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Rebates or Ripoffs?


Rebates are an advertising draw used by many companies to increase revenue. They are considered a great way for stores and companies to increase their sales. Rebates can be a wonderful bonus for consumers.

But are they really? Just who benefits with rebates? And who loses? ....Good questions...

In my opinion...
rebates are a consumer nightmare but a corporation blessing.

Let me explain:
A few years ago, I purchased additional hard drive for my computer. I bought it at Best Buy in Rockford, Illinois, at what I considered a very good price [with the rebate]. Unfortunately, Best Buy didn't have any more rebate coupons and issued me a rain check. Six months later, I received my rain check rebate form. But alas, the rebate form now had different qualifying purchase dates listed on it. I wrote a letter of explanation and sent it, along with the rebate form and requested proof of purchase to Western Digital, a very well-known company.

Weeks later, Western Digital sent me a postcard stating, "Dear Consumer: thank you for participating in this promotion. Unfortunately, we could not honor your request because of the following reason[s]: Your purchase was made outside the qualifying period." Duh! Hello? I accessed Western Digital's home page and noticed they don't have an avenue to handle customer complaints. [Western Digital must believe they are very competent or they choose not to hear any complaints.]

I was very frustrated. I waited six long months for this rebate and now I was being told to forget it by Western Digital. I fully expected to be treated the same by Best Buy. But I thought I had nothing to lose by asking them if they could help me. Would they brush me off and insist the problem and solution lay with Western Digital? I called Best Buy and [after four department transfers] I spoke to a store manager who listened to my predicament and simply told me to bring in my postcard from Western Digital and Best Buy would reimburse me the $30. I was surprised. I was fully prepared to have to fight the system but Best Buy was willing to do it for me and if they do not get reimbursed by Western Digital they are willing to take the loss.

I was still waiting for a $20 rebate form for a Microsoft Natural Keyboard. It's also been about six months. I told Best Buy and was again told to bring in the receipt and rain check and they would credit my charge account. Pretty good, huh?

Note: I don't know if Best Buy would honor eveyone's request. It may be store policy; it may be that I just lucked out with an understanding manager. I haven't had to test it recently.

Western Digital is now on my list of companies who will not longer get my business, however Best Buy has redeemed themselves. Now, if they could only keep their shelves stocked. Back to rebates ... If you are like me and really hate the whole hassle of rebates - read the following: What can we [the consumer] do?

  • Insist that companies just put items on sale, without rebates.
  • Pressure companies to offer instant rebates [i.e..coupons] and let the store collect the money from the manufacturer like grocery stores do.
  • All rebate forms and requirements should be contained within the box claiming the promotion and should not have an expiration date.
  • Buy from stores that honor their advertising, even if the company does not.
  • Consider boycotting companies and stores that don't honor their promises [even if legitimate loopholes exist.]

My challenge to companies is to be more consumer-friendly and stop trying to keep money [they have already promised to the consumer] by making it difficult, if not impossible, for the consumer to obtain. This kind of practice borders on dishonesty and false advertising and I wouldn't be surprised if these tactics are soon investigated by states' attorneys' offices.

Connie Eccles
ComPortOne Editor


Articles by CPO Editor, Connie Eccles
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