If you bought your lawn mower, paint, or computer but never got the promised rebate, you are one of many. The Federal Trade Commission reports that “the problem is huge.”
It may appear that the main function of rebate processors is to find a reason to deny the money-back offer. Rules are often so complicated and vague that most customers don’t even bother. Rebate complaints have risen 400 percent since 2002 according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
To get the rebate you expect:
- Know the terms on the rebate form or store receipt. Ask the retailer to explain the terms.
- Make copies of everything including store receipts, bar codes, forms, product containers, and serial numbers, recommends Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP/Sterling).
- Fill in every blank on the form. If it asks for your email address, for example, say you don’t have one rather than leaving the space blank.
- Act fast. The average time to submit a claim is now 15 to 30 days.
- Use certified mail and ask for a receipt. Fill out all forms in writing to avoid suspicions of mass-mailing fraud.
- Shop where rebates are easy to apply for. Stores like Staples, Cingular, and Costco let customers fill out rebate forms at the checkout or online. Some stores have the rebate form printed out at the end of the sales receipt.
The best idea: Fill out forms carefully immediately after the purchase. Send them along with required proofs that day or the next day.