Friday, March 09, 2007

I Hate Mail-in Rebates

Why not just sell a product at the sale price or have an instant rebate? Why have mail-in rebate offers? Those are rhetorical questions answered here by a rant and follow-up to a Twitter I sent the other day.

We were looking around a local computer store recently and stumbled on a display with some cute USB flash drives. The item had a mail-in rebate offer that made it seem like a good value. Dianne got one for work and as an impulse buy I got one for my use at home. Dianne very kindly filled out the rebate paperwork and sent everything in promptly. Life should be good, right?

A few days ago we received a postcard in the mail from the rebate processing center saying “our records indicate the reference number is a duplicate from a previous submission.” What’s up with that? If you have any questions, call yada yada yada.

On Monday I called. After getting a blister on my finger by working through the menu triage system, I get a recording that says something like “all our representatives are busy. Due to an unusually large call volume, long delays are likely. We suggest you call back at a later time.” Sigh! After holding for 20 minutes, I decide to follow the suggestion and call back later.

On Tuesday I tried again early in the day. I go through the prompts and get the exact same recording. Either they have 1 service rep or a boatload of issues to deal with – or both! I put on my headset and started working while waiting on hold. After about 15 minutes I hear a real person. I explain the postcard and ask for an explanation. He asks for enough information to do a TSA background check in order to pull up the rebate information. “Oh yes,” he says, “there are duplicate entries for you.” Duh! I knew that much from the postcard! Why are there duplicate entries? “Let me check,” he says. Clickity click keyboard sounds fill my ear. “ appears our system created duplicate entries for the same item and that is blocking your rebate.” I explain the situation and he says, “I’m sorry…Let me fix that.” Clickity click click….click click….”this’ll just take a minute”…clickity click…click. The whole time I’m wondering if he’s really typing or just running his fingers randomly across a dead keyboard that isn’t even plugged into a computer. “OK…the error has been corrected and you should have your rebate in 3-4 weeks.”

That reminded me of a similar situation Dianne handled a couple years ago for a larger rebate associated with a Sony camera purchase. In both cases, there was nothing wrong with the rebate submission. The representatives released the rebate after we called, but we had to make the extra effort. I wonder how many people don’t send in the rebate, don’t call, or don’t wait on hold to resolve a rebate “issue”. I suppose companies save a lot of money with these rebate hurdles rather than cutting the price directly. But in the long run, as people get fed up with all the follow-up and challenges to get a rebate, will that affect purchase decisions? Ultimately will they ‘save’ money with that type of promotion if people don’t buy at all?

I’ve learned my lesson – especially for items that are impulse buys. Avoid the mail-in rebates.

1 comment:

Lora_3 said...

A couple of years ago I got ripped $20 on a DVD burner. I hate rebates.

Why are there so many Rebates at Christmas time? I figure they are hoping you'll forget.

Be safe...