Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Rebate Scam

I am not sure if it is the manufacturers, the retailers, or both, but the the rebate shenanigans are quite annoying.

I understand business and I get the picture. Management wishes to implement promotional programs to drive sales while maximizing effectiveness and minimizing program costs. However, there is a line between honest value and disingenuous promotion and I think many rebate programs lie in dishonest territory.

If there is a rebate available, be it from the manufacturer or the retailer, why not make it automatically redeemable at check out? The answer of course is because the "slippage" in the system (those transactions where consumers who do not proactively request the rebate) allow for aggressive rebate promotions that attract attention and drive sales but are cost effective because many rebates go unredeemed. I guess I can live with that.

What I can't live with is the purposefully onerous redemption process put in place to discourage consumers from claiming the rebate they were promised. Get a receipt, get another piece of rebate documentation from the retailer, take a code or model number from the carton, make photocopies, send it all to some third party processor, and make sure it is all postmarked within a few days of your purchase. All this work is often buried under an advertised "low price" that is actually a calculated final cost assuming you successfully secure the rebate. It's dishonest.

If you bother to jump through those hoops, an advanced scam technique is to send the rebate check to the wrong address and then void it out once it goes un-cashed for 30-60 days. Only the most motivated consumers can track this process through the maze of promotion processing to get their due.

HP and Office Depot pulled that one on me last year so my $250 rebate on a new PC was lost. This morning I pulled out my papers from a recent dishwasher purchase and realized I missed the one week deadline for claiming my $100 rebate.

I don't have the time or energy to seek the value I was promised so I decided to just blog about it and move on. I guess I can live with it after all.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7/20/2009

    Personal Policy-- Never buy anything with a rebate. I've purchased from companies with instant rebates, etc. but any computer, electronic item, appliance-- forget it or just expect to never receive it. I've spent lots of "time dollars", more than its worth, just tracking down my 50 bucks! JD