Ten Traps to Keep You From Getting a Mail-In Rebate
Hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates go unfilled every year due to deceptive practices on the part of retailers and manufacturers.
Companies that offer rebates know that the majority of customers do not actually file for rebates. But to make sure they pay out even less, some companies hire rebate processing firms that guarantee there will be almost nothing paid out.
If you bought a product that comes with a rebate, it may be a scam, so watch for these 10 traps to keep you from getting a check in the mail.
1. Watch the dates.
Some companies require your letter be stamped within 10 days of purchase. The problem of course is that you need the UPC label or serial number of the item and so if you don’t pay for 2nd day delivery or UPS doesn’t come in time, the rebate becomes invalid. They will tell you that the delivery delay of your ordered product is not their problem. Of course, they are the ones doing the shipping and so they make sure it’s not shipped until very close to the deadline.
2. Incorrect Receipts.
The company sends a certain proportion of rebate requests back to the consumer stating that the receipt you sent was not correct even if you did in fact send the correct receipt. They do this because they know some consumers will mistakenly assume they forgot or made a mistake. In this manner the company hopes that a certain number of consumers will drop out at this point or cannot find the original receipt.
3. Original UPC barcode cut from the retail box or serial number trap.
The company sends a certain proportion of rebate requests back to the consumer stating that the barcode was not included or the serial number was not written in. Again, the company hopes that a certain percentage will drop off again.
Some manufacturers will blame the reselling company for putting on the wrong UPC label. Of course, by the time they tell you this, your time to file has expired. When you contact the retailer that sold you the product, they point out this notice on their website: “Any use of these rebates is limited to the terms and conditions specified by the product manufacturer. If you have any questions regarding rebate terms and conditions, please contact the manufacturer directly.” And tell you there is nothing you can do. This is untrue. According to the FTC, the retailer is responsible for rebates if the manufacturer does not honor their promises.
4. The Packing Slip Trap.
Some manufacturers will ask for a master packing slip. This is usually on the outside of the mailed package and generally gets thrown out after you unpack your product. The company hopes that you don’t process the rebate until after the garbage pickup and you no longer have the packing slip.
5. Send Two Rebate Forms Trap.
Some companies require that you send two separate rebate forms, one to the retailer that sold you the product and the other to the manufacturer. If you send the original UPC to the retailer instead of the manufacturer your claim will be denied. In addition, this makes it easier to claim that one of the two did not get your application. More people drop out.
6. Denial, Denial, Denial.
OK, you sent everything requested but they still send you a letter informing you that you did not send everything required. They do not explain or describe what it was you didn’t do. It simply denies your claim. More people drop out. Only a handful of people by this time are resilient enough to pursue the matter and demand a rebate.
7. They Never Got your Application.
Months pass and you call asking what happened to your rebate. They tell you they never received your application for rebate and now its too late. If you were clever enough to send the forms by certified mail, return receipt requested, and kept that postal receipt, you can prove that you sent something to them in the allotted time. Resend everything again and demand your money.
Many companies will never respond on the theory that most consumers will forget they even sent in a rebate form.
8. The check is in the mail.
The company has run out of excuses and so they lie that they sent out your rebate check. Weeks pass and your mailbox is still empty. They don’t understand how that could happen, can you please wait a little while longer, it’s sure to turn up eventually, call back in 30 days if you still didn’t receive it they’ll send out another… You call them again and again. More people drop out.
9. They Hope You Die.
Years may go buy, they continue to ignore you, or offer excuses, or ask for more documentation. They hope you pass away before actually needing to send you a real check.
10. They finally pay you but with a Debit Card.
Well, you finally get a letter telling you that your rebate has been approved but instead of a check you receive a Mastercard Debit Card for X dollars. You then find out that it has a $3 per month maintenance fee.
My suggestion is to go to your bank and see if you can get a cash advance from the card, although a few cards prohibit this. Otherwise spend it as fast as you can before the fees kick in.
There are a few companies that allow you to register and even track your rebate online. Nothing to clip, nothing to mail. Some examples are Staples Easy Rebate and Amazon-sponsored rebates that genuinely want you to receive your rebate. Although there are many legitimate companies that require documentation, serial numbers, a postmark date and so on, in general, if it requires more than 5 minutes, it’s probably a ripoff.
Some rebate redemption rates have been reported as low as 5% and take years to get. If you want to be part of that 5% here’s what you need to do in a nutshell: Keep the original box the item was sent in. Don’t tarry. Make copies of your receipts, barcodes, packing slips, serial numbers, filled out rebate forms, and make sure to have your letter certified, return receipt requested. Schedule a reminder 8 to 12 weeks after mailing to contact the company and ask where your rebate is. Reply quickly to any deficiency requests, and if you get ripped off, mail the Better Business Bureau with all the details, correspondence, etc. And report your experience online to any ripoff website.
Unless you are a very dedicated person, it usually is a bad idea to buy something simply because it has a rebate.