Make sure you get what's coming to you

How to Get Your Rebate

by Joanne Guidoccio


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Rejoice for Rebates

When I saw the $25 rebate sign, I quickly headed toward the winter boots on the large center display. While chatting with the sales associate, I admitted the rebate sign had attracted my attention and would positively influence my purchase. She shook her head in amazement and commented, "You're probably the only customer who will even bother applying for the rebate."

I was surprised to hear that most customers do not take advantage of rebates. An avid coupon lover and collector, I'm always on the lookout for ways to save on goods and services. I also like the idea of receiving a partial cash reimbursement a month or two after making a purchase. It's unexpected money and greatly appreciated.

Upon further investigation, I learned the majority of rebates are never redeemed. According to a study conducted by the market research firm Aberdeen Group, 60% of buyers who could redeem computer-related rebates don't even try. And of the 40% who do complete the paperwork, half experience problems and fail to receive that coveted check in the mail.

It would be so easy to blame the three parties involved in this process: the manufacturer, the retailer, and the rebate fulfillment house. But the research suggests the fault lies with the customers. A national telephone survey conducted by the NDP group revealed that people with a household income of less than $50,000 a year were least likely to apply for rebates. On the other hand, women aged 35 to 64 years living in households that had incomes of $100,000 or more were most likely to take advantage of rebates.

To ensure that you get your rebate:

  • Take note of the deadline before buying the item.
  • Read the fine print carefully. Each manufacturer has a different set of rules. Most rebates require proof of purchase and a receipt. Some require the original receipt, while others will accept a copy.
  • Make copies of all forms and receipts. File them appropriately.
  • Keep the box to avoid confusion with the UPC code. The manufacturer's code may be different from that of the retailer.
  • If the rebate form is available online, print it out immediately after purchasing the product. The form might be removed after a preset promotional period.
  • Send the form as soon as possible, preferably within three days of purchase. This will allow time for any missing or incorrect items to be sent well before the deadline.
  • Check all mail carefully. Rebates often resemble junk mail.
  • Follow up if you don't receive your rebate within eight weeks. If you are not satisfied, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission.
  • Consider the systematic approach used by Dallas entrepreneur Daniel Pentecost if you are continually missing out on rebate checks. "As soon as I have the product in my hands, the very first thing I do before I use it is I cut off the UPC code, and then put it in an envelope. I know that if I don't, it will slip my mind." He also tracks his rebates in a spreadsheet. His record: Pentecost successfully cashes in on six to eight rebates a year on a variety of products ranging from cell phones to thumb drives.

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma. Visit her website at JoanneGuidoccio.com.

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