Rebate Nonsense

My family wanted some new phones. I ended up purchasing four of them. To ensure compatibility, I bought them from our wireless network carrier Verizon. Each phone came with a $50 rebate. So the price was not that high for the phones, or so I thought. I filled out all the paperwork as soon as I got home from the store. Then I received rebate cards in the mail. These are supposed to be debit cards I can use like any VISA. What a hassle.

I just want my money rebated from the company. There is a way to do this with the rebate cards. However I had to go online and create an account for each of the four debit cards. Only then was I able to request a check for the proceeds. Right now I am still waiting for these checks to arrive.

Now I think I understand what is going on. On the whole, there are going to be some people who will not follow through with the rebate. Then the company gets to keep the money. They also get to hold on to the money paid up front for those that follow through with the rebate. It is like the consumer is floating the company a short term loan. This might make a little business sense.

I look at this from the good customer’s viewpoint, namely me. You are not fooling me with the rebate discount. I know how much I paid for the phone. Each time I have to mess with the hassle of getting my money back through the rebate, I get more frustrated. And guess who I blame this frustration on? You guessed it – the company that made me go through this in the first place.

This reminds of another story where I fell for a trick from the local Best Buy. They had a huge rebate on some merchandise they wanted to move. It turned out that I was never able to obtain the official rebate forms. What did I do? I never shopped at that store again. They just lost a customer with deep pockets. I figure that if enough people do this, the bad ones will go out of business, making the world a better place.

Here is my advice to retailers. Build any discounts into the purchase price. If you must lower prices via a rebate mechanism, apply the rebate automatically at the point of sale. You might be fooling some of your customers. But you are not fooling me. If you gamble with some difficult rebate games, you may end up losing a valuable customer such as myself.