Rebates are a Sham and I Hate Them

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?

shopping and rebates

Do you think rebates are a sham?

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.

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Published or updated August 21, 2016.


  1. Jon, spot on, rebates are torture! I’ve actually worked with clients setting up rebate programs on the business end (ah, one of the ugly things of doing businesss) and they are absolutely setup for failure. Companies will budget as low as 25% payout rates…..they expect people to fail!

    I hate having to jump through hoops for rebates myself, but boy am I anal about them. I want to get my money’s worth!

  2. Track Your Bucks says:

    It took me a while to find out that the time you spend trying to get a few measly bucks from rebates is time better spent trying to maximize income, instead. Kind of like spending too much time with couponing (this is especially true with “extreme couponing”). You’re better off using the hours you spend dealing with coupons (or rebates) on building a business or a side income.

  3. I can’t remember if it took 1 or 2 mail in rebate purchases in which I never received the rebates for me to get the message they are not only shams, but I’ll go further and call them scams.

    If people want to expend all kinds of effort and time getting that rebate back –fine. For me, personally, they’re not worth it and I NEVER buy rebate items now.

  4. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips on how to use rebates responsibly. But honestly, I haven’t seen rebates offered a lot lately. Maybe in other parts of the country?

  5. As much as I’d like to join the piling on here, I’ve had a good experience with rebates. I regularly use If there’s something I’m planning to buy, I usually check to see if the company is working with ebates and then enter their site through ebates. Recently we needed new tires. I researched the best tires, found a retailer that was offering, you guessed it, a rebate. I also found that ebates works with this retailer. So, I entered the company’s site through ebates, which generated one rebate, and then mailed in the form to get the manufacturer’s rebate as well.

    To be sure, you have to be careful and proactive when buying something offered with a rebate, but they CAN work to your favor.

  6. @ Geoff- That’s so cool to hear your insight about working for another company! Yah, I’m with you, rebates area pain!

    @ Track your Bucks- 100% agree, better to spend your time elsewhere my friend.

    @ SSB- Good call to avoid. I’ve been scammed myself and it’s totally turned me off from them.

    @ Matt- That is advice I would give people IF they do decide to g for rebates. Be very very careful and read ALL the fine print. Haven’t heard of i’ll have to check them out, thanks!

  7. Hunter @ Financially Consumed says:

    I’m with you Jon. They’re a calculated marketing tool to close the deal at point of sale.

  8. Rebates are just another tool you can use to save money on things you regularly buy. I’ve done hundreds of rebate offers in my lifetime, and have never had any problems (maybe I’m just lucky?). I know that companies count on lots of people not completing the rebates, so every time I do, I feel a little like I’m beating them at their own game.

    I often hear people say coupons are a waste of time, too…. but if used properly, coupons and rebates can really help you stretch your budget.

    And I also love Ebates! Best way to shop online!

  9. Rebates are such a hassle I have trained myself to pick quality merchandise at a fair price & stick with that price. in other words on a black friday type of doorbuster deal I would rather buy the most expensive tv in the store full price before I deal with a “rebate price” that everyone else is chasing after. Rebate companies push crappy low end products anyway. If u cant afford the item without a rebate then u dont need that item anyway.

  10. Jay Santos says:

    Rebates are a scam.

    I bought a motherboard from Asus. The rebate said, “Online rebate. Nothing to mail in.”

    I bought the product. I completed my rebate online. After giving them my full information and hit the submit button, the rebate said, “Oops, you have a product that’s not eligible for online rebates.” Then they asked that I cut out the UPC on the box and send them all of the documents they require. Keep in mind that this was for a $10 rebate.

    What did I do? You guessed it, I didn’t bother. $10 isn’t worth my time. They KNOW THIS. Imagine if they sell 1 million of these motherboards and 100,000 people did not bother with the rebate. That’s $1,000,000 they scammed the consumer on.

    What am I going to do about it? I’m never ever going to buy products with rebates. I will never buy Asus again.

What Do You Think?