20 February 2008

Mail-in rebate

Another often advertised rebate is the ’mail-in rebate’ which differs from ordinary rebate coupons in that you don't get a rebate at once. Instead you have the possibility of getting a specified amount of money back by mailing certain 'proofs of purchase' to the company.

What one needs to send them varies quite a bit, but often it's the receipt from the store, the bar code (kind of weird if it's something like shampoo!) and perhaps a filled out questionaire from the company. When to send it in is even more confusing; in some cases it is within 30 days of purchase, in others it has to be between 6 and 9 months after acquiring the item. Particularly the more substantial rebates on electronic equipment use the concept of delayed mail-in - we're assuming the idea that many people will forget to mail it in, so that it's cheap for the company to promise large mail-in rebates in order to convince the customer to buy their product.

We've only used this scheme once - receiving $1 back as a rebate on a bottle of shampoo simply isn't worth the bother (especially considering you need to spend a stamp on sending the coupon)! But when Tue bought his cell phone he managed to mail the bar code of the side of the box, a copy of the original invoice, documents to prove he kept the subscription for at least 2 months and that he actually paid the first 2 monthly bills. Accordingly the company did send a nice check back to him .. some 6-8 weeks later. The system works, but what a bureaucratic mess - not just for the consumer, but also for the companies that need people to verify whether or not the mailed in claims qualify for rebate before mailing back a check. *

* The widespread use of checks here is quite another story, and it will get it's own post on the blog.

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