Update: A link to an hour-long program
on rebates that was broadcast on WNPR in August 2012 is available here. I was interviewed toward the very end, but the whole broadcast is worth listening to, if you are as interested as
I am in understanding rebates and increasing their value.
Update: For online shopping rebates,
I've been asked which site is better: Ebates or Mr. Rebates. The answer is complex, and I've done an analysis which is presented at this site. BOTTOM LINE: Check both for the best rebate offers, which is what I do. As a general rule, you'll
earn more money from Mr. Rebates, but you will have to actively manage your account and wait longer to get your cash.
My step-by-step struggle to pry a $25 rebate out of
a very reluctant rebate fulfillment center is detailed here
. Includes the letters that were sent to the rebate fulfillment center as well as the manufacturer, for your use in
collecting your own rebates.
Update: Interested in a couple of responses to this site that
we got from some people who work at rebate processing centers? Scroll down to the "RESPONSES FROM REBATE PROCESSING
CENTER EMPLOYEES" section, close to the bottom of this page.
Follow the rebate instructions to the letter. If it says "circle the
price paid and the date of purchase on the receipt," then circle them. Failure to do so could cause them to decide
that your rebate submission is "noncompliant" and they may not pay you.
On the other hand, it never hurts to try. I inadvertently threw away
the box and rebate documentation for a $30 box of software. Upset and angry with myself, I wrote a letter to the software
manufacturer, explaining that I threw the box away, asking that they honor the rebate anyway, and sent them all the documentation
that I could (receipt, photocopy of the disk, an original page from the users guide) to prove that I actually bought the product.
Much to my surprise, a $30 check arrived a few weeks later! Who knows? Give it a shot.
Always photocopy or scan the filled-out
rebate form and all the supporting documentation, including the all-important UPC code. Keep the
copies. If you've got access to a scanner, scanning is better, as it requires less space and you can send electronic
copies of your documentation if you need to e-mail anything.
Keep a log of all your mail-in rebates. I do this with a
separate account on my Quicken financial software, but this can be done with an Excel spreadsheet, or even the old-fashioned
way, on a piece of paper. (An interesting-looking rebate tracking tool is available here. It appears to be free and downloadable. But I haven't used it and
therefore can't vouch for it or endorse it.) Your rebate log should include:
I am a mail-in rebate junkie. I have saved thousands of dollars through rebate
offers. It's a great way to get products at a reduced price, or sometimes even free! But I often question
whether it's worth my time. And apparently, I'm not alone. Web sites
such as the ones here, here and here show that there is a high degree of universal frustration with the mail-in rebate process.
But that's exactly what makes the mail-in rebate process so rewarding and exciting!
The harder it is, the more discouraging it is for most people, and therefore fewer people wind up filing for or
getting the rebates. And if fewer people get them, that means that the companies can afford to be more generous in the
rebates that they offer -- a bonanza for the true mail-in rebate warriors such as ourselves. So after years of climbing
the rebate learning curve, I've decided to share my experiences, so that all of my fellow rebate junkies can benefit.
Here are the cardinal rules of getting your share of the free money:
- Only deal with reputable, established companies when filing mail-in rebates.
Several years ago, a website called CyberRebates.com offered some ridiculous rebates (for example, you pay $350 for a mini
refrigerator, then apply for a mail-in rebate for $350, and when the check comes you get a free refrigerator).
But when CyberRebates went bankrupt they quit paying the rebates, and left several customers with an overpriced $350
- Always study the rebate offer carefully, and look for loopholes that
the company can climb through. Some rebates may have already expired, or may apply only to certain unavailable products.
Study the rebate form carefully before buying the product. If the box says, "$30 Rebate! Details Inside," walk
away. You won't like the details once you get inside the box. If a salesman is pressuring you to buy a rebate
product and won't let you get a good look at the rebate application and terms, walk away.
Cross out each rebate in your log when you've received and cashed the rebate
check. You can forget about it after that.
Review your log at least once a month. (Don't rely on the company
to notify you if you didn't qualify for the rebate.) If there are any outstanding rebates that are over two months
- The date that you sent the rebate application
- The name of the rebating company
- The amount of the rebate, and
- The website or phone number that the company generally provides to check on the rebate
If you get an e-mail or postcard notification telling you that your rebate is denied
because the company claims that you didn't send all the correct supporting documentation:
- Call the phone number or go to the web site and inquire.
- Keep a record of all the contacts you make about that rebate, including the date the
contact was made and who contact was made with.
- Keep a copy of e-mails.
- Beware of the "Contact Us" form on the rebating company's web site, which may not
allow you to easily track or keep a copy of your message to the company. (Very tricky, these "customer service"
- If necessary, be sure to copy and paste your message into your word processing software
and save it, before sending the message. Type in the time and date that you sent the message.
