Coupon Queen: The great rebate debate
People assume that because I'm an enthusiastic couponer, I also enjoy rebates. Many products offer mail-in rebates that provide savings or free products when the rebate check or gift card comes back.
But I have to confess, I'm not big on rebates. I've always preferred the instant gratification of getting my savings at the register.
I have learned to make photocopies of everything when I send in a rebate, just in case the manufacturer denies it. Judging from my email inbox, several readers have had issues.
Q: I sent in a rebate for a frozen entree that carried the statement, “Try Me Free” on the box. The entree was $5.99. I had a $1 coupon, so I paid $4.99 for the item and sent in the receipt. I thought I would get $5.99 back, but they sent me a check for $4.99. I called and said it wasn't really free because it cost me a stamp. The company said it only rebates what you actually pay for the product. I would not have bought the entree if I knew that.
A: I have experienced the same thing. While I don't usually attempt rebates that aren't in the double-digits, I recently sent one in for a bottle of shampoo. Like you, I also used a coupon to buy the shampoo. My rebate check came for the price of the shampoo, post-coupon.
Q: I bought 10 boxes of cereal to qualify for a $10 rebate. The rebate form says the offer is good through the end of this month. But when I went to look up the rebate again, the website says the rebate has been cut off.
A: If you looked at the fine print on the rebate, it should have read “Available while supplies last.” But your confusion is understandable.
I find these situations frustrating, too. If an end date is listed on a promotion, the end date should be honored.
Recently, there was a $10 mail-in rebate for a certain brand of water filtration pitcher. One week, two national chains put the water pitcher on sale for $10. When the manufacturer noticed a large increase in downloads for the rebate form, it removed the form from its website.
The company announced on its Facebook page that it would not honor any rebates that hadn't already been mailed in.
Naturally, consumers were outraged. Ultimately, the manufacturer changed its mind and posted that it would honor rebate forms that shoppers had already printed. But it did not put the form back up on its website.
Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor.