a Force for Absolute Evil
7/10/04 by Rick Wolfe
Okay, perhaps they aren't ABSOLUTE evil, but many times they can be more
problems than they are worth. How many times have you bought something advertising
nearly a third off the purchase price if you simply mail in a card to the manufacturer?
How often did you actually bother? Or are you like me and completely forget
about the rebate until the last day of eligibility?
By all accounts, the rebate business is a steadily growing one with current
estimates in the 6 billion dollar range. This is up from 1 billion in 1999.
Lucrative, would you not agree? Almost makes you want to look into writing rebate
programs, doesn't it?
Rebates have become a popular way to sell a product, whether it is a computer
game, a printer or an entire computer. And they are good for a company's bottom
line as well.
Why discount the price of that laptop computer when you can keep the normal
$1600 price-tag and give the potential owner a mail-in rebate coupon for 30%
Unfortunately, those billions seem to be more and more at the expense
of the consumers buying those rebated products. While some rebate offers are
accepted and processed with few if any hassles, many more consumers are being
denied the monies promised them by the company offering a rebate on their product.
A consumer advocacy website, http://www.badbusinessbureau.com, lists more
than one thousand complaints of denied rebates, bounced rebate checks and poor
customer service. The list goes on, for quite awhile.
Admittedly, some of these complaints would have become non-starters if
rebates - but how often do you read the fine print? The others, in some cases,
border on outright fraud. Several complaints concerned a company in New York
that had apparently shut down the account used to pay out the rebate checks.
There's also other well known rebate "offers" out there where
you can get $100 or more off your computer. The catch, you have to sign up for
an ISP you may not need or want for up to 3 years!
The Government Response
The federal government, in recent years has begun to respond to the multitude
of complaints about bogus or unfairly denied rebate claims and going after several
major manufacturers for not sending rebate checks.
The Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Website lists a series of commonsense guidelines
to dealing with rebate offers here.
(Note: opens in new window.) Some of what they suggest is written below:
Rebate offers can be irresistible to consumers, slashing the price of
consumer goods at the time of purchase or promising partial or full reimbursements
after the purchase.
Some manufacturers and retailers entice shoppers with instant cash rebates
that can be redeemed immediately at the checkout counter.
But most rebates are of the mail-in variety. They require consumers to
pay the full cost of an item at the time purchase, then to send documentation
to the manufacturer or retailer to receive a rebate by mail.
The documentation required generally includes the original sales receipt,
UPC code, rebate slip, and the customer's name, address and telephone number.
In most cases, this paperwork must be sent to the manufacturer or retailer within
30 days of the purchase. Consumers generally receive their rebates up to 12
But the Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers against being "baited"
by rebates that never arrive or arrive far later than promised. By law, companies
are required to send rebates within the time frame promised, or if no time is
specified, within 30 days.
When purchasing a product that offers a rebate, the FTC encourages consumers
- Follow the instructions
on the rebate form and enclose all required documentation in the envelope
when filing for a rebate.
- Make a copy
of all paperwork to be mailed when applying for a rebate. It's the only
record a consumer will have of the transaction if anything goes wrong.
- Contact the
company if the rebate doesn't arrive within the time promised.
- If the rebate
never arrives or arrives late, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission,
the state Attorney General or the local Better Business Bureau.
As always, knowledge is your best defense. If you're going to play the
rebate game, do your homework. Make sure the company you're buying from doesn't
have a history of problems with rebates. At the very least, do not go into the
deal thinking that you're paying 30% less for your product. You're paying full
price, and you'll most likely be working very hard for that 30%.
have any questions, or need immediate service contact Nascent
>The Rebate Business
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