I won't bore you with how many shopping days left until (enter the event of your choice). What I will tempt you with is a simple question. Are mail-in rebates worth the effort? While the implied dollar savings may entice you to buy, you are making some trade-offs.
This article started at my local candy store. The owner just received the ubiquitous we're sorry but we can't process your rebate post card. My friend was getting a good laugh from the card instructions as it requested him to go to a website for more information. No phone number was provided and he doesn't have a computer. I too have had my laughs over some of these reject notices.
Dear Valued Customer,
We're sorry we can't complete your rebate request, as you didn't provide a complete address.
Hmmm...it was complete enough for the USPS as they delivered your reject post card.
Dear Valued Customer,
We're sorry but we can't process your rebate, as the proof of purchase label couldn't scan. The label was smeared.
Yes, I'm painfully aware of the red smear. It's a bloodstain. I cut myself using a knife when trying to remove your tamper resistant proof of purchase bar code.
The Bait & Wait Game
I suspect many of us have encountered these rebate rejections. You feel like you've been cheated and seeds of doubt emerge. You start questioning whether you bought the right product and if you paid a fair price. Well, here's a question to consider first. Is the time you spend filling and tracking the form worth the amount of the rebate?
Certainly, there are some large rebates offered on appliances and computers. Even so, you're exchanging time for a promise of a future check. For most mail-in rebates, you can expect to do the following steps:
1. Find and fill out a rebate form
2. Provide proof of purchase
3. Copy the receipt, proof of purchase and rebate form (in case it gets lost)
4. Fill out an envelope and apply postage
5. Mail the envelope
6. Track arrival
Some people have mastered this process. If the Olympics had an event called Rebate Filing, they would be contenders for the Gold medal. These people know what day their rebate check will arrive and the phone number to call for a status check. I'm all for researching products, but I'm not a rebate filer. For starters, I either manage to buy products where the rebate has expired or I get around to the form after the postmark deadline.
When buying products, I seldom look at rebate terms. I'll buy a product because it suits my needs and price. The rebate becomes a factor if the incentive can offset the time I would spend processing the rebate. As an amateur, I might take 20 minutes a rebate since I don't have a copy machine. To make rebates appealing for me, the offer has to be for more than what I could earn in the same time minus my postage and copying fees. Most mail in rebates don't pass my quick test. The other option would be to outsource the work to kids for a percentage of the take.
Tracking Mail In Rebates
If you do play the rebate game, you should create a tracking system. There are some websites that specialize in tracking all your rebates, but I would suggest you read their privacy policies. I would question how the data is being used or shared with other parties. If you decide to use one of these services, use a secondary email address since you may get promotional materials. There are also a few programs dedicated to tracking rebates mentioned at Download.com although I've not tried them.
A simpler approach might be to create an Excel spreadsheet or use Outlook's smart date logic . On the rare occasion I send in a rebate, I use Outlook to create a calendar event and type 12 weeks in the End Time field. I'll record the address, rebate details and contact info as well. If I didn't receive the check by that date, I look for the contact information in the notes. I suppose I could also create a category called Rebates.
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Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 17:20)