Monday, October 27, 2008

Rebate Schmeebate

After several months of frustration, anger, despair and determination, (in that order) I think I have cracked the scam that is the mail-in rebate.

Earlier this year we bought oldest a good digital camera. When I say good, I mean "If you lose it I will throw you out on the streets with just the shirt on your back" good. The specific camera we chose just happened to be on offer with a FREE photo printer. Living with the adage "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is", planted firmly in my head, I questioned the sales person at length about this. Apparently all I had to do to get the full value of the printer back was to send in all the paperwork, plus a bar code that was on the box. I should have sensed impending trials and tribulations but since this was the camera that she had picked, why look a gift printer in the paper tray?

About 6 weeks later, (come on, who sends stuff off straight away?) I set about claiming my $130. Immediately I saw the first trap. The claim wasn't for one amount, but was split into three rebates, thus necessitating three transactions. Three opportunities for something to go terribly wrong. Three opportunities for me to rip the phone out of the wall and hurl it out the window. Gritting my teeth I sent everything off, first having photocopied it as "proof".

In late April I received two e-mails from the printer manufacturer, (who shall remain nameless - I live in the States where litigation is a national hobby remember.) Apparently I had hit the jackpot with one $50 amount as they informed me it was being processed. For the other amount (no mention of the third portion) I had been rejected. Now, given that I sent the same supporting documentation for both claims, how could one possibly have been rejected and the other deemed worthy? After clicking around the web site for half an hour, I finally found a Customer Service number. And here's where the fun started.

There were two options - the first for rebate claim sent in less than 8 weeks ago. Being an honest type, I punched that key, only to be told that rebates take more than 8 weeks. Adios. Click. Have a little patience duckie. I redialed, this time lying my head off and pretending I had sent the claim in more than 8 weeks ago. (Three Hail Mary's and a marguerita, I know.) I was then told that I would be asked a series of questions - and the old Catholic guilt kicked in. What sort of questions? Had I ever lied before? Will you swear on the Bible Mrs. H? What about a lie-detector test? I was really nervous. What happens if you're rumbled by a mail-in rebate customer service rep? To my utter relief, the first question asked for my zip code. Easy - only 5 numbers, which I quickly punched in. Apparently not quick enough as the next prompt informed me that I hadn't done it within the allotted time. I was given a second chance, and apparently their standard of speed is that of light, as I failed again. Fortunately this put me through to a live person. (Tip - When trying to reach a real person, just mess up everything the prompts ask you to do.)

I knew by the tone of his voice that my quest was doomed. I explained the problem, only to be castigated for putting both claims in one envelope. Although he wouldn't come out and admit this, they had processed one and simply thrown the second one out. I asked him if they could just use the information again - it's now all in the system. No, no, and thrice no. I now had to go and find the printer's user manual (in my daughter's room - you have got to be kidding me), photocopy several hundred pages and fax it to them. On enquiring about the third rebate amount, he told me that I should have sent it to a different rebate centre.

"I don't suppose you could forward.......No? Thought so."

It's a this point you start realizing that you're dealing with plankton. Steely resolve kicked in however, and I swore not to give up on the outstanding $80. The rebate world relies on people caving and not bothering to claim the money. By simply ignoring claims they assume that 90% of their customers will break under the pressure. Well, I'm the 10% bucko!

I resorted to the time-worn weapon - a really long, mind-numbingly boring letter demanding to know how, if they tell you that you cannot, under any circumstances, send a duplicate bar code as proof of purchase, they can possibly penalize you for bunging both rebate claims in the same envelope? (I think the original sentence was even longer than that?) I then went on to suggest that this was their way of ensuring that most of the rebates went unclaimed. I also called their attention to the numerous news items that have already been aired on the subject, hinting that I would blow this scam wide open. No need to tell them that it would just be via my blog.

Finally, with no acknowledgement of my stinging tirade, a second and third rebate check plopped through the letter box a few weeks ago. Hurrah for the little person!

Now if they would just call to do one of those two minute customer service phone calls, my satisfaction would be complete.



  1. Fantastic! There's nothing quite so sweet as beating them at their own game!

  2. Well you managed to beat the system through persistence, well done.

  3. This reminds me much of my fury at the red tape and carry on we had getting to Belfast the other day.... and I know what you mean about taking on a mantle of steely persistence. As you say, these systems rely on folk giving in out of sheer exhaustion and boredom. Well done for sticking it out girl!

