Bits & P.C.s: Rebates revisited

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a problem with rebates, that of a company offering a fairly large rebate. The problem arose when the company went out of business and the rebate checks bounced.

I have just looked at the Thanksgiving Day ads and can see another problem with rebates. When is an item that is on sale not really on sale? The answer is when the sale price is after a mail-in rebate.

Almost all of the super-low price sale items were after a manufacturer’s rebate. Many items had multiple rebates, some as many as three or four.

The question becomes “how do you buy this item to give as a gift?” The answer is “you can’t.” In order to send for the rebate, you will have to send in a proof of purchase, usually the UPC label. If there are multiple rebates, you may have to send in other parts of the packaging.

If you cut off the label, you have created two problems. The first is that the recipient has a box with a hole in it that shows that you bought the gift because you were going to get money back. The second problem is that the item cannot be returned, even with a gift receipt, because the UPC is not on the package.

Another problem has to do with rebate expiration times. Many rebates are for items only sold at a specific retailer on specific days. Many rebates require you to submit them within so many days of purchase, while others do not give you actual money but a merchandise credit good only at that store. At Christmas time, who has the time to read through all the fine print on the rebate form to determine all the terms and conditions?

Many stores are now printing out the rebate form as well as a rebate receipt when you purchase the item. Some stores still send you to a rebate board where you sort through 75 items with rebates to find the form that you need for yours.

Even after you send for your rebate(s), you can expect to wait 12-20 weeks before you get your money. Even though the rebate may say a 6-8-week wait, you will discover that the time is quoted to be after the form is received and processed. Many of the fulfillment houses will batch process the forms so they may be warehoused for a couple of weeks before they are entered into the system. This delay is not included in the wait time.

My opinion is that the retailers are using this practice to sell items at the regular retail price. They know that you are looking at the ads, notice that one store is selling a DVD player for $30 while the other store is charging $40. Of course, the $30 price is after a $40 rebate while the $40 price is what you pay at the register. In this case, the $40 item is probably the better deal for gift giving.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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