Rebates can be one of the most enticing offers from merchants looking to lure in new buyers. Though they can save shoppers a LOT of money, The Federal Trade Commission is urging buyers during this Holiday season not to be “baited” by rebates” that never arrive or arrive far later than promised. They offer some great advice, but Coupon Sherpa went a step further and created a 13 point list for making sure you get your rebate promptly.
Rebates are a headache for consumers, tricky for consumers and a major expense for manufacturers; so why are we seeing a steady increase in rebate offers? The flat fact is that rebates are an excellent way to lure shoppers into buying products.
Manufacturers aren’t losing money on rebates. They count on 60% of purchasers never even applying for their rebates. The other 40% never receive a check or meet with stonewalling from third-party rebate-fulfillment houses.
There is no magic formula to help you take the “bait” out of rebate, but we do offer some advice on how to improve your chances.
1. Do the math: If a product costs $100 without a rebate and a competitor is selling the same product for $130 with a $20 rebate, consider the $100 item and skip the hassle of filing paperwork.
2. Check the expiration date: Some rebate offers expire faster than week-old bread. Can you reasonably complete all the filing requirements and mail it in before the deadline?
3. Read rebate rules thoroughly: Most offers require the original store receipt and UPC from the packaging. Software may require proof that you purchased the previous version to qualify for rebate on an upgrade. Some manufacturers only provide the rules on the inside of the product box, requiring you make the purchase and open the box before learning you don’t qualify.
4. Follow all instructions: If the instructions require you write in blue ink, write in blue ink. Make sure you fill out every line on the application.
5. One rebate at a time: You usually have to submit the original receipt so don’t combine rebate items on one receipt. If you plan on buying several rebated items at a time, ask the cashier to check them out independently so you’ll have separate receipts for each.
6. Start the paperwork immediately: Don’t let rebates sit scattered on your desk. Even if you’re not ready to fill everything out, put the pieces into an addressed envelope to keep them in one place.
7. Keep copies: Make a scan or copy of all your paperwork before mailing, in case you run into a problem. This packet also will serve as a reminder if you don’t hear back within the proscribed period.
8. Use certified mail: It’ll prove that someone received your rebate request before the deadline.
9. Mark the date: Note on your calendar the date for the check’s estimated arrival, the offer name, address, amount and date submitted. If you frequently apply for rebates, you might want to use the Rebate Reminder tracking freeware.
10. Check the status: Many rebate houses provide a URL so you can track your redemption.
11. Keep an eye on the mail: Rebate checks can look like junk mail. Make sure you don’t toss them.
12. Keep on top of things: If you haven’t received a check by the due date, begin to document your tracking calls and searches.
13. File a complaint: Report any problems to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. You also might want to write the state attorney general’s office in your state or the state in which the rebate-sponsor is located. If all else fails, contact your local media’s consumer advocacy reporter. It’s funny how much faster problems can be resolved when reporters get involved.