Article, January 2006
Don’t Be A Loser At the Rebate Games
by Jim Sanders,
Editor, North Orange County Computer Club
firstname.lastname@example.org (click to email author)
Most of us have bought something that sounded like a great value — “After Rebate or Rebates.” Everywhere from a great price to FREE! Most are legitimate. Most require a fair amount of work to claim. Most are never claimed. Most say you will have to wait 6 to 10 weeks for a check (for some that turns into 6 to 10 months). Many have tricky fine print. A few are outright scams!
Below are a list of things that you should do, as opposed to just think about, if your going to buy an item with a rebate and have any real intention of claiming the rebate and actually getting it. Following that are three emails that dealt with a denied rebate claim for our new President Elise Edgell.
If you are going to buy an item with a rebate, while you are at the checkout stand, NOT AFTER YOU GET HOME, do the following:
- Write down the sales clerk’s name then ask him to show you that you have all the items needed to claim the rebate. Ask him to put an X on the correct UPC barcode.
- Make sure you have a copy of the correct rebate form(s). Some are inside the box. You just paid for the item, it is yours, open the box and read the terms.
- If it is an upgrade rebate, it is better to find out if your old product qualifies BEFORE you go to the store. Check the vendor’s website, call the store and ask!
READ THE FINE PRINT! THEN READ IT AGAIN!
- Read the “Proof of Purchase” requirement list.
- Does it require the original “Sales Receipt” or is a copy OK. If the original is required, ask the store for a duplicate original that is acceptable for a product exchange if there is a problem with the product. Some stores provide a “Rebate Receipt.” Make sure that matches the requirement list.
- Check the postmark requirement, I have seen one that gave you only three days to get it postmarked. Don’t wait till the last day to mail it.
- Make sure a website address and/or telephone number is included that you can use to contact the rebate center about your rebate. Most of the upscale rebate centers include an 800 number.
- Make two copies of ALL documentation submitted. If a cheesy rebate center decides to tell you they never received your request, without copies, you’re up the proverbial creek. I am working on an article about using your scanner for this purpose.
- I think it is a good idea to include one of the documentation photocopies with the submission to make the point that you have copies. Mark it “CC: Vendor, My Files.” On the larger rebates, buying the $0.95 proof of delivery service at the post office is cheap insurance. Having a witness to the mailing doesn’t hurt. Error on your side of the game. If it says 6 to 8 weeks, check at 6 weeks, don’t wait three months. Be reasonable with phone calls but check the website as often as you like. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to check on the rebate. Keep a folder for all of your rebates. Move completed ones to another folder. Once you get your rebate check, read how long it is good for. Some are good for 6 months. Most are void after 60 days. A few are void after 30 days. I got one that was expired when it was delivered. When you think you have been shafted, don’t just grimace and bear it, complain. Complain to the retailer. Complain to the vendor. If all else fails, file a complaint with the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov. You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org. Taking the retailer to Small Claims Court is an option.
The email exchange with BFG Technologies, Inc.
Dear Sir, My name is Jim Sanders, and I am the editor of the North Orange County Computer Club’s newsletter, the Orange Bytes. PDF copies of the publication are available at http://www.noccc.org. For several weeks I have been gathering material for an article on the rebate games. Our members should see it in the next issue of the newsletter. This is a hot issue with our members as a number have been burned by various rebate offers. In a lot of cases it was due to not reading the fine print, not crossing all T’s or dotting all I’s, a claim that the request was never received or not received in time.
In some instances the rebate was a pure scam. A few refused rebates may be caused by human error on the part of the highly trained, intelligent, well paid staff of the rebate center. A common reason given for a rebate denial is that a required piece of documentation was not included.
All too often, that claim cannot be refuted as the original was sent in and the suggestion to photocopy all submitted documentation was not followed because of the hassle involved. In an interesting coincidence of timing, our club President, Elise Edgell, showed me the rebate denial post card that she received on 7/16/2005. The reason given for the refusal: “We did not receive a sales receipt with your request.” She purchased a BFG GeForce FX 5500 OC at a special Fry’s Electronics’ one day sale where a $50 rebate was offered on your product. In this case, Elise did scan all the documentation sent in with the rebate and kept it as a JPG file. In addition, the original documentation was stapled to a printout of that file and a notation was hand printed on that sheet, in bold marker pen: ”CC: Vendor, My Files.” That file is attached to this email. As both of us bought the product and requested the rebate in the same way, it will be interesting to see if I get the same post card.
