Have you ever seen an advertised special in a store that seemed like a great price, only to find out that the advertised price was effective only after you received a mail-in rebate? How did you feel about that? If you are anything like most people, it didn’t phase you much. You probably thought, Well bottom line is if I get some money back in the mail which makes the item only cost that much, then that’s the price I can buy it for. But there is still that little asterisk in your brain about the discounted price, isn’t there? Somehow you know this isn’t quite like buying it at that advertised price.
After all you still do have to fork over all the money now and wait for a rebate to arrive, and there is at least a tinge of doubt in your mind that you will actually receive it. And for good reason! Retailers are getting worse and worse about honoring these rebate offers. They are looking for any excuse not to honor them and some of them go to ridiculous lengths to weasel out of their obligation. They make you dot a hundred i’s and cross and hundred t’s on three or four forms, send in a critical part of the packaging plus a printed receipt, and if you slip up on some minor point you blew it – no rebate.
Now, understand that just because you missed something on the form or sent the wrong part of the packaging in, the company doesn’t really doubt that you purchased the item. They can see just from the receipt alone that you are a legitimate customer. There is pretty much no chance that somebody is trying to scam them out of an unearned rebate. They know this. They are just trying to find a loophole – any loophole – to dishonor the price they advertised the item for. Electronics companies are especially notorious for doing this nowadays.
If you do somehow clear the obstacle course, you are likely to receive a prepaid visa debit card which you must spend at retail establishments in order to redeem. What’s more, if you don’t do it pretty quick the thing will expire and you will lose the rebate. It’s not cash. It’s not a check you can deposit in your bank account. It can’t go into your savings account, cannot go into your kid’s college fund, cannot practically be given to your favorite charity. You have to use it at a store or a restaurant in order to redeem it. And you won’t get it for many weeks, possibly months after you mail in the required forms.
This still all might seem OK to you. After all, you live in this society and so you are out spending money in stores quite often, and even the grocery store will accept that prepaid debit card. But let me tell you a considerable percentage of those cards expire without being used. They go into a purse pocket or a drawer and you find them in 8 months expired and worthless. You didn’t get the advertised price. As a matter of fact there is a good chance that as you are reading this some Christmas present you purchased a couple months ago cost you more than you planned on. Because right now, that rebate card is lost somewhere, if you even remembered to sit down for 30 minutes and figure out the claiming process in the first place.
What this all adds up to is terribly misleading marketing, if not blatant false advertising. It’s amazing that it is still legal. When Mama Riah and I purchased new cell phones recently the girl at the store told us to make sure we didn’t put the rebate claim forms in the same envelope or we would only get one of them. Now isn’t that utterly ridiculous, even perhaps borderline criminal? We should all get together as a society and just say no to any product advertised with a mail-in rebate price. Either that or start a massive class-action lawsuit.