had good luck with rebates...I do remember to include everything that's asked for and not to scribble illegibly. I'm sure the companies that do them know they'll only pay a percentage of them since people forget to send them in, or don't send all the required stuff.
  • by tchdab1 (164848) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:20PM (#5755867) Homepage
    I have submitted over 6 Frys rebates and everyone has been rejected - something always seems to be missing. At least they send me a notice saying so. I have nothing against Frys (you can see I have kept buying stuff from there), but before I buy I always remember to translate their advertised price to the price without the rebate before deciding, because I don't even bother any more.
    • something always seems to be missing

      I had the same problem with Motorola twice! Here's the real kicker, both times I received the notice after the rebate period was over. Furthermore, the "missing" part was the barcode from the box. Each time, they returned the contents of the envelope I sent the rebate in. And here's the real kicker, both times the damn barcode was included in the stuff they returned!!!
  • by f97tosc (578893) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:28PM (#5755908)
    Many posts correctly point out that these discounts are designed so that many who intend to send them in never bother/ succeed. But there is actually a more subtle reason as well; the same reason that supermarkets use coupons (as opposed to just lowering the price).

    That reason is price differentiation. If the company charges a high price, they sell few units at a high margin; a low price means more units a lower margin. By introducing these coupon schemes, they can charge different prices for the same product. Price-sensitive customers go through the trouble of filling in the coupons, insensitive ones don't. It is the best of both worlds!

    Another example of price differentiation is university tuition. There it is called "financial aid" - a scheme clearly designed to make everyone pay exactly what they can afford (note: I am not saying that there is something wrong with financial aid; I am just pointing out that it is very much in the financial interest of the universities).

    Tor
  • by jejones (115979) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:33PM (#5755940) Journal
    ...for the inventor of rebates.

    Basically it's an interest-free loan to the vendor. You get to pay sales tax on the pre-rebate price, and then have to jump through hoops to maybe get the rebate months later.

    The store ought to be required to hand you the rebate at the time of purchase, or submit the information electronically at the time of purchase...but then they'd actually have to give you the money, wouldn't they? Stores can take rebates and use them for reaction mass, as far as I'm concerned.
  • by adzoox (615327) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:37PM (#5755967) Journal
    Include the following TYPED note in your envelope with receipt:

    "Thank you for processing my rebate. I have marked my calendar to receive my rebate no later than (2 months to the day I mailed it.)" = Fill in () appropriately.

    Just below this type your information from the receipt including SKU numbers, your mailing address and store of purchase plus how much you are expecting. Printing an actual two month calendar and highlighting the day of rebate is a nice touch.

    I will gaurantee you will not have another "missing" rebate. They think, "looks like this guy would sue over a $5 rebate, we better get it right"

    A buddy of mine goes a step further and puts:

    "Consumer protection laws in my state require that rebates be processed in 8 weeks"

  • From the Inside (Score:5, Informative)

    by Combuchan (123208) <sean@emvCOMMAis.net minus punct> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:37PM (#5755972) Homepage
    A good friend of mine works for Continental Promotions Group, Inc, a Scottsdale, AZ company that processes rebates for Costco, Dell, and several other large corporations.

    Most of the stories I've heard are largely due to the incompetence of the home workers (many of whom do not speak english as a first language) that basically open the envelopes and enter all the relevant data. Their pay? US$0.08 an entry. Not the highest pay around--working dilligently and competently this comes out to about $10/hour.

    The reason it takes 10 - 12 weeks is that CPG will usually invoice the company they're contracted with at the end of the month and there's considerable turnaround time. Costco, on the other hand, directly wires the rebate money to CPG--I got my $2 Dove soap rebate a couple of weeks after I mailed it in. Another reason to shop at Costco. :)

    My friend works the phones at CPG and basically the problems that he handles with regards to Dell are data entry errors. From this I derive that it's best to type your application ... go into some office machine store and just feed the rebate form into a typewriter or whatever. At least make damn sure that the claim is clearly written... if you're a's look like o's you're bound for trouble. Assume that the person who will be processing your rebate is completely incompetent and natively reads Sanskrit.

    Also, he sees a lot of situations in which the rebate didn't apply to the customer for whatever reason because a pushy uninformed Dell phonemonkey just wanted to get off the line and close the sale. Make sure that the product you're getting actually has an applicable rebate. Just another reason to not listen to salespeople and by your stuff online.

    I didn't tell you this, but most rebates can be reissued for $20 and under cashed or not because it's too much trouble for CPG and their clients to work the specifics out of actually sending out a STOP payment. Get double the rebate simply by calling them and inventing some story.

    The average rebate takes ten or so weeks to process, so mark that window on your calendar and a halfway point to remind yourself in a month to call up and check on the status of the rebate by calling up the 800 number.

