Monday, November 12, 2007

Why 50% of all rebates go uncollected

Article from Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher

After Epson failed to send my promised rebate and ignored my follow-up letters, I stopped buying items with rebates. If they want to put something on sale, they can lower the price to the consumer. The rebates are just a racket and I refuse to play their game. I make sure I tell the sales clerks this when they recommend a product with a rebate. GG in CA

We've all done it. We're tempted to purchase an item with a rebate. The after rebate price is good, but we wonder whether we'll really receive the rebate. Because without it, the price offered is not the best deal available.

Although estimates aren't easy to find, it's generally assumed that between 40 and 60% of all rebates go uncashed. Some consumers forget to send them in. Others have their rebate requests rejected. Still others neglect to cash the rebate check when it arrives.

Any rebate that's not cashed is pure profit for the company. This is definitely a case where your loss is their gain. And it's a big gain. Published industry estimates conclude that rebates are worth $6 billion each year. So there's roughly $3
billion uncashed rebates yearly.

Most companies generally do not process their own rebates. They hire a fulfillment company to do that job for them. These firms are experts at what they do. There was a time when fulfillment centers bragged about how many rebate requests they disallowed. They're less open about it today.

Many rebate forms are designed to be complicated. Their purpose is to trip you up. Fulfillment centers know what mistakes consumers are most likely to make in submitting rebates. And they have the legal staff to tell them what mistakes can disqualify a rebate. The instructions are often written with the intent of making it hard to collect the rebate.

So what's a consumer to do? Start by shopping around. A little patience could turn up a sale without rebate or a similar product at a price that's competitive to the rebated item.

Look for "Instant Cash" rebates. They're not subject to the same problems as regular rebates. Typically, they're paid out when you pay for the item. So any doubt about collecting the rebate is eliminated.

It would be nice to know which companies deal honestly with consumers on rebates. A quick Google search only turned up a couple of sites attempting to track a company's rebate performance. The only way to deal with the uncertainty is to do business with reputable companies. This is surely a case where the offer is only as good as the reputation of the company offering it.

There are some rebates to avoid. Avoid any that require your original receipt or do not provide contact information.

Follow the rebate directions exactly. If it says to staple this to that, make sure that's what you do. And, no, a paper clip isn't the same as a staple.

Submit rebates as quickly as possible. Make copies of everything that you send in. If the rebate is sizeable, send it via certified mail with return receipt.

Save product boxes until the rebate is paid. And track your rebates. A simple folder for the copies you made will do the job. Be prepared to write follow-up letters if necessary.

If your original rebate was rejected, send in copies or your original application with a polite letter demanding the rebate. Keep a copy of your letter in the "open rebate" folder.

You can also take your complaint to the manufacturer. Fulfillment centers are set up to handle (ignore?) customer complaints. The manufacturer may be more willing to help you. You can usually find their contact information by searching on the company name and "customer service department." Be polite but persistent.

If the company is unwilling to help, there are outside authorities you can call on. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that "if the rebate never arrives or arrives late, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the state Attorney General or the local Better Business Bureau." You can reach the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or

Should rebates be a part of your frugal shopping toolbox? That's really up to you. Some shoppers enjoy the thrill of the game. Their letters demanding a rejected rebate be paid are literary works of art. Their quest for the elusive rebate check would please Indiana Jones.

But, if you're not the adventuresome type or very short of time, stick to sales and coupons. No rebate checks for you. But you just might keep your sanity!

Gary Foreman is a former purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar website and newsletters. Each week thousands use The Dollar Stretcher to help them live better...for less. Visit today to see
how much farther your day and dollar will go!

Note from Lucy: Very rarely do I not get a rebate back. I follow the directions to the tee and I if I don't see a rebate soon, I call the number on the rebate form to find out the status. You have to follow the rebate form exactly as stated and send in all requested items. Good luck rebating!


At 10:16 AM, Blogger LZ Blogger said...

