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Rebates: Why You Sometimes Don't Get Your Money & Tips For Success

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During my years in the computer industry a fair amount of our vendors offered rebates to end-users.  We often got complaints and would provide our customers with support phone numbers to check on their rebates. 

Customers were often surprised to find, for example, that an HP rebate was not supported by HP.  As is often the case, the rebates are out-sourced to a rebate fulfillment houses.  These rebate companies specialize in processing rebates.  However, there is a bit of a dark side:  The rebate companies provide a guaranteed maximum success rate for submitted rebates.  That rate was typically 70% back when I was still in the industry. If they approve more than 70%  the rebate house has to pay above and beyond that amount. 

Now, I am not saying all rebate houses work that way but most do.  So, they do all they can to decline a rebate submission. They do this by finding any error, no matter how small, to disapprove the rebate.  I had customers get rebates declined for using black ink instead of blue ink, not stapling exactly where specified, and not stacking the documents in the exact order specified by the rebate instructions. 

When submitting a rebate you need to list exactly what they want and how they want it and check off each and every item as you go along.  The tiniest omission or deviation will result in a failed rebate.

Here are some tips for a successful rebate submission.

* Study the rebate very carefully.

* Download the rebate form as soon as you buy the product. They might take the form off after the offer end    date even if there is still time to send in the rebate.

*  Follow ALL the instructions, no matter how silly they seem.  This is where they try to get you to err.

*  After you fill out the forms copy all the paperwork – rebate form, UPC,  and even the addressed envelope.

*  Create a separate folder for mail in rebates and file this paperwork until you get the rebate.
*  Keep a log of all the rebates.

It's interesting to note that Connecticut and Rhode Island both prohibit companies from advertising a post-rebate price unless the rebate is given to consumers at the time of purchase. I'd like to see more states do that and somehow require that the fulfillment houses not be able to decline a rebate for something such as wrong ink color.  But, the rebate companies would surely find a workaround just as banks are doing now for fees that were regulated out of their coffers.  Consumers have a big target on their backs so it's best to simply be well-armed.

I hope this helps you for the times when the rebate is so good you don't want to pass up the deal.  I rarely do rebate deals as I hate them.  But, I've never had one declined after hearing my customer's war stories.

Good luck!

erick99 posted Mar 04, 2012

i usually try to avoid rebates the only store that i will buy something if it has a rebate will be from staples because they honor your rebate right away usually filling them online and waiting less than a month not 5 or 6 months

rd995 (rep: 151k) posted Mar 04, 2012


Staples Instant Rebates (Rite-Aid, too) are great :)

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Mar 04, 2012


Thanks for the tips! I have not received the many rebates I try to get. I wish they would send me a notice if my rebate was denied, but next time I'll read the details and make sure to include all info.

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Mar 05, 2012


My main problem with rebates is my procrastination. When I finally get around to doing them, many times they are expired.

akaricke (rep: 161k) posted Mar 05, 2012


I did that, in 2003, and lost two $300 rebates on my son's Christmas' laptops :(

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Mar 05, 2012


When Alltel was still a cell phone company and I would upgrade to a new phone that had a rebate, I always had to call them and ask them where my rebate was and there response was always "You did not send in all the required documents". It was like they did it on purpose hopeing that you would forget about the rebate and they wouldn't have to pay it to you. When I would tell them I had made copies of all the documents I sent in, they would say "OK I have pushed your rebate through". I would hope that all companies did not follow that practice, but I imagine a lot do.

krmills1 (rep: 14.4k) posted Mar 06, 2012