Rebates, ahh yes, rebates. They have to be the greatest “catch” of them all when it comes to buying products at a discounted price. I’ll say it: rebates are a sham! How many times have you really wanted something and written a check for a rebate thinking you’d see your money back soon but don’t? Then you get the sinking feeling. You realize that your money is now gone forever. It really is a terrible feeling. Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar for a lot of people out there.
Rebates don’t have your best interest in mind
When I think of one of the most shady things a company can do to its customer base, rebates come to mind. Just when you think you’re getting a good deal, a rebate will slap you in the face and you never see the money ever again. What’s more painful is finding out that companies setup rebates for failure. Part of this failure is causing the rebate system to be such a hassle that you end up giving up trying to get your rebate money back. Companies are hoping you forget about redeeming your money. In fact, redemption rates for rebates range between 10% and 80%. The fact that they are never 100% redeemed should give you some type of warning.
Part of this hassle are the rebate requirements that many people often times never read. Some of these requirements are as obscure as providing a packing slip when you attempt to redeem your rebate. When companies rely on you not reading the fine print, they are not going about business in your best interest.
So who’s benefiting?
Well, the companies issuing the rebates are benefiting! Most companies issue rebates in two forms: bait tricks and mail-in forms. Let’s talk about bait tricks first. Like a fish going after bait, we humans go after the new shiny thing. It’s built into us and comes naturally. These companies know this and capitalize on this fact. Bait tactics are common and are used on an every day basis. Many times, a company will limit the number of products available for rebate and steer you toward the more expensive products when the first product is sold out. Another bait trick is to offer a rebate with an extremely popular product along with a product that has had slow sales. This, in turn, requires the person to purchase one product with a rebate to receive another. This is unethical and I’m surprised companies still use these tactics today. To be honest, they should be ashamed of such strategies.
The second tactic is mail-in rebates. Companies setup mail-in rebates for failure. What do I mean by this? Mail-in rebates go through multiple hands during the rebate redemption process. If at any time, the process is halted or there is the slightest error on your part, you can say goodbye to your rebate. Depending on how shady the company is, rebates rules are changed during the redemption process automatically causing your rebate to become void. I know it sounds infuriating but this stuff happens all the time!
How can I protect myself?
– Take your time and read ALL the fine print. Don’t skip over anything.
– Copies, copies, copies! Document everything. Companies will do all they can do to not pay you for your rebate.
– When you know a rebate should be in the mail, look for it every day. Companies have been known for concealing the look of the rebate and hope you accidentally throw the rebate in the garbage.
– No contact information? Refuse to fill out the rebate. The company in question should always provide contact info.
–Avoid rebates that don’t offer a 30 day redemption period.
–Fill out your rebate quickly and mail it in as soon as you can. The sooner you do this, the sooner you will get your money back.
Don’t give in to their tactics
The beauty of being a customer is that you are in control at the end of the day. You are the one these companies are relying on. Don’t let companies swindle your money away with rebates. If you do file for one, use wisdom and read all the fine print. As “nice” as a company may seem to be, they are only after one thing: your money.