I always try to get a rebate when I can. They figure that most people won't bother to go to all the work it takes to ACTUALLY DO IT!
And by the way THANKS for remembering me on Veterans' Day! ~ jb///

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Oh great One said...

Some companies really make it difficult for you to claim them I had that happen with HP. I got my money but it took some patience!

At 6:21 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

A topic dear and near to my heart.

I ususally turn in my rebates on time. What often happens, is that I get them back, with a claim that something is not right, and then the time to collect has expired. This is infuriating, truly!

At 8:38 PM, Blogger butterflygirl said...

rebates can be tricky...I usually only deal with ones worth more than the postage it cost to send it

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I usually have good luck with rebates, but I only buy things I really need. I never buy just for a rebate. I make sure I follow all the details carefully!

I'll have to check out the dollar stretcher link. Thanks!!

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Good article.
I'm not a fan of rebates any more. Several years ago, we bought some items that had the most complicated rebate forms to fill out. It was such a task that by the time we got them all filled out and ready to mail, the rebates that had sounded so tempting at the store no longer seemed worth the effort.
I would much rather wait for a good sale.
It makes me angry that they make it complicated on purpose.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Granny said...

I usually avoid them; especially with the price of postage these days.

However, I got a great deal on my computer and printer by carefully following directions. It's been a while but I think I saved about $300. off an already reasonable ticket price.

But on a bottle of dish soap? I don't think so.

Coupons are tricky too. I use them for the items I'd be buying anyway but usually ignore the rest. It's not a good deal if the item in question sits unused in my pantry.

I finally have a picture or two of the newest grandchild on my blog. Not that you have to look at them, but if you'd like to. He looks like Winston Churchill but he's still cute.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Jim said...

This is all pretty much true. So far I've missed just a couple. One justified, one wrongfully. I guess there was another I forgot to mail on time.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Leslie said...

When we bought my computer at Best Buy, we had to shell out something like $1200 for everything including extended warranty. After mailing out the info and getting all my rebates back, my computer actually ended up costing us a little under $400.

I'm all for rebates!!!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Granny Annie said...

This is a great post with good advice. I have had good luck with rebates but only because I am retired and have time to stay on top of it. You are right that all directions have to be followed. They will try to trip you up and say to failed to do something, but if you keep copies you can prove you followed their guidelines and once you inform them, your rebate is on the way. I guess it is a kind of challenge to me and so far I've received all I have submitted. If I was still working outside the home I wouldn't even think about trying to get rebates.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

For my money? It's all a racket! I would rather be boiled in oli than BUY anything on rebate. Anything that might take 6 to 8 weeks to come back to you---well, they know that many people will forget...! The stress alone in filling out that rebate paper perfectly to a T...? NO, NO, No. Not for me...LOL!
For me, none of it is worth it. But, that's just me. Better to lok for the BEST price of the item you rfeally want; buy it, and be done.

Thanks Lucy for this was very informative.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger Kelly Malloy said...

I have never had a problem getting my rebate back. People definately should persue them more often!

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Thanks, Lucy. I won't stop the Chronicle, at least till the subscription runs out. I don't want to do anything rash.
If I do stop it, we can take the Conroe Courier. A lot around here do that but it is just as much as the Chronicle. And doesn't have hardly any of the funnies I read.
I have sixteen of the funnies now linked in two links with eight each on the right under "Recommended viewing."

At 2:36 AM, Blogger Merle said...

Hi Lucy ~~ A good article on Rebates.I have been lucky with 2 or 3 over the years, but prefer Sales discounts
Thank you for your comments about Steve Irwin. I agree he should have been more careful for his family's sake. Although his death was not what would be expected. I thought a croc might get him. Feel so sorry for Terri. Glad you liked the as we sure make lots of great friends though our computers. Take care, Love, Merle.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Tigersue said...

I don't always do rebates, but when I do, I do the form correctly. I think the hardest one for me to do was my DSL sign up. I had to wait for the first phone bill with the DSL Charge before I could send in the rebate. That was a loooong wait. :)
But well worth it, I got the modem for free in the long run.


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