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  1. #1
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    TOP STORY

    Make tech rebates work for you, not against you

    ByScott Dunn

    Rebate scams can make getting a promised discount on products much more difficult — and much less reliable — than it might seem at first glance.

    But if you do your homework and take a few precautions, you can minimize the risk and maximize the discounts.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/01/07/02 (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by andyfboyd; 2011-01-18 at 13:19.

  2. #2
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    One tactic I've used with varying results is to ask the seller to apply the refund immediately to the purchase price and then have the seller apply for the refund. Sometimes the seller can convince the "rebate giver" that a product was given to a customer to replace a defective model, or was written off by the store as a demo, etc. In some cases the seller has greater latitude with the rebate giver and is willing to pass that along to the customer in order to finalize the sale. No guarantees it will work but it never hurts to ask. Especially if you're willing to walk out the door to go to a competitor.

  3. #3
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    And ALLWAYS read the fine print, not many rebates will be sent to PO boxes, the only postal service we do have.
    You can usually download the rebate to read before making a purchase.
    Ringo F

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    Bing cash back seems to work well and I've had good luck with the Symantec rebates through Frys. You can usually find Norton Security / AV software there for free or heavily discounted after rebates. (i.e. they currently have the 3-user Norton Internet Security 2010 / Ghost 15 and Utilities bundle with free shipping for $9.99 after rebate at http://www.frys.com/product/6117689

  5. #5
    New Lounger websquad's Avatar
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    Two recent experiences. (1) Switched from AT&T (with whom I was very well pleased) to Verizon (only to get the BB Storm/2, which AT&T does not offer). It was a smooth cut-over; they transferred both of my old phone numbers to the new devices. I then filled out the $100 rebate stuff on-line instead of mailing it in, and got the rebate (a Visa debit card thing) in less than two weeks. (2) Purchased Norton Internet Security 2010 and also filled out the rebate form on-line -- the workflow/tracking leads me to believe that this is also going to be a smooth transaction.

    I've never been stiffed on a rebate in the past (and I've done about 25 in past years), but then I've always taken a lot of time to read the fine print and taken a lot of care to not make any stupid mistakes to give the rebate administrators an excuse to deny the rebate -- however, having said that, the two on-line experiences I've recently had were simple to complete, and reduced the burden to trivial. If you must go the rebate route, the on-line method is recommended.

  6. #6
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    I've commented previously about the value of dealing with a retail store whom you can trust. It is as true of rebates as of service warranties.

    My local Micro Center has not only given me the best warranty and out-of-warranty service of any store I've tried, but they were helpful in a couple of rebate fiascos. One was Sun StarOffice 8. Sun stopped supporting the product and moved it to open source at about the time I sent in my rebate form and documents. In the long run, the rebate was passed through four clearing-house organizations, lost twice, and finally refused as no longer valid. When I finally got the Micro Center on the case, they only succeeded in getting me $10.00 on a $20.00 rebate offer. But the Micro Center actually took the matter into their own hands and gave me a $10.00 Micro Center pre-paid Visa card out of their own pocket. That is why I am a loyal Micro Center customer -- they help with even things like rebates.

    My point is, your best ally or your worst enemy can be the sales and management people at the store where you buy tech products. If I had tried to get Fry's or Best Buy to help me out in this case, I would have gotten nothing for my efforts. When you find a store you can trust, stay with them -- they can be as valuable as any discount offered someplace else, because you get more than just a product -- you get post-sales support and technical assistance. To me, that makes shopping at the Big Box stores ridiculous and foolish.

    Not that I would ever pass up a really great deal on a USB Hard Drive at Best Buy or Fry's. If it's just a peripheral with a very low chance of failure outside of the warranty period (manufacturer's warranty), I can easily justify taking a chance, even if I would never trust the sales or repair staff at that store with a full computer or software purchase.
    -- Bob Primak --

  7. #7
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    I find Staples Easy Rebates very easy to use; easy to file on line, easy to follow status on line. Check has always arrived as promised. Staples seems to realize that an easy rebate makes a happy repeat customer. They're my preferred seller. To bad lots of other sellers haven't figured that out.

  8. #8
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    The technique that I use is:

    • Scan all materials (receipt, rebate form, UPC, etc) to a PDF
    • Attach the PDF to an Outlook task
    • Set a reminder on the task to whatever the expected due date is (if the rebate says 10-12 weeks, I put +12 weeks on the task due date)

    If the rebate provider has a web site, I'll set up a reminder earlier than the due date to ensure they're processing the rebate. Also, if I get any update EMails along the way, I'll add them to the task so I have a complete record of all activity. When the rebate check finally shows up, I can mark the task as complete so I don't get any other reminders.

    --Steve

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    Ringo Fonebone touches on a very sore point with me: many firms claim they will not send rebates to Post Office boxes.
    If my PO Box is good enough for my bank, credit card companies and even the guvamint from time to time, it's darn well good enough to receive a rebate.
    The ultimate insult is that we most often mail the rebate requests to ..... wait for it ...... a PO Box. There oughta be a law. This practice is blatant discrimination against people who live in rural areas.

    Gary

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    Some rebates in Australia allow you to take the receipt to a local post office, to collect the rebate on the spot.

    Nice when that happens.
    Subway Belconnen- home of the Signboard to make you smile. Get (almost) daily updates- follow SubwayBelconnen on Twitter.

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    One thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of rebates are handled by 3rd-party fulfillment companies. And they expect their workers to work very fast, making mistakes inevitable.

