Rebates are those deals where they promise you a super-low price, sometimes FREE!… buuuut you have to jump through a few hoops first.
Why Stores Like Rebates
You may have wondered why rebates instead of just a discount? Either should be a tax write-off for the company offering them, but there are specific advantages for companies in offering rebates:
Even if you manage to get your rebate, the company that issued it gets to have your money and keep it interest free for 4 to 6 weeks or longer. Better yet (for them), they get chance after chance after chance to keep your money forever:
If you buy the wrong item, buy it during the wrong dates, send the wrong paperwork, fail to cut off the UPC code from the product packaging before you throw the packaging away, forget to mail it, or just mail it after the cutoff date, you lose.
If it gets "lost in the mail" or carelessly handled by the rebate company, you lose.
If the rebate check gets lost in the mail back to you, or you forget, or lose the check before you can cash it, you lose.
So let's sum up, they get your valuable personal information and in many cases get to keep your money too. So they win big and you lose big which doesn't sound like a very good deal to me.
As far as I'm concerned, unless it's an instant in-store discount, all rebates should be illegal.
Until and unless that ever happens, here's what you should know about rebates to increase your chances of getting the money the promised you:
- Read the rebate form's legal details and make sure that it doesn't have any nasty loopholes or policies that you didn't expect.
- Check the model number of your product and verify that it's specifically listed on the rebate form.
- Check the effective dates of the rebate to make sure you're buying the item during the rebate period. If it's expired, but a salesperson says the rebate has been extended, have them show you the new rebate form as proof.
- After buying the product(s), immediately fill out all forms, cut off the UPC codes, and put each rebate in an addressed, stamped envelope ready to go out the next day.
- Make sure that if you have multiple rebates, you send the original copies to the ones that ask for the originals. The others should say "copy of". If two ask for the original of something, call the number that should be listed on the rebates to get clarification.
- Make sure that you keep copies of everything. Scanning them into the computer is a great way to do this. It's also a good way to make the copies you need.
- Make sure that you wrote the correct addresses from the rebate forms to the envelopes.
- Keep a log of each rebate, the date that you expect the money back, and the phone number (or other contact information) listed on the form to call if it doesn't come back in time. Write each on your calendar and call them immediately if they're not back in time. Keep records of every person you talk to and what they say (record it if you legally can).
- For large rebates, send them certified mail so they can't claim they didn't receive the information.
If that seems like a lot of work to get your money, it is. The point that you must remember is this: if you aren't the kind of person to carefully work through all your rebates and follow up if there's a problem, you're probably better off not bothering with rebates at all. Just stick to the lowest price in the store and be done with it.