Rebates - I'm sick of 'em

cowboyindDecember 5, 2004

I went through all the sale flyers in the paper today looking for Christmas gift ideas, and I just can't believe how many advertised prices now are actually not the price you pay, but the price "after rebate."

In theory that's okay, but this past year I bought several different items that came with rebates, and I didn't get two of those rebates. The total amount I never got was $60.

There is no accountability to it. You mail in all that stuff they require for the rebate, and if you never get it, there is no one to call. It goes to a rebate clearinghouse center or whatever (often in Minnesota, I've noticed). In the case of the two rebates I never got, I contacted the company involved and was told that it was out of their hands. You can't re-submit it because they want the ORIGINAL register receipt, and the ORIGINAL UPC codes off the box. The originals are gone; I mailed them in. So what's to stop the company from tossing a certain percentage of those rebate requests into a convenient wastebasket? Nothing, and I bet that's what some do.

Of course, the theory behind rebates is that the company can advertise a low price, yet they know from experience that a lot of people will forget to mail in all the stuff they need to get the rebate, so in reality they won't have to give the price they advertised. In the case of low value rebates, like $1 to $5, I would bet the percentage of people who actually mail it in is way under half. This to me borders on false advertising.

I think there need to be some laws regarding rebates. Either that, or some clever company needs to do a promotional campaign where they say, "All prices are what you pay today -- NO MAIL-IN REBATES!"

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There are laws regarding rebates, particularly in regards to advertising price. Several states and the FTC regulate rebate offers. Generally, if you are advertising the price after the rebate, you need to prominently disclose that fact, as well as the fact that it is a mail rebate, rather than an instant rebate.

I don't believe that any reputable consumer company, or the fulfillment houses that they retain to handle rebate requests, would toss a percentage of valid rebate requests. The penalties, particularly from the FTC, can be substantial.

I know that I have failed to promptly send in a number of rebate offers myself, which is frustrating. I've never not received one that I properly submitted, though, so I haven't (yet) wound up in the Catch-22 you describe of needing the original paperwork to follow upon the orignal request. I think Best Buy issues 2 "original" receipts, one for the rebate and one for the consumer to keep, which is a good idea.

Like you, I definitely prefer to avoid rebates and go for a low price.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 8:33PM
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Yes, I don't think there's any problem with the notification end of it; the retailers are good about disclosing that the quoted price is "after rebate."

In the case of the rebates that I didn't get, they were from the same company, but mailed in two different envelopes (in accordance with their regulations), and mailed far in advance of the deadline. Obviously that isn't proof of anything. I guess both of the envelopes could have gotten lost in the mail.

Even if you don't think there's any possibility of a certain percentage of rebates getting "lost," you have to admit that it's a ridiculous situation in which to put consumers. I saw in one sale flyer yesterday a computer system on which there was a $250 rebate. That means that you have to do essentially the same thing as sending cash through the mail when you send in all of the required paperwork for the rebate. Not only do you have no recourse if it gets lost in the mail, but you also have no guarantee that the rebate will even be sent if they do get the paperwork.

As for the FTC, I doubt this is an issue that excites them all that much. Just as I had to do when I didn't get my $60, rationality had to kick in and cause me to make the judgment that my time and effort are worth something, and I can't justify moving heaven and earth to get $60.

If the FTC really has any interest in this issue, they need to do something to introduce some accountability into this process. Assuming that companies will be 100 percent honest with customers when it's obviously not in their interest to do so -- and when detection is all but impossible -- is a lot to assume.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2004 at 3:08PM
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Thats what companies count on...consumers not bothering with the rebates. I have always gotten my rebates, but they are a pain. Also some are obscure, not forthright in expalaining...expample I got two software programs this year with rebates, only after opening the products for the rebate info did I find it required either another purchase or a previous version of the product to receive the rebates. I didn't like that much. I should have complained but I didn't purchase the products cause of the rebates, they were just a plus. I would have complained if I didn't get the refund though and you should keep bothering them and let them know there are other companies with products out there and your friends, neighbors and relatives are all going to hear about their company not responding to your complaint. They will loose far more $$ from you not buying their product and from anyone you tell that won't buy their product that it is in the companies best interest to fulfill your rebate. Just ask for supervisors or someone higher on the food chain to talk to and when they see you aren't going away without a lot of complaint, maybe someone will give you a freebie or your rebate.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 5:54PM
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I'd do some heavy duty squawking to the store from which I bought the stuff.

Tell them how many people I'd done the (I was going to use the word for a female canine, but got censored for that a while ago) complaining to - including their store's name. And that not to the service desk, but to the manager.