Another option if your rebate submission is ignored, delayed, or turned down,
and if you bought the product at a local store: Go the the store and enlist their help in collecting the
rebate. I went to one store where I bought some software, showed them the completed rebate form and paperwork,
and complained that the manufacturer wasn't making good on their rebates. I expected the store's help in lighting a
fire under the manufacturer. Instead, to my surprise, the store manager went to the cash drawer and handed me my $10
rebate in cash! I've been a loyal customer since.
Stop dealing with the fulfillment center, and start dealing directly with the
manufacturer. The address and phone number on your rebate form goes to the rebate fulfillment center.
They're the people who often have a vested interest in not delivering on your rebate, so they can pocket the money
themselves. If the fulfillment center isn't being responsive, send a letter or e-mail directly to the Customer
Service Department of the manufacturer of the product (or provider of the service) that you bought. You can almost always
get this contact information on the Internet. These companies don't want their reputations ruined by a cheesy fulfillment
center, and will usually help you collect.
In the rare event that your repeated attempts to get your valid rebate paid
are completely and ruthlessly ignored, then:
- Re-submit your copies of all the required paperwork (including the all-important UPC
code) with a polite letter demanding your rebate.
- This second submission almost always seems to
Never be discouraged,
and don't let the small handful of shady retailers, manufacturers and rebate fulfillment houses get you down.
There are some great rebate deals out there; now let's go get them!
- My thanks to Andrew Tobias for posting a link to this site, which has led to links being posted on various other sites.
- Some web discussions about this site and its contents are available here and here.
- Some very useful and informative comments that I've received about this site, and that provide a few additional
tips on rebate collecting, are here.
- Unfortunately, I don't have the capacity to keep this web site updated with the latest rebate deals, or news of which
companies are the best rebate payers, and which are the worst. For that information, the best site I've been able to
find is here, and I'd recommend that you click that link periodically for the latest rebate news and updates.
- If you have a complaint against a company for its lack of responsiveness to rebate issues, please post it
at this site. Great site; highly recommended (also referenced at the top of this web page).
- Comment from Bob: Someone I knew worked for a rebate company, until the company was shut down by the state of
Minnesota. He claimed the way some of them work is this: (a) You submit the rebate. (b) They submit to the
company that offered the rebate. Company pays them plus a processing fee. (c) Now they delay and hope to outlast you.
(d) If you notify the company they send out the rebate ASAP. (e) They keep the money of the people who just give up.
(f) If they think they are getting investigated they just pay up everyone. Pretty good business to get into if you are
a sleaze ball.
RESPONSES FROM REBATE PROCESSING CENTER EMPLOYEES (Be kind when you call or write to these
- "Hi, I work for a rebate processing center, and if you people would actually
do what you're supposed to, you would get your rebate with no hassles. Read the offer form, follow that instruction
to a tee. And if it is a little late, maybe about 5 million other people are requesting the same rebate. So I might
take a little longer. A letter to the manufacturer won't do anything in getting your rebate faster."
"Hello, I presently work for a rebate processing company. I have worked
with the actual mail and in the Call Center dealing with consumer phone calls, emails and faxes. First of all, a lot
of problems consumers have with mail in rebates would be non-existent if they filled out the rebate forms properly and read
(and followed) all the instructions, ESPECIALLY keeping copies of everything! I would
say about half of the rebate forms I had to data-enter from were so illegible that I had to guess at some of the
letters in people's names! Some people even forgot to fill out their name or address completely! And of course others
did not include the receipt or the UPC. Other problems arise when we have received mail that has been water damaged,
damaged by the Postal Service mail sorting machines, etc. But, when I started working in the Call Center I found out that most
of the problems are easily solved by a phone call to the Customer Service number on the rebate form. In most cases
I am allowed to take the information over the phone to clear any error on a consumer's rebate record. If the manufacturer or
retailer has given us instructions that documents are needed to clear an error, we are able to take the missing information
by fax or email attachment. The only times I have had to tell a consumer that we will not be able to honor the rebate
has been when they truly did not buy a qualifying product or we are missing information from their record and they did not
keep copies of anything they mailed to us. That said, I have of course also seen errors on our part. Some employees
are sloppy and don't care if they are following procedure correctly. Fortunately, these employees don't last too long.
Unfortunately, these employees cause problems for some consumers and ultimately for those of us who have to take the
irate phone call from the consumer when they don't get their rebate. Another misconception about rebate companies is that
we get to pocket any rebate claims that consumers are denied. Far from the truth. Simplified, we process your mail
and then send a bill to the company offering the rebate. Once the manufacturer or retailer pays us, we can mail out
checks to the consumers. (Also the reason for the long processing time frames on rebates, which incidentally are set
out by the manufacturer or retailer, NOT the rebate processing company.) Anyway, sorry to chew on your ear for so long,
I guess all those long days of people screaming and swearing at me on the phone for their rebates has me a little frustrated:)
Don't forget to keep copies of your rebate."
This website and its contents are copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007,
2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 by James K. Hickel. Links to this site are welcomed
and encouraged, but pasting, copying, or embedding the content onto another site or medium is prohibited without advance
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