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Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie

How to Collect Your Mail-In Rebates...
...Even Though They Don't Want You To


I am a mail-in rebate junkie. I have saved thousands of dollars through rebate offers. It's a great way to get products at a reduced price, or sometimes even free! But I often question whether it's worth my time. And apparently, I'm not alone. Web sites show that there is a high degree of universal frustration with the mail-in rebate process.

But that's exactly what makes the mail-in rebate process so rewarding and exciting! The harder it is, the more discouraging it is for most people, and therefore fewer people wind up filing for or getting the rebates. And if fewer people get them, that means that the companies can afford to be more generous in the rebates that they offer -- a bonanza for the true mail-in rebate warriors such as ourselves. So after years of climbing the rebate learning curve, I've decided to share my experiences, so that all of my fellow rebate junkies can benefit. Here are the cardinal rules of getting your share of the free money:

Only deal with reputable, established companies when filing mail-in rebates.
Several years ago, a website called CyberRebates.com offered some ridiculous rebates (for example, you pay $350 for a mini refrigerator, then apply for a mail-in rebate for $350, and when the check comes you get a free refrigerator). But when CyberRebates went bankrupt they quit paying the rebates, and left several customers with an overpriced $350 minifridge.

Always study the rebate offer carefully, and look for loopholes that the company can climb through.
Some rebates may have already expired, or may apply only to certain unavailable products. Study the rebate form carefully before buying the product. If the box says, "$30 Rebate! Details Inside," walk away. You won't like the details once you get inside the box. If a salesman is pressuring you to buy a rebate product and won't let you get a good look at the rebate application and terms, walk away.

Follow the rebate instructions to the letter.
If it says "circle the price paid and the date of purchase on the receipt," then circle them. Failure to do so could cause them to decide that your rebate submission is "noncompliant" and they may not pay you.

On the other hand, it never hurts to try.
I inadvertently threw away the box and rebate documentation for a $30 box of software. Upset and angry with myself, I wrote a letter to the software manufacturer, explaining that I threw the box away, asking that they honor the rebate anyway, and sent them all the documentation that I could (receipt, photocopy of the disk) to prove that I actually bought the product. Much to my surprise, a $30 check arrived a few weeks later! Who knows? Give it a shot.

Always photocopy or scan the filled-out rebate form and all the supporting documentation, including the all-important UPC code.
Keep the copies. If you've got access to a scanner, scanning is better, as it requires less space and you can send electronic copies of your documentation if you need to e-mail anything.

Keep a log of all your mail-in rebates.
I do this with a separate account on my Quicken financial software, but this can be done with an Excel spreadsheet, or even the old-fashioned way, on a piece of paper. Your rebate log should include:

- The date that you sent the rebate application
- The name of the rebating company
- The amount of the rebate, and
- The website or phone number that the company generally provides to check on the rebate status.

Cross out each rebate in your log when you've received and cashed the rebate check.
You can forget about it after that.

Review your log at least once a month.
(Don't rely on the company to notify you if you didn't qualify for the rebate.) If there are any outstanding rebates that are over two months old:
- Call the phone number or go to the web site and inquire.
- Keep a record of all the contacts you make about that rebate, including the date the contact was made and who contact was made with.
- Keep a copy of e-mails.
- Beware of the "Contact Us" page on the rebating company's web site, which may not allow you to easily make a copy of your message to the company. (Very tricky, these "customer service" departments.)
- If necessary, be sure to copy and paste your message into your word processing software and save it, before sending the message.

If you get an e-mail or postcard notification telling you that your rebate is denied because you didn't send all the correct supporting documentation:
Re-submit copies of all the paperwork (including the all-important UPC code) with a polite letter demanding your rebate.
This second submission almost always seems to work.

Another option if your rebate submission is ignored, delayed, or turned down, and if you bought the product at a local store:
Go the the store and enlist their help in collecting the rebate. I went to one store where I bought some software, showed them the completed rebate form and paperwork, and complained that the manufacturer wasn't making good on their rebates. I expected the store's help in lighting a fire under the manufacturer. Instead, to my surprise, the store manager went to the cash drawer and handed me my $10 rebate in cash! I've been a loyal customer since.

In the rare event that your repeated attempts to get your valid rebate paid are completely and ruthlessly ignored, then:
- Go to Google.com.
- Search the name of the company that offered the rebate. Find their corporate address and the name of their Chairman, President, and/or Chief Executive Officer.
- Then search on Google.com for "[INSERT THE HOME STATE WHERE THE COMPANY HEADQUARTERS IS LOCATED] Department of Consumer Affairs". With a little sleuthing, you should be able to find the name, address, and telephone number of the consumer affairs department for that state.
- File a complaint against the rebating company with the state's Department of Consumer Affairs. With any luck, they'll have an on-line consumer complaint form.
- THIS IS IMPORTANT: Be sure to mail a copy of the complaint form to the rebating company's Chairman, President, and/or Chief Executive Officer, along with a polite note that says you regret that you've had to file this complaint due to their nonresponsiveness. Include your phone number; for some reason they almost always want to call you (rather than write or e-mail) after they get this letter.
- Be sure to keep a copy of the complaint for yourself.
- This is the "nuclear option." In my experience it has never failed.

Never be discouraged, and don't let the small handful of shady retailers, manufacturers and rebate fulfillment houses get your down. There are some great rebate deals out there; now let's go get them!


Anyone have any other tips?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
tnguyen80 added:
1. I do agree with 911 that scanning everything is the perfect way to keep record. The way I do it, I scanned everything and keep it there. When I received the rebate, I just go back and rename the file as "Received" or "Clear" If you are the person that has a diskspace crisis, which I highly doubt, then you can delete the file after you get the money.

2. In regard to keeping the log, I'd recommend to include the estimate deliver date, so that you can group many rebates into one estimated