I'd sure let the ompany know whose product offered the rebate, as well - which I think you said that you did.

Did you photocopy the receipt before sending it?

Good wishes for better results in future.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 8:39PM
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I sometimes read the forums at

There are a lot of complaints about doing everything right and still not getting rebates.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 11:29PM
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See, I knew I couldn't be the only one!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2004 at 12:12AM
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I've only had to deal with 3 rebates. One I received, one I never heard from, and third one I just submitted online from Costco yesterday. All the info needed online is on the receipt & I just filled in the required fields & hit submit. Ya think I'll hear from them? lol

    Bookmark   December 9, 2004 at 2:13PM
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I got SCR&wd by circuit city TWICE.

You have to send the original two different places. We called b/c obviously that's impossible. Their solution, just send a copy. Hmmm, strangely enough it was rejected.

We have had bad luck with Lowes, but fantastic luck with The Great Indoors. They are prompt and I think we've received over $150 in rebates in just the last few months.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 1:57PM
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I always felt that rebates were the companies' way of harvesting personal information... names, addresses, buying preferences. Then they sell you to marketing lists and you are stuck with junk mail the rest of your life. I'll take privacy over a $50 rebate any day.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 12:10AM
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Huzzah! I'm sure glad to hear it's not just me that has had enough of these ^&$%&*(^$ mail in rebates. Any time I see something I want with a mail-in, I pass on by prefering to either do without, or buy a competing product.

It may be time to resurrect an old idea I had... Something I call "Reverse Rebates". Works like this:

I make up a form that asks for all sorts of annoying info. Store name and address, type of store, chain (y/n), how many stores in the chain, home office address, contact info for the salesperson and store manager, stuff like that.

Now, let's say I'm buying a TV that costs $500. I hand the salesperson a the form and tell him I'm offering a "reverse rebate" on the product. I tell him I'll give him $350 (plus tax) and all he has to do is fill out the form, include a copy of the sales reciept, proof of inventory, and a copy of the signed delivery receipt (if customer take-with, that needs to be noted and signed off in the "remarks" section of the form)and mail to me within 5 days of delivery. Then, I'll send them a check for $150 in only 6-8 weeks.

Such a deal, eh?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 9:41AM
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Yes, I'm sure that the gaining of personal information about customers is a key purpose of rebates. And as it's becoming clear from posts here, another one is to offer something you don't actually have to deliver.

Photobob, your idea is great. It's only because we all go in for this nonsense that it's a success. I talked to my dad the other day and he said it took him an hour to complete a rebate request for a product he bought at Circuit City -- despite the fact that they print out those huge "dead sea scroll" size receipts that supposedly make rebates easier. When you see the big bold price that's "after rebate," it's like that's part of the price, but then when you read through all of the terms and conditions, the perspective you get is different: It's more like, we'll "award" you this rebate IF you have all the i's dotted and t's crossed, and IF you meet a bunch of other silly qualifications and jump through all of our hoops that we put there in hopes that you won't do it.

And yes, isn't the 6 to 8 (or in some cases 8 to 12) week delay a joke? I can order something online and have it inside of a week, yet in these technologically-advanced times, a rebate takes up to three months to get. Obviously it's just a way of holding on to the money for a long time, and, I would suggest, placing the expectation of the rebate so far into the future that the customer probably will forget that it's coming, and won't complain if it never comes at all, which it's obvious from these posts that in many cases, it doesn't.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 12:34PM
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I don't do small rebates anymore, but do on high dollar stuff. I have never failed to receive my rebates.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 2:54PM
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I love your tactic.

Sounds like a winner.

How many takers have you enrolled?

What gets my goat are the ones for $2.00 - 5.00 or so.

Deduct the cost of postage, stationery, writing time, gas to mail the letter, etc. - and you're (almost) out money on the "offer".

We have an electronics store that wants name, address (phone No.? - I think) - to put on the receipt when they sell you *anything*.

I've almost walked out on them a couple of times - didn't though, so they still win.

Seems to me that if we don't buy at one store primarily because we don't like the rebate, we should make sure that not only the check-out cashier, but the store manager, knows of our decision.

Maybe send an email to the offending company, as well.

How about offering them your "reverse rebate" idea, while you're at it?

Down with rebates!

joyful guy

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 8:36PM
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Oh - getting on a mailing list for the great indoors worked out really well for us. That's how we found out about the other rebate - viscous cycle!

It's okay b/c we do shop there and like to save the money.

