Do you enjoy rebates? My inbox is constantly filling up with stories of rebates gone wrong. Let's continue the rebate discussion from a few weeks ago, and see why many shoppers, including me, are wary of them.
The “restrictions apply” clause is an ambiguous phrase found in a rebate's terms and conditions. When a manufacturer doesn't spell out those restrictions, even shoppers who read the fine print can get burned.
Months ago, a reader of my blog posted a great deal on an electronic weather clock. The clocks were on sale for $50, and there was a $50 rebate available from the manufacturer. I purchased the weather clock and mailed in the rebate. About a month later, I received a postcard from the manufacturer that read, “Purchase was made outside of the qualifying period.”
I had a photocopy of my receipt. When I checked it, the date was valid. I called the manufacturer and spoke with a representative who said the rebate was denied because there was no date on the front of the receipt.
The problem? The store where I purchased the clock prints a double-sided receipt with the date of purchase on the back. I argued that shoppers would have no way of knowing that the purchase had to be made at a store with a single-sided receipt. After that, he agreed to process the rebate.
Last year, a local supermarket had a mail-in rebate offering a $25 gift card when you bought $25 worth of a certain brand of paper products and sent in a receipt. The rebate was printed in the store's weekly circular and went out to thousands of households. My mom, my aunt and I all bought products the next day and sent in rebates.
About a month later, my mother and I received our $25 gift cards. But my aunt received a note that she would not. The manufacturer said that there were not an unlimited number of gift cards available to shoppers who chose to participate in this promotion, so not everyone who mailed in a submission was guaranteed an award.
Another email from the manufacturer stated that there were just 600 gift cards allocated to this rebate. The supermarket that offered the rebate in its ad has more than 180 locations in the Chicago area. As hard as this is for me to believe, it seems the manufacturer anticipated that just three shoppers from each store would send in this rebate offer before it ran out of gift cards. Yet none of this was disclosed in the rebate's terms, simply, “restrictions apply.”
So here's my word of warning: If you use rebates, proceed with caution. And keep good records!