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Are offers for a rebate true to their word?

If you have ever felt like there was too much hassle to getting a rebate, you may be correct. Read on for how this could be the case.

Brian Grow, author of “The Great Rebate Runaround,” found in his research that companies are not eager to give out rebate checks and have many ways to keep them from you. It is not uncommon to ask consumers to send in copies of their sales receipt multiple times or to hold on to the rebate check for several months, hoping you will never bother to follow up on it.

If companies do send you a check; they often mail it in an envelope that looks like junk mail, so you mistakenly toss the check away.

What companies hope for most, however, is that the process never gets that far. Retailers and manufacturers cleverly entice consumers to purchase products with the promise of a rebate, yet they know there’s a 40% chance consumers will not see that rebate.

Grow states, “Many consumbers are just too lazy, forgetful or busy to apply for rebates. Others think … it is just not worth the hassle of collecting.”

Companies require you to follow a series of rules, offer short submission periods and ask repeatedly for copies of your receipt or application.

Even if you do manage to get everything mailed in correctly and on time, there’s a good chance it will be terminally delayed. Because the rebate process takes six to ten weeks, they are hoping you will forget about it. If you don’t forget, they hope you just won’t have the time or energy to call and complain.

Retailers save about $2 billion every year on unclaimed rebate checks. TCA Fulfillment Services, a company that processes rebates for companies, actually boasts to potential clients their redemption rates are much lower than the national average. Their publication, “Rebate Redemption Guide,” shows how effective they are in keeping rebate checks from consumers.

Complaints to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission about mail-in rebates have soared, and so have the number of retailers and manufacturers that use them.

Connecticut law as well as other state law requires retailers to advertise the price charged at the cash register, before mail-in rebates are redeemed, not the price of a product after the rebates are claimed. Currently Connecticut is investigating whether some retail stores are breaking this law.

You won’t be able to make your way around Office Max, Sam’s Club or Sears this holiday season without seeing the tempting offers. But as enticing as mail-in rebates are, just remember—they are not the same as cash in your pocket today.

If you do purchase an item with a mail-in rebate, here are a few suggestions to help ensure you eventually see that money.

  • Don’t toss the rebate slip in a drawer and forget about it.

  • Try to mail out your rebate as soon as possible.

  • Don’t throw out the box—you may need to mail in the UPC label.

  • Save copies of your receipt.

  • Mark your calendar for the date you should receive your rebate check. If you don’t receive it by then, be prepared to call and complain. For some companies, receiving a customer complaint is a prerequisite for a check to be mailed.

  • Be careful not to mistake your rebate check for junk mail and toss it out.

  • In the end, you may decide (like 40 percent of the population) pursuing a rebate offer just isn’t worth it. If this is the case, try not to let the mail-in rebate offers influence your decision to make a purchase.

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