    The #1 reason rebates are rejected is because the companies claim that required items (receipts, bar codes, etc.) weren't included. If your UPC code falls out of the envelope onto the floor when they tear it open, don't expect those underpaid overworked rebate processors to bend over and pick it up. They'll just reject it. (And you won't have a 2nd UPC code to send them!)

    So, what can you do? Make it easy for them. Keep the following points in mind:
    • Use a highlighter pen to highlight the line on the receipt showing your item, and the price.
    • Type or print VERY NEATLY on the rebate form
    • Staple or tape the UPC code to the rebate form
    • Staple the receipt to the rebate form


    I also highlight the key phrases on the rebate form itself. If it says, "include your original receipt or a copy," and if I'm sending a copy, I'll highlight the words "or a copy" on the form.

    The key thing to keep in mind this this: You want your rebate to be the easiest one they process. Make it easy for them, and they'll take care of you. Since I've adopted these practices, I've never once had a rebate refused.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    I've commented previously about the value of dealing with a retail store whom you can trust. It is as true of rebates as of service warranties.

    My local Micro Center has not only given me the best warranty and out-of-warranty service of any store I've tried, but they were helpful in a couple of rebate fiascos. One was Sun StarOffice 8. Sun stopped supporting the product and moved it to open source at about the time I sent in my rebate form and documents. In the long run, the rebate was passed through four clearing-house organizations, lost twice, and finally refused as no longer valid. When I finally got the Micro Center on the case, they only succeeded in getting me $10.00 on a $20.00 rebate offer. But the Micro Center actually took the matter into their own hands and gave me a $10.00 Micro Center pre-paid Visa card out of their own pocket. That is why I am a loyal Micro Center customer -- they help with even things like rebates.

    My point is, your best ally or your worst enemy can be the sales and management people at the store where you buy tech products. If I had tried to get Fry's or Best Buy to help me out in this case, I would have gotten nothing for my efforts. When you find a store you can trust, stay with them -- they can be as valuable as any discount offered someplace else, because you get more than just a product -- you get post-sales support and technical assistance. To me, that makes shopping at the Big Box stores ridiculous and foolish.

    Not that I would ever pass up a really great deal on a USB Hard Drive at Best Buy or Fry's. If it's just a peripheral with a very low chance of failure outside of the warranty period (manufacturer's warranty), I can easily justify taking a chance, even if I would never trust the sales or repair staff at that store with a full computer or software purchase.
    To be fair, had you purchased that item in a Best Buy, there would have been no rebate since Best Buy adopted the practice a few years ago of doing all rebates on the back end, directly with the manufacturers. Also, with many small items sold at Best Buy, if they fail within the manufacturers warranty they can be exchanged in the store without having to deal with the manufacturer - and usually for an upgraded product.

  13. #13
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    The technique that I use which has always gotten results, even with the bad boys of the rebate business is as follows:
    Complete all required paperwork and scan everything to .PDF file.
    Mail US Mail with signature required. - Scan this to the PDF.
    Wait the time they state on rebate or until you get the card saying you didn't do it right (they always blame you).


    Email them and attach the .PDF. state in the email that they have 10 days to get a check to you or you will complain to the following people (easy to do with mail merge)
    Attorney General of the state rebate is sent to.
    Attorney General of the state item was purchased
    Better Business Bureau of city rebate sent to
    Better Business Bureau of city where purchase
    VP Marketing of business where purchase (use investor relations of their website)
    VP Marketing of product manufacturer (use investor relations of their website)
    Federal Trade Commission

    I have had to do this three or four times and have yet to not get a check within 10 days. Apparently way too much threat to their business or they can see the amount of effort to reply to all the inquires from the various organizations as not cost effective.

    Don

  14. #14
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    I once failed to include the bar code with a rebate request for a printer, called and was told to send it. I did, they couldn't find it etc, etc. so I found out who the company's CEO was and wrote a personal letter to him, outlined my rebate problems and stated that I was in the market for some of their other products which I would not buy given my experience with the rebate. I very quickly had an expensive overnight response via UPS and the offer of a free set of ink cartridges. I gladly accepted this since it was worth much more than the rebate. I don't believe that reputable companies want their customers stiffed by the rebate centers. We just need to make them aware.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    I've commented previously about the value of dealing with a retail store whom you can trust. It is as true of rebates as of service warranties.

    My local Micro Center has not only given me the best warranty and out-of-warranty service of any store I've tried, but they were helpful in a couple of rebate fiascos. One was Sun StarOffice 8. Sun stopped supporting the product and moved it to open source at about the time I sent in my rebate form and documents. In the long run, the rebate was passed through four clearing-house organizations, lost twice, and finally refused as no longer valid. When I finally got the Micro Center on the case, they only succeeded in getting me $10.00 on a $20.00 rebate offer. But the Micro Center actually took the matter into their own hands and gave me a $10.00 Micro Center pre-paid Visa card out of their own pocket. That is why I am a loyal Micro Center customer -- they help with even things like rebates.

    My point is, your best ally or your worst enemy can be the sales and management people at the store where you buy tech products. If I had tried to get Fry's or Best Buy to help me out in this case, I would have gotten nothing for my efforts. When you find a store you can trust, stay with them -- they can be as valuable as any discount offered someplace else, because you get more than just a product -- you get post-sales support and technical assistance. To me, that makes shopping at the Big Box stores ridiculous and foolish.

    Not that I would ever pass up a really great deal on a USB Hard Drive at Best Buy or Fry's. If it's just a peripheral with a very low chance of failure outside of the warranty period (manufacturer's warranty), I can easily justify taking a chance, even if I would never trust the sales or repair staff at that store with a full computer or software purchase.
    I am not a smart ass.... I just play one in real life!

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