The Rebate Trap

January 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm 4 comments

Everybody loves a bargain that we become willing victims of the rebate trap. Say, who can refuse a $40 rebate on a $200 digital camera? Small wonder that, in addition to paying the bills, mailing rebate coupons has become another post-holiday ritual.

The dictionary defines rebate as a refund of a fraction of the amount paid. It’s offered by a retailer to clear his inventory of an overstock item or to make space for a new model. The rebate amount usually reduces the final cost of the item by a third or half the original retail price making it very appealing to you, the consumer. The retailer also knows that once you fall for the rebate offer, you’ll be inclined to buy more stuff when you visit the store and thus fulfilling his dream of sales and more sales.

Just as the retailer utilizes rebates to sell you goods, so he’s inclined to discourage you from redeeming them. To illustrate, take a look at the rebate coupon itself. Oftentimes, it’s too small that you need to hire an expert who can write your name on a grain of rice to fill in the required information, such as your name, address, serial number, date of purchase, etc. When you do this, however, be aware that your submission could be rejected because the handwriting doesn’t match the one they have on file. (Ok, I’m exaggerating about the handwriting mismatch, but you get the drift).

There are situations when sorting out the rebate requirements have become complicated enough to require the assistance of a lawyer. Some of them (not in any particular order) could be:

1. Purchased between so and so dates.
2. An eligible model
3. Dated receipt of purchase
4. UPC code from the original packaging

So far, that’s the easy part. The idea of hiring a lawyer has come about because some issuers are known to unscrupulously prevent you from getting your just reward. Let’s say, you mail your $40 rebate request but no check arrives after months of waiting. You follow up by calling and writing the retailer to no avail. And finally, when you do get a response, it would be in the form of a letter asking for additional requirements (Hint: the retailer is playing hardball). Under the circumstances, it’d be time to call in the troops, that is, if you can afford the $500 an hour legal fee. Otherwise, you can just give up right then and there and throw up your arms in surrender. which the retailer wants you to do in the first place, anyway.

Entry filed under: Blogroll, daily prompt. Tags: , , , , , .

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