Whenever the Sunday paper arrives, it’s almost always comprised of more circulars and advertisements than actual articles and news. Each of the circulars contain advertisements for some sort of loss-leading products at incredibly low prices to get you to come into their store. Sometimes these great deals can only be had if you pay a higher price in the store and then send in a mail-in rebate and hopefully receive some of the money back later in the mail. This is very common in electronic stores. People see the great deals, go into the store and get the item, but many people never do the extra legwork after the sale to get their rightfully deserved rebate and un-necessarily end up paying much more.
Quite often Best Buy and Circuit City will advertise products that are absolutely free after rebate, it doesn’t seem like this is an economically viable thing to do, but since many people never file the rebate, they still make money by giving away “free” products. Studies that show for a $10 rebate, 90% of individuals will never take the time to file the rebate and get their money back. Business Week also reports that for a $50 rebate, 35% of individuals never take the time to redeem the rebate!
Of the people that take the time to file rebates, many of them never actually cash the check that comes in the mail! The reason for this is that the rebate companies that process the claims specifically design the envelopes that the rebates come in to look exactly like junk mail, so many people accidentally trash them. Inside the industry, rebate companies refer to this as “slippage.” If you’re expecting a rebate in the mail, make sure you look through your mail thoroughly so that you don’t accidentally throw away your rebate check.
Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to file your mail in rebates because companies offering mail-in rebates have a financial incentive for you to not redeem your rebate. There are a few exceptions here and there. Two companies (Staples and Costco) are offering some very user-friendly rebate systems that other companies would be smart to follow. If you’re dealing with a company that makes it a bit more difficult to send in a rebate, make a point of doing it. Be an empowered consumer and don’t let them decide for you that you’re not going to get your rebate back.
If you’re sick of having to mess with companies that force you to use a mail-in rebate to get a decent price, vote with your wallet and go to stores that don’t play the mail-in rebate game. When it comes to electronics, you can often buy the same product online at a competitive price without ever having to mail in a rebate form.
If you purchase a product and it comes with a rebate, put in the time and effort to fill it out. It’s essentially free money if you take the time to reach out and grab it.