Watch For Wrinkles In Rebate Programs



If you have ever shopped at a large chain electronics store, you have probably found that most higher priced consumer products have price tags that include some form of a money back or rebate program.

Here's an example:

Shopping for a desktop computer you see a sales tag for $1,500 on a computer. Read the price tag closely -- the "advertised" $1,500 price is after all rebates have been deducted.

The actual sales price is $1,650 and in order to get the $150 discount, an authorized rebate certificate must be sent to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

The retail price for the computer is $1,650, not $1,500. To get the rebate or discount, the retail dealer must give you a rebate certificate, which you must complete and mail to the OEM before a specified cut-off date.

It can take from 30 to 180 days, or longer, to get the rebate check. Basically, you don't get your rebate until the OEM decides to send it to you. There is also a possibility the request form may be lost or misplaced, resulting in no rebate. In fact, there are OEMs out there that are hoping you fail to or forget to send in your rebate request, letting them pocket your interest-free money.

This example is typical of the more expensive electronics priced for retail customers.

Some retailers go a step further, pricing a computer system components separately, which requires a customer to submit separate rebate requests for each part: the monitor, the printer, and the computer.

This type of rebate program is nothing less that "retail rip-off."

The manufacturer and retailer are both reaping interest and tax free dollars up front from each customer. The customers will not get their rebates if they miss the short time frame in which to make the request or are not persistent enough to pester the firms to perform. Submitting a request also provides the customer's name, address and phone number to the manufacturer, who can then sell it to telemarketing firms.

Stop giving manufacturers and retailers a "free ride" with your money. Purchase form reputable dealers and manufacturers who are competitive and offer fixed pricing.

Peter Acara, Pine

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