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Are Mail In Rebates A Scam or A Good Way To Save Money?

Here was another interesting question that I was asked and it had to do about mail-in rebates. I’m sure everyone has seen them as virtually every type of retailer sells a product of some sort that offers the buyer the ability to reclaim some of their funds by mailing out a form with their purchase details. It definitely makes the product sound a lot more attractive price wise as seeing that you have the ability to save say $100 by buying an item now can cause a lot of people to buy it impulsively.

Most people have read horror stories in trying to get their rebate money back and so some people avoid mail-in rebates like the plague. So what is the deal on it? The truth of a matter is that it is publicly known that about 40% of mail-in rebates actually never get redeemed. For the company that was suppose to issue the rebate, that means they now get to keep the funds instead. Let’s pretend a company was supposed to issue about 10 million dollars in rebate money. With 40% not being redeemed, that means the company gets to keep 4 million dollars which is pure profit. So from that point of view, you can see why companies love the idea of offering mail-in rebates.

So what are the reasons for the 40% not being able to claim a mail-in rebate? The most common one is mostly due to laziness. If someone goes out to buy say a router for their computer and saw that they can save $10 with a mail-in rebate, they would normally buy the product with the intent of redeeming it. However, what would usually happen afterwards is that the person determines that it is too much hassle to say fill out the form, give a copy of the receipt and cut out the UPC on the box to justify getting only $10 back. Instead, they just say forget it and don’t even bother.

The other main reason I see on how people fail to redeem a mail-in rebate is that some products have these rather peculiar requirements for you to qualify in being able to take advantage of the rebate which most people only realize after thoroughly reading the fine print. A good example would be say you wanting to upgrade the software you are currently using. While shopping around, you see this tag that says you can save $50 if you are upgrading from an older version with a mail-in rebate. So you buy the product and in the process of filing the rebate you discover that one of the requirements is that you need the original UPC code from the old product’s box. Now what are the odds of someone having that still? Basically, that person would be out of luck.

You can’t really call it a scam I’d say as technically they would have to give it to you if everything was followed which means you do save money. As evident though, it does usually take a long time for one to actually get their money back or in more extreme cases the process to claim it back is so redundant or ridiculous it makes most people give up and so the companies would get to keep the profits. For myself, I’ve actually never had a problem claiming back a mail-in rebate. I think the lowest mail-in rebate amount I ever got back was like $2.50 for a $50 game way back and that arrived in like 7 weeks.

I personally never let mail-in rebate prices affect my purchasing decisions as if you think about it you end up getting less of the rebate value in the long run as having to pay full price at the point of sale means you have to pay more in taxes as well. For me, the product should be at a great price already and the rebate would simply be a bonus. In general, I’m not a big fan of mail-in rebates and the good thing is that a lot of retailers are actually planning to get rid of them as well due to the enormous amount of complaints that it generates. Overall, I think it’s better to find the product at a great price from the beginning without the mail-in rebate as a factor to save money immediately without the hassle.

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