  4. This reminds me much of my fury at the red tape and carry on we had getting to Belfast the other day.... and I know what you mean about taking on a mantle of steely persistence. As you say, these systems rely on folk giving in out of sheer exhaustion and boredom. Well done for sticking it out girl!

  5. Phew! I'm off to lie down after reading that. Congratulations are in order, I think - but how do they get away with it?

    I'm psyching myself up to write a long letter to Orange about the mobile phone deal that really was too good to be true - and about the salesperson who didn't tell me the catch until after I'd signed the contract. You've inspired me to get on with it.

  6. Well done!
    That's the true British spirit!!
    endure, endure, endure and then succeed!
    These companies are such A***holes with these things!

  7. I just give up on rebates, it's not worth the time.

    And come to think of it, I've never seen a rebate scheme in the UK.

  8. I hope they call, I hope they call, I hope they call...

  9. well done, I too never hold my breath when waiting for a rebate. I am sure I read somewhere that they make it as difficult as possible to get a rebate, as most people will either forget about it, or give it up as a bad job.

    Gill in Canada

  10. I'm 1 for 2 on my most recent attempts to score a rebate. The first, a 'free' (except for $9.99 shipping and handling costs) wireless router for internet access proved to be easier than I expected to get. Yes, lots of paperwork, and two different places to send copies of it to, but we did get the money.

    The second was for a rebate on 3 bottles of wine. They wanted the store receipt of course, but also the labels from the back of the bottle of wine. I tried my usual trick of soaking the bottle in water overnight (after the wine was drunk of course) and the %*&$ labels would NOT come off except in shreds. Bye-bye rebate :-(

  11. This year I bought a new computer and got caught in the rebate web myself. It was with Circuit City. We found out only after several repeat phone calls that we did not qualify for the rebate as advertised because we failed to purchase a monitor AND a printer. A detail that was none too obvious at time of purchase. But then again...that's what they count on isn't it?

  12. yow, note to self, never do rebates.

    amazing your commitment, i would have been throwing things.

  13. Wow - success! Good for you for staying with it. I'll bet only a VERY small percentage of people did.


  14. I'm afraid to confess that I'm just about to update my phone, and can get a fairly posh one with e-mail and everything, that comes with a $150 rebate. Don't they say that pride comes before a fall?

  15. Berludy well done you! I would have lost my temper big time, not being blessed with any patience whatsoever - and then I would have lost my rebate, wouldn't I?

  16. If I speak to one more call centre, or have to use the line "I know this is not your personal fault, but..." then I may have to end it all. Nice work for swallowing your anger and having the determination for going through with it!

  17. Well done! The good thing about American companies is they still respond to the 'poor customer service' accusation; if you promise to spread around the story of how poorly you were treated, they tend to listen, unlike here in the UK where they just say, "Yeah, and your point is?"

  18. I take names and numbers, and write letters all the time. I have won money out of it - a future post I think.

  19. My mother in law's tip (which I have tried, with varying degrees of success) is to call the CEO and ask for him (harder if a woman, though perhaps not impossible) in throaty, intimate voice. Then when they ask who it is, give first name only......Then charm then into giving in when you're put through. Saves on the old letter writing, too.

  20. ooh well done.
    it reminds me of my (email) letter writing campaign to "big UK store" two christmases ago. and a bogus offer (with unseen conditions) for online shoppers.
    i kept emailing them back... and getting the brush off.
    finally i told them i was featuring my unsatisfactory experience with their customer service in an article i was writing as a series of 3 (blatant lies) on online shopping and the overseas experience.... (wha?)
    worked like a charm.
    clippy mat 1 big UK store 0
    i'm all about wearing them down till they cave in.
    esp. when right is on YOUR (er MY) side.

  21. Glad I discovered you!
    You must use your rebate on the camera to add way cool photos to your blog.
    We have much in common. UK/US Ex-pat Mums, writers - novel, journalism....
    attempts to avoid writing.......etc.
    email me at
    as don't want to bore comment reader of this blog.......

  22. Good for you!!!! I have attempted the good fight myself on many occasions and have won I'd say o% of the time.

  23. Have caught up with your busy life at last - and what a result that was! You have to be so downright resolute to win in these situations. You beat them at their own game, and richly deserve your reward. M ;-)

  24. Two claims in one envelope. Are you mad?!

  25. This is what I love to hear - the little guy getting his own back. Good for you! They'll do/say anything here to part you from your money. Glad you stuck to your principles though and didn't cave in.

  26. I'm exhausted. How on earth did you dredge up the energy to turn it into a blog.


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