Annoying Mail In Rebates…

MIR they call it… That’s “peace” in Russian… But there’s no peace with the mail-in rebates.

Hate them! Not only me, I guess. Feels like a scam, or, for the least, a free loan that someone takes from me. Why can’t they just give a discount?

Well, here’s why.

There are several things that make the MIR’s better for the seller than just giving a discount. Knowing these benefits (to the seller…) will allow you using this thing wisely and most beneficially.

1. It feels like a discount. Look at the product price tag, you’ll see the (after rebate!) price in a very large font, with small letters “after rebate”. First thing people notice is that they pay less. That makes them buy. And then deal with the rebate, which leads to the rest of the list.

2. People forget. You bought something because of the rebate, but then you forgot to fill the forms, or mail them or whatever. +1 to the seller, one person less to give discount to. Don’t forget to send the rebate forms.

3. People make mistakes. The thing with the mail-in rebates is that they get forfeited if there’s a mistake in the form, and it’s so easy to make mistakes… Spell the item wrong, check the wrong checkbox, forget to attach the receipt or forget to circle the item on it, or …. Many many rebates are not being paid because of mistakes. Check your forms before mailing, don’t make mistakes.

4. People forget the attachments. In order for the rebate claim to be valid, you should attach some things to prove that you indeed purchased the item, and didn’t return it. Usually it’s the item UPC code – that bar code printed on the package, that the cashier scans at the register. People often forget to cut it out and put it in the envelope. Also, sometimes there are additional requirements: You should attach the original receipt, or a special rebate receipt you might have gotten, or something else. Make sure you read the fine print on the rebate form carefully and check several times that you’ve attached everything that was required.

5. People mail too late. Or too early. For each mail in rebate sale, there’s a specific range of dates on which it is valid. There’s a range of dates during which you should have bought the item, and the last date to mail the forms. Make sure you send the forms on time, don’t miss the last postmark date allowed.

6. People claim multiple rebates. Here there are two pitfalls: a. Usually the amount of items per household (=address) is limited. That is something the sellers cannot do with an instant discount. b. Usually you are only allowed to put a single rebate form per envelope. ForĀ  several items (if allowed) – you will probably have to send the rebate form for each separately. Make sure you know exactly the quantity limit of items per household, and never put more than one form per envelope.

7. Rebates take time. There’s nothing much you can do about it, usually it takes 2-3 months to get the mail-in rebate check back. Does it take 2-3 months to process the forms? Definitely not. A week, maybe 2. So why does it take so long? Because they can. In the mean time – they have the money, and you might have forgotten all about it and will throw away the check with all your regular spam mail. Keep notes of your rebates, and verify you receive them.

8. People don’t use the rebate. Rebates can come in different forms. The usual are a gift card, a prepaid credit card or a check. All have expiration date, the check will usually expire after 2-3 months, credit card will probably expire after 3 months, etc. Make sure to use the rebate (deposit the check, use the gift/credit card) before it expires. In case of credit card, it is also possible to have several cents left on it because you usually buy something that doesn’t cost the exact amount of the rebate, you’ll have some change left. To avoid that, use it when you buy something for more than the amount of the rebate, and ask the cashier to use 2 cards – first the rebate card, emptying it, and then your usual card for the difference. Otherwise you’ll just leave the remainder on that rebate card for the seller to keep, gift from you.

If you’re careful, and check everything twice – you can get some bargains with the mail-in rebates. But I prefer the instant discount, where possible.

Your Little Advisor.

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