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The Steps to Follow for a Successful Rebate
Most of us have seen them. Many of us have used them. Just about all of us who have used them have found them to a frustrating experience. What are they? They are the rebates that manufacturers use to reel in more customers. Rebates are great if you know and play by the rules. But if you don't know the rules or play by them you can be a very disappointed fish.
The problem is that the manufacturers who issue these rebates would prefer that you never get them. To this end many, but not all, provide a number of hurdles on the road to your rebate check. In this article I want to discuss some of the pitfalls that you want to avoid and some tips for increasing your odds for making the rebate game if not fun at least a little less onerous.
When should you bother with a rebate? For some that answer is never! For those who want to determine when to take the time and trouble with a rebate based on the dollar amount, the answer can be calculated.
What is the value of your leisure time? You need to determine a dollar amount for each hour that you will be giving up to do rebates. My leisure time is valued at $5.00 and I know up front when I buy products with rebates less than $3.00, I won't take the time to send in the rebate form. I just don't want the hassle for anything less than three bucks.
Now consider that the average rebate will take a minimum of 30 minutes to complete correctly, track and possibly follow-up. Calculate whether the rebate is worth your time:
If (Rebate Amount * 2) - Postage - Copying Costs is greater than the dollar amount of your hourly leisure time, the rebate is worth taking the time to complete. After a while, you can get the hang of doing this in your head while shopping so that you will avoid the pitfall of buying a product primarily because it had a rebate and finding out later that you don't want to send in the rebate after all.
Your leisure time is worth $5.00/hr
The rebate is for $3.00
the postage is $.41
The copying costs are $.15 (5 cents each for rebate form, receipt and proof of purchase UPC label)
($3.00 * 2) - $.41 - $.15 > $5.00
$6.00 - $.41 - $.15 > $5.00
$5.44 is greater than $5.00 and the rebate is worth taking the time to complete. Once you determine what your leisure time is worth, you can avoid the pitfall of buying a product primarily because it had a rebate and finding out later that you don't want to send in the rebate after all.
There are a number of requirements that can trip up even the most careful consumer.
As a general rule, your likelihood of problems with the rebate is directly proportional to the amount of the rebate. Be wary of items that are 'free after rebate' and large dollar amount rebates of $50.00 or more.
It is important to have the right mindset when making a purchase with a rebate. The $189.00 electronic gizmo that you buy with a $100.00 rebate doesn't cost you $89.00. You will be billed $189.00 and your purchase won't be $89.00 until you have sent in the rebate form, waited the eight to twelve weeks for the check, cashed or deposited the check and have the check actually clear. Don't be fooled into the mindset up-front that the rebate is in the bank. It isn't.
* Packing sheets and order forms are almost never acceptable forms of receipts. Don't confuse them with a sales receipt. Please note that the terms of the rebate should specify whether you need to send in a sales receipt, invoice, or some other proof of purchase. If you are not sure or have not received a sales receipt, contact the store where you purchased the item and tell them that you need a sales receipt or invoice as proof of purchase for a rebate. Make note in the correspondence the item that you purchased, the date it was purchased, where it was purchased and the rebate ID number.
The bottom line is fairly simple. Don't give the rebate processors a reason to deny your rebate.
Mentally check the terms of the rebate twice. You might also want to print out this article and check off each item to minimize your chances of missing something.
This is the section where I am allowed to stray from the facts, give my opinions and feelings and make speculations and inferences.
I usually buy computer gear from three online stores, Newegg, EWiz and Tiger Direct. I go out of my way to look for rebates and I like to try new vendors. That gives me the chance to have something new to write about. I am always looking for great products at a good price when the need arises.
Of course many rebates are never claimed. Manufacturers are counting on that when they make the offer. Not me! I buy knowing that I will take the time to get what I consider to be my money.
I will share my limited rebate experience with you.
I have had no problems with any rebates with products purchased from Newegg. eVGA was the best at getting the refund back to me, well within the expected time period. Cooler Master and ThermalTake were also very good.
Rebates from Tiger Direct have been more problematic. I was wary of one of their super deals, but the bundled item was something I needed so I did my up-front homework and decided to give it a try. The deal was Computer Associates Internet Security Suite with one $30 and one $40 rebate bundled with a NEC 3550A DVD burner with a $20 rebate. It was the two CA rebates that I was most concerned about since the rebates totaled more than the price of the CA ISS software. I had a problem with the NEC rebate however. The online status showed that a check was being sent, but I did not receive it within the allotted time period. It took several rounds of EMail to the OnRebate people, but they did finally send me the $20 check.
Another super deal that I decided to try was one of the Fry's Outpost 'free with rebate' power supplies. These kind of deals always give me the willies, but I was determined to be extra careful and get my rebate. One issue that showed up very quickly was the issue of a valid sales receipt / invoice. Fry's Outpost does not have invoices. Just try to find a way to print one from their website! I sent a couple of EMails and found a very courteous person there who was kind enough to mail me a 'Proof of Purchase' form at their expense. And, fortunately, it arrived in only a couple of days because my mail-in lead-time was quickly evaporating. I have read in various forums that a Fry's packing sheet may be accepted as 'Proof of Purchase', but I do not recommend that you take that risk. It is simple enough to request an acceptable 'Proof of Purchase'. My only other gripe with Fry's Outpost is that they never sent me an EMail notifying me that they received my rebate, so I had no status at all. The expected date for the receipt of the rebate check was about to come and go, when to my great surprise and pleasure, the $40 rebate showed up in my mailbox. All in all, I can't complain. It was a great deal.
I purchased four gallons of paint at Lowes with a grand opening special 2 for 1 price. They had a pile of rebate forms that were copies of an original form. The copies were acceptable as a rebate form. I made my purchase and grabbed a couple of the forms. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that the eligible dates for the rebate had already passed. I went back to the store and told the store manager my issue and that my experience with rebates was that if you don't follow the fine print, the rebate can be denied. He was very friendly and helpful. He told me that they were aware of the problem and that he was told that the rebate would be accepted. I wasn't so sure about that. He printed out a copy of an EMail stating that the rebate would be accepted and even offered to give me the rebate then, but requested that I send in the rebate so the store would not be charged. He told me that if I didn't receive the rebate, he would refund me the rebate amount. I agreed to send in the rebate and thanked him for his help. I sent in the rebate with the EMail and part of the grand opening flyer noting the 2 for 1 deal and the dates of the rebate. I received my rebate without any problems, in part possibly because I had documentation to support my request.
Update Nov 2, 2007: I received my first rebate denial notification. I had purchased an OCZ 2 GB SD flash card from Newegg with a $5.00 rebate. I received a postcard stating that I had sent an invalid UPC barcode. I rechecked my rebate submission at a loss as to what I could have possibly done wrong. The packaging contained only one barcode and OCZ had obviously received my rebate at the correct address. There was a toll free phone number that I could call which is a great customer support policy. I was told that the rebate was accepted as legitimate and was being processed. I asked if I could ignore the postcard and was told that it was sent in error and that I could ignore it. I was prepared to do battle for my $5.00, but a quick phone call without an abrasive attitude has apparently diplomatically resolved the problem.
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