OT: Rant About Mail-in Rebates For Computer Hardware

As you may know from reading my blog, I buy quite a bit of computer hardware components from places like Micro Center. It is fairly common for items like memory or motherboards to have a mail-in rebate (MIR) offer from the manufacturer. The idea with a MIR is to stimulate sales with the appearance of a lower final price while trying to minimize the rebate redemption rate. If it is too much trouble to jump through all the hoops to submit your rebate, or you simply forget to do it, the manufacturer wins.

This is not a new development. MIRs have always been a painful experience, and many people simply ignore them. Some retailers have stopping offering MIRs, which I think is a great idea. What has changed over the last year or so is how many manufacturers have made the MIR process even more complicated than it used to be. In the past, in order to claim your MIR, you usually just had to fill out a rebate form, cut out the UPC code from the box, include a copy of the receipt, and send all of that in by mail. Then, 6-8 weeks later, you would get your rebate check in the mail. Getting a check let you do anything you wanted with the money, so I typically would deposit it in my savings account.

Over the past year, many manufacturers have switched to a much more complicated system. Now, you have to go to a rebate web site and register your rebate request online. Next, you have to print out the rebate registration form from the web site, along with an address label. You also still have fill out the rebate information on the register receipt, cut out the UPC code from the box, and tape it to the rebate submission form. You also have to cut the address label from the rebate submission form and tape it to your envelope. Then you send all of this off to the manufacturer, and 6-8 weeks later, you get a prepaid debit card. The latest wrinkle on all of this is that you have to call a 1-800 number to activate your prepaid debit card! All of of this is a lot of time and hassle to get a $10-20 rebate card, which basically forces you to buy something else in order to use it, rather than just letting you deposit it in your account.

Obviously, this is not a huge issue in the overall scheme of things. Many people have much bigger problems to worry about. I do feel a little better going on this mini-rant though…

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5 Responses to OT: Rant About Mail-in Rebates For Computer Hardware

  1. sqlninjan says:

    Better out than in Glenn 🙂

  2. Andy says:

    Staples “Easy Rebates” are the exception to this rule. Last time I had to deal with one of those, I had my money within 2 weeks.

    I think the way they do it is Staples fronts you the money, and handles the rebate claim with the manufacturer (or the 3rd party they farm all of this out to) on your behalf. You do it totally online using a code on your receipt – no physical paperwork required.

  3. Oscar Zamora says:

    Glenn, what I do with those prepaid cards, is use them to pay services immediately after I receive them. I have paid (partially) insurance premiums, mobile bills, utilities (that accept Visa/MC) and a few weeks ago I used a $50 card to pay for my Crash plan Cloud backup service. Yes I lost 1 cent, but…

  4. Peter Shire says:

    Glenn, you are on the mark here. These rebate offers are proven to influence point of purchase decisions. What’s sad are the extremely low redemption rates, estimated at single digits by some experts. Everyone thinks it’s the paperwork hassle that holds down redemption rates but when I worked at Microsoft they had a huge promotion offering immediate rebates in the form of enclosed checks. The checks came in three amounts $10, $15 or $25. For example, simply buy Microsoft Works for Windows and deposit the enclosed $25 rebate check. You would think that almost every buyer would cash that check but surprisingly only about 20% did.

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