    Most of what the article bitches about is largely just symptomatic of lazy people forgetting receipts and the rebate itself. If the money is important to you, don't forget stuff. Don't throw anything away until you have confirmation that the rebate is on its way or you actually have the check in hand. It's not that difficult to stow a box in the garage.

    Keep on top of things and you should have no problem... I got dicked by Ericsson for a hundred bucks because of some missing paper and by the time I called the window expired--this is what you get when you expect the rebate to come without problems! They of course said they sent a letter in response, I never got it. Buyer beware.
  • most recent rebates (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iomud (241310) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @07:59PM (#5756115) Homepage Journal
    My most recent rebates were from Apple, filled out my slips and got my checks back within a week. Probably the best rebate experience I've ever had. Most times you forget about the rebate and it comes half a year later in the mail.
  • by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @08:00PM (#5756124)
    I'm glad this is finally appearing online. Sony and Intuit are NOTORIOUS for this.

    I bought TurboTax for the past few years and sent in the $40 (approximately) rebate with ALL of the information filled out correctly. I swear I spent at least 30 minutes putting together each rebate package, copying the contents in their entirety and mailing them on time from the post office. Out of $140 (approximately) that they owe me in rebates for YEARS now, I received only about ten bucks for a state rebate. I assure you that everything was done correctly.

    Then, my mother bought a Sony laptop. There was a $100 rebate. I spent over an hour putting together the entire rebate package, going over the rebate checklist several times, and I *know* for a *fact* that I did it correctly. I also sent it in ahead of the deadline by nearly a month. A couple of months later, my dad (who checked my email) said that I got an email from Sony stating that there was some error in my preparation of the rebate papers. I got so pissed off at that point that I decided no longer to buy products that offer a rebate of any kind.

    Yes, this story is absolutely true. Rebates are fraudulent and these companies get away with it because they know that most people consider it too much trouble to go after them for a rebate and the rest will call in a few times, so when lawsuit threats come, the company can shut them up by mailing the check then. Sony can go to hell. Intuit can as well.

    COMPANIES, WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Make the stores handle the rebate process. The store should charge me the price AFTER rebate and then deal with the distributor for the money, the same way as coupons are handled at the grocery store.

  • by Radical Rad (138892) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @08:18PM (#5756233) Homepage
    Few people outside the Marketing industry know that the word rebate is a actually a contraction of two words, retard and bait.

    http://www.wordorigins.org/wordorr.htm#Rebate [wordorigins.org]

  • by TheMayor (123827) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @08:47PM (#5756407)
    Connecticut has a Rebate Advertising law requiring retailers who advertise the net price of an item after deduction of a manufacturer's rebate to pay consumers the amount of that rebate when they buy the item. If the retailers don't wish to do this, they cannot advertise the after-rebate price as the final price to be paid by the consumer. Thus, there should be no confusion about the amount the customer must pay at the cash register.

    Here is the law:

    Sec. 42-110b-19. Advertising "free," "reduced," "discount," "below cost," or a rebate

    It shall be an unfair or deceptive act or practice to:

    (a) Advertise any merchandise or service as free by the use of the word "free" or any other terms of similar import when the merchandise or service is not, in fact, free (see (d) below). Failure to disclose any and all terms, conditions and obligations required of the consumer shall be a violation of these regulations.

    (b) Advertise the price of merchandise or service as a reduced or sale price, or compare the price to a previous price unless the advertised price is lower than the actual, bona fide price for which the merchandise or service was offered to the public on a regular basis by the advertiser, for a reasonably substantial period of time prior to the advertisement or as a discount price, unless the advertised price is lower than the price being charged for the same merchandise or service by other sellers in the area; provided, however, in the case of a new product, if the advertised price is less than the price which the advertiser, in good faith, expects to charge after termination of the introductory sale, there is no violation of this subsection. The actual price after the sale shall be evidence of the advertiser's good faith expectations.

    (c) Advertise the price of any merchandise as below cost, unless the price is, in fact, below the cost for which the merchandise was purchased and prepared for sale by the advertiser.

    (d) Advertise merchandise or service as free or the price of merchandise or a service as a discount, reduced, or sale price if receipt of such merchandise or service is contingent upon the purchase of other merchandise or service at a price which is higher than the actual, bona fide price at which the merchandise or service was offered to the public on a regular basis by the advertiser for a reasonably substantial period of time prior to the advertisement, or at a price which is substantially higher than the price being charged for the same merchandise or service by other sellers in the area; provided, however, in the case of a new product, if the advertised price is less than the price which the advertiser, in good faith, expects to charge after termination of the introductory sale, there is no violation of this subsection. The actual price after the sale shall be evidence of the advertiser's good faith expectations.