I understand that you contract the rebate function to other companies, but the typical club member that has a problem thinks the problem is with the company that made the product and offered the rebate. It is your reputation that suffers, not the rebate center.
Would you express your opinion on which of the above reasons might be the cause of this rebate being denied?
Jim Sanders, Editor, NOCCC Orange Bytes
Thanks for contacting BFG Technologies, and thanks for giving us the opportunity to clarify this particular rebate situation.
Looking at the picture in your attachment of Elise’s submission, it appears there is not a copy of her “Sales Receipt” included along with the other required items.
In addition to the “Rebate Form/Receipt” and the “Proof of Purchase” cut from the box, a copy of the “Sales Receipt” is required. With Fry’s it can sometimes be confusing because they label the Rebate Form as a “Rebate Receipt”. This could lead a customer into thinking that the form was both the rebate form AND the sales receipt, although they are actually two separate items.
Some additional information that may be of interest; this is one of two rebates that have the highest redemption rates we have ever run. This indicates to us that majority of customers are including all the correct documentation and getting the rebate for this particular program.
In this particular case, the rebate house did refuse the rebate on proper grounds. However, we will contact the rebate house and approve Elise’s rebate, and yours as well. We often do that for customers who contact us and believe that they were denied incorrectly. We look into individual cases and make approvals where the facts support it.
Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to respond. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.
Thank you for your quick response and also for fixing the problem.
In an effort to resolve why it became a problem in the first place, I made a trip to the Anaheim Fry’s Electronics store. I asked to speak to the person in charge of dealing with rebates. The woman that responded to that request was pleasant enough, but not very helpful. I asked why Fry’s was having their checkout clerks tell customers that the “Rebate Receipt” is the same as the full sales receipt for rebate purposes. Her response was:
“Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not.” The discussion lasted several minutes. It bogged down into questions of semantics, perception, lack of explicit wording, and responsibility. Her rebuttal to your assertion that it is a “Rebate Form/Receipt” was that if you cut that form in two just above the line “Rebate Form:” you have a “Receipt” and a “Rebate Form.” That to help the customer by not having multiple, small, separate documents that are more easily lost, or difficult to match up with the appropriate rebate form, they are printed together. That the “Proof of purchase requirements:” Section 3, says “a copy of your receipt,” not “Sales Receipt,” not “Full Sales Receipt,” not “Rebate Receipt,” just “Receipt.” That obviously the “Rebate Receipt” is a receipt. I commented that the Fry’s IT department controlled what is printed and how it is printed. That it would be trivial for them to better separate the two forms with a couple of extra blank lines, a line of asterisks, and a line that says “Cut here.” That they could easily have changed Section 3 to explicitly state what kind of “Receipt” was required. That if printing the “Rebate Receipt” is supposed to be a courtesy to the customer, it would be trivial to have the computer print out a “Duplicate Sales Receipt” when that was required by the vendor. That if Fry’s is going to the effort to provide this courtesy service at all, they should go the extra step, and endeavor to do it correctly, rather than in the current, confusing, fashion. I commented that Fry’s apparently feels it is their responsibility to remind customers that they should make a copy of all documentation submitted for a rebate by handing out a yellow sheet with that warning, why not expand it to include a caution about the receipt problem.
Her response was in essence, I don’t have any control over what the IT department does. I counted to ten, thanked her for her time and left. I hope this feedback helps you with future programs.
Jim Sanders Editor, NOCCC Orange Bytes
On 7-23-05 we put on our best optimistic face and went to the http://www.rebatestatus.com website to see how well the rebate had been approved. We were hoping to see a message like: “The check is in the mail.,” and lo and behold we did. Pony Express or 4th Class, but in the mail.
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