What gets me is when I get 12 catalogs in the mail and spend 20 minutes trying to get them all cancelled before my postal carrier breaks their back!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 4:06PM
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When asked for addresses and names by stores, whether it's for the asinine "discount" cards now commonplace in groceries or at a store like Computer City I won't shop at (any store that wants to search my bags for stolen goods is not getting my business) I decline, and if they won't accept that as an answer, I make it up. They have zero right for that info.

Mrs. Greenbank stamped out the junkmail at our last address--we literally got none. But we moved, and the floodgates opened again. Takes about a year to make it stop coming.

Rebates are there to mine your info. I would never buy a product based on getting a rebate--that just means it's over-priced in the first place.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2004 at 6:30AM
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I ordered a new computer from Gateway. I wasn't going to get a printer but I was told it was 'free' after rebates ($129.99). I hesitated but the salesman assured me it was very easy and could be done online with the order number. So I agreed. The quote e-mailed to me explicitly said that there were '$129.99 in total mail-in rebates'. When I looked online for the rebate I couldn't find any. I e-mailed the salesman and he replied that there were 3, one for $50, one for $30 and one for $20. First of all that is only a $100. Second of all, does Epson really want to give me 3 separate rebates for the same purchase?

Gateway would not stand up to their quote. I did complain to the FTC, knowing they wouldn't do anything specifically for me but I do think they need to be aware of the tactics that are being used.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 8:31AM
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I just found this story at the MSN website. They suggest complaining to the FTC, state attorney general's office, and the Better Business Bureau.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rebate Ripoff advice

    Bookmark   January 2, 2005 at 1:04PM
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Home Depot is running a rebate on installation of Genie/Chamberlain Garage Door Openers thru 10/31/07.

$57 for Basic installation.

Problem is on their rebate form, the zip code is incorrect.

"5072-2907" should be "85072-2907"

I'm sure this will cause some delay in delivery of the rebate form.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 9:05AM
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I wish stores would just deduct the rebate from the price when you buy the darned thing. To get a refund, you have to send a coupon and the receipt (What if it breaks and you need proof of purchase date? ) Then you wait and wait. Verizon owes me $50 for getting their FIOS computer line. They said it could take 8 weeks.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 4:25AM
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I heard recently on the news as much as 40% of rebates go unclaimed, which means the mfr gets to keep that money.
Because of this there is some talk about rebate reform.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 4:31PM
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The way I look at it is that if every rebate was claimed, then the companies that offer the rebates would probably make the rebates worth less to keep their overall profit the same (approximately). Would you rather have to mail in and wait for a $100 rebate, or get an instant rebate at the cash register for $40?
I'd rather wait for the $100 rebate and take advantage of the fact that other people are too lazy, or forget, to mail in theirs.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 10:38AM
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Would you rather have to mail in and wait for a $100 rebate, or get an instant rebate at the cash register for $40?

If I knew they would always pay I wouldn't mind the wait.
I lost $50 on a circuitcity delivery rebate. They delivered a TV set for me and I sent in all the stuff except for the Proof Of Purchase label, which the deliverers took away with the box. I even called them and explained the situation, They said no problem, you'll still get the rebate. That was over 2 yrs ago and the check hasn't arrived.

In this case $20 sounds better than nothing.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 11:14AM
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I don't bother with rebates under $10. Ny time has value,when I was employed I made slightly over $30 an hour, so that's $10 for 20 minutes. Right now, if I spend #300 to $600 at my grocery store, they'll give me 10 percent off on one shopping trip. Or if I spend over $600, they'll give me 20 percent off. I know I'll easily spend at least $300 there but $600 might be unreachanle. I have to show my shoppers card every timne I go thru the checkout.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 4:22PM
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Twice, I was given the amount of the rebate off the purchase price because I insisted I may pass on the purchase unless I get it that way. I've been burned too many times and won't even waste my time anymore. One was at a Best Buy and I spoke with the manager when buying a laptop, the other was when purchasing a phone with Cingular. Try it.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 3:14PM
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BreakerOff wrote: I always felt that rebates were the companies' way of harvesting personal information... names, addresses, buying preferences. Then they sell you to marketing lists and you are stuck with junk mail the rest of your life. I'll take privacy over a $50 rebate any day.

I agree. When I subscribe to magazines, I pay with a money order and use a fake name so I can track who they sell my info to.


Magazine-Fine Woodworking
Name on subscription-"Mr. Woodrow Fine"!

Sometimes its nice to return the junk mail favors!

I signed up for an investment newsletter. I noticed I was getting loads of junk mail offers to my 'pre-selected' name from other brokers. Some were kind enough to include postage paid envelopes!

I filled out their forms using the name/address of the broker who sold me out. I hope the original broker appreciated all the 'offers' from the the other brokers!

What comes around, goes around!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 11:28AM
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