Tales from the Rebate Front
Readers continue to weigh in on the pitfalls of mail-in rebates. Here's a sampling.
Q: I feel like companies make rebate rules hard to follow so fewer people try to redeem them. I now know they can change the rules on the fly, too. I bought a bottle of wine and there was a printout form to send in for a $3 rebate. The form printed at the register. After I sent it in, I got a postcard saying I didn't send in the receipt. I didn't send in a receipt because the form didn't say I had to! I have done rebates before and know what I'm doing. I called and the wine manufacturer said they changed the rebate requirements after the offer began. How can they do this when nobody with the original form would know they had to send a receipt? After I complained, they agreed to send me my money, but I am done buying this brand of wine!
Q: There was a free mail-in rebate on first-aid ointment in the newspaper, and you had to print the rebate form online. I wanted to print the form first so I could make sure to buy the right thing, but when I went online, the website said the rebate forms were all gone already! This was 9 a.m. Sunday morning, and the deal was in the coupon inserts that the whole country gets. How many forms could have been available if they were all distributed before most people were out of bed? I was pretty ticked and glad I didn't buy the product before trying to get a form!
A: I'm generally wary of rebates. I have been burned several times. I've filled out rebate forms and included exactly what was asked for, and then gotten a letter saying I didn't qualify for the rebate. I sent in a rebate for a free six-pack of juice. The rebate was attached to the product packaging, and I sent in the form and receipt. About a month later, I received a card that stated my rebate was disqualified for being mailed after the deadline date. I know it was mailed on time, but how can I prove that? I suppose I could have sent it with a postal tracking number, but the extra expense to do that would have eaten up most of the rebate's value.
So I've become selective about the rebates I send in, as well as what products I'll buy. I wonder if companies that repeatedly deny rebates consider the ramifications of disgruntled consumers leaving their brands.
Smart Living Tip: If you're an avid rebater, keep a record of your rebate submissions. Make a photocopy, digital scan or digital photo of the form, receipt and any required elements, like a packaging UPC or label.