Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Rebate’s in the Mail

It’s widely known in the rebate-coupon business that most coupons are not sent back for redemption and that even those customers who painstakingly fill out the required forms and wait weeks on end for their rebate checks oftentimes do not cash them in. Rebates have become a point of contention for many customers, who transfer the blame to retailers. So some retailers, including Best Buy, are getting rid of them despite their proven record of jacking up sales.

Vendors, however, have not abandoned the rebate wagon. But they’re also not making it any easier for customers to cash in.

The other day my mailman left a rather innocuous-looking postcard that could easily be mistaken for junk mail. Indeed, I was about to chuck it when I realized the postcard was in fact a $20 rebate check! Rebate checks normally come in an envelope, with the name of the company prominently displayed. But this postcard had all the appearance of a come-on junk-mail piece. You know the type, the ones that promise you $20 if you agree to sign on for a product or service costing many times the value of the check. The company issuing the rebate printed its name in small letters.

I can’t say for sure why this unnamed vendor chose to send an open $20 check through the mail (all that was needed to cash it was a valid ID, something in this day and age of identity fraud is not too hard to come by), but I will surmise that the company was looking to minimize its cash distribution through the rebate program.

It’s going to take a little longer from now on to sort through my junk mail, now that I’m on to those sneaky marketing folks.

—Murray Forseter

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