Beware of Rebate Bounce-Back

November 26, 2008

This holiday shopping season is already shaping up to be one of the worst on record for both consumers and retailers. We’ve already warned you to beware of possible worthless gift cards issued by failing retailers. Now, our attention turns to a mainstay of many consumer electronic stores’ Black Friday lure: the “MIR” or Mail-In-Rebate.

Some people live by rebates, others won’t touch them with a ten foot pole and nearly half of all eligible rebates go unclaimed. But when instructions are followed to the letter and materials are sent in on time, consumers can save big on popular gadgets. And therein lies the problem this holiday season. Buyers are more strapped and more enticed than ever to save money wherever they can.

Rebates are often sent in without the proper materials, or just forgotten in the shuffle and many times left unfulfilled even though the consumer thought they were ‘saving’ on their purchase. This Black Friday’s savings could be even more problematic if the company fulfilling your rebate check goes belly up like recently failed CPG in Tampa. If you recently tried to claim a rebate from them, here’s a list of CPG’s possible affected retailer rebates.

Retailers usually don’t fulfill the rebates themselves but pay a third party company to process them. Convenient for the retailer, but when the processor goes out of business any checks they send out might bounce.

While there’s no guarantee a rebate fulfillment center will stay in business long enough for you to get your money, there are a few steps you can take to ensure it won’t get rejected or stuck in processing.

  1. Carry the store’s ad with you to the shelf to verify the model and sku number of the product.
  2. Double check that you are purchasing all the items required to receive the rebate. Some rebates require you to purchase more than one product together on the same receipt.
  3. When checking out be sure any necessary receipts are given to you by the cashier. Some retailers like BestBuy will print receipts and all duplicates for you right at the register.
  4. As soon as possible fill out all rebate forms and gather all items detailed in the offer. Be advised that some offers require the ‘original UPC code’ from the box – many times this will render your product ineligible for return at the place of purchase. Defective returns may then need to be handled directly through the mfr. So where possible, you may want to test out the product prior to removing the UPC code from the box, then you’ll be able to return to the store and get a replacement product quicker and easier.
  5. Before mailing your rebate materials make copies of all forms, reciepts, and UPC codes. This will help you in the event of a dispute later.
  6. Check one last time that you’ve followed all instructions and enclosed all of the forms, UPC codes, serial numbers, etc.
  7. Mail your rebate early enough so that it is postmarked by the date of the offer. Where possible you can even check the status of your rebate online.
  8. Be sure to watch your mail carefully. Many rebate checks arrive looking eerily similar to junk mail offers and end up shredded or trashed with other mail because they don’t look important.