    (e) Advertise the availability of a manufacturer's rebate by displaying the net price of the advertised item in the advertisement, unless the amount of the manufacturer's rebate is provided to the consumer by the retailer at the time of purchase of the advertised item. A retailer will not be required to provide the purchaser of an advertised item with the amount of the manufacturer's rebate if the rebate advertises that a manufacturer's rebate is available without stating the net price of the item. For the purpose of this subsection, "net price" means the ultimate price paid by a consumer after he redeems the manufacturer's rebate offered for the advertised item.

  • Micro$oft (Score:3, Funny)

    by buzzonga (666883) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @09:19PM (#5756579)
    These guys are the best (don't flame me yet). Years ago they were doing a $50 rebate on the latest and greatest office. The real neat thing was instead of just the usual UPC code they accepted the following, from ANY of the products you UPGRADED from.
    Top of the box
    Front page of the manual
    Paper insert from the CD. (didn't specify front or back so I used both.
    You had to have a receipt (real tough to make..)
    The original rebate coupon (slick paper copied great at kinkos)
    So at the big company I worked for they actually bought boxed versions, no license agreement and we kept them in the storage room, TONS of them.
    Toughest part was the limit of two per address. Ended sending them to every friend and relative I had. Also tried (and succeeded) by slighty changing my name and street name for multiple receipts at the ole home address. Worked, and redemption time was pretty quick. We called them presents from "Uncle Bill" Odd thing though, about eighteen months later I did start getting random junk mail to those bogus address...

    ??? Profit.
  • Tax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jesus IS the Devil (317662) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @09:29PM (#5756628)
    Another thing I don't see people addressing is the topic of tax.

    When you buy an item for $1,000 (which includes a $100 rebate), you're actually paying the tax on the $1,000, not on $900.

    So, make sure you factor in the tax factor before committing to a rebate sale. Actually better yet, everyone should just boycott any and ALL items with rebates. It's all just a scam. If they wanted to give you the money they would've discounted it at the counter.
  • it's off the books! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dj_virto (625292) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:19AM (#5757631)
    A big motivator for some folks buying laptops and other big ticket items for their small-medium size business is that the purchase price is a tax deduction (and reduces cash on hand at the end of the year), but the rebate is totally off the books.

    So that $5000 projector yields not just $1200 in rebates, but a tax free $1200! That makes it equivalent to something like a taxed $1600 worth of income or so.
  • rebate companies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by h3llfish (663057) on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:20AM (#5758235)
    I worked at a company that made scanners several years back, and like most high tech firms, they didn't handle their own rebates. They hired a special rebate company to do it. A good number of people just plain fail to mail in their rebate forms, and that's how the rebate folks make their money. The statistic that was quoted to me at the time was that for a 50 dollar rebate, only 50 percent of the people managed to mail their forms in. For a ten dollar rebate, only ten perent of customers mailed their stuff in. I have no idea how true that was, but it seemed to make sense, given the fact that I've never mailed a rebate coupon in at all, for any amount. Rebates are an entirely sleazy practice, but then again, what isn't in big business these days? It's just another example of how corporate america makes people jump through hoops to get basic service, in the hopes that most people will just give up. I just pretend the rebates don't exist, in the hopes that they'll go away. I look only at the price that I'm paying going out the door - if that doesn't work for me, I buy something else. Shawn
  • by HomieJ (666963) on Friday April 18, 2003 @08:52AM (#5758886)
    My first ever post WOO HOO! =) Ok, I have been using rebates for many many years. I have about a 99% success rate. The only one I lost was a $50 rebate for a tape drive. When I called about it, it sounded like two guys running a business out of their garage. They claim it was lost of course. Ok, So I use to just throw everything in an envelope and send it on its way. That was back when I had only 1 or 2 pending rebates. Then, after the tape drive ordeal, I started keeping copies. Actually had to call a few companies when I didn't get a rebate. It's funny, every time I ever had to call they ALWAYS said the check was ALREADY mailed and I did recieved the check within two to three days of calling (and the postmark date was the day or day after I called). Then the rebates got too many to deal with manually. So I set up an asset account with Quicken to track exactly how much $$ I was owed in rebates. It also allowed to to quickly see which rebates were overdue. So now I have a pretty good system. I scan everything I send. Everything is taped to one sheet of paper with annotations indicating all the requirements. It's been pretty good. Now the rules have changed. I got some pretty substantial rebates from CompUSA and some pretty small ones. I glanced at a random rebate for that I received and everything looked normal. Then a few days later I went to fill them all out. The BIG rebates ($70, $100) had a requirement that the prbate be postmaked the NEXT DAY (that is about 4 days from when I purchased the items!!!). The smaller rebates were the normal 'postmarked within 30 days of purchase'. The big ones were withing the SAME WEEK!! Not many people rush home to fill out their rebates. They want to play with their new router or hard drive (which may take 4 days for some people). So, yet another way for the companies to deny your rebate. What's next 'Must be postmarked on a Monday before noon or Thusday after the post office is closed'.

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