The Rebate Scam – The finale

Well, the saga finally comes to a close … the bank cashed my rebate cheque today.  Since all the other information was accurate, and the first name was just a typo out, they didn’t have a problem honouring the cheque, which was nice.

In the end though, it doesn’t really change the bad taste in my mouth around the whole experience.  I still think its a ‘scam’ that represents a predatory marketing scheme to advertise a price that the customer can’t get without 10 weeks of waiting.  My issue here isn’t so much with the practice of offering mail-in rebates … if companies want to use that as a marketing tool, I have no real issue with it.  My problem is in the way that translates into in-store advertising of certain products, with low after-rebate prices highlighted, and the actual at-till prices downplayed … offering a rebate isn’t an issue for me (though instant discounts really ARE the best way to entice customers without bad feeling) if customers picking the product up in the store are properly prepared for the price that will ring up at the till.  That means that when mail-in rebates are offered, the price at the till needs to be at least as prominent as the after-rebate price to ensure theres no confusion.

The fact that few people actually end up applying for the rebates does trouble me, but ultimately thats an issue of individual choice.  I DO question the morality of companies that would actually exploit that tendency in people in this way, but if the information is clear to me in the store, thats a choice thats entirely in my control and I can choose not to deal with those companies for moral reasons.  I think the whole idea of mail-in rebates is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, and I seriously question the morality both of the idea of mail-in rebates, and the way its advertised in-store.  I expect to know, without having to search, what i should expect to pay for an item at the till … at the very least, stores should be required to make the ACTUAL till price at least as prominent as the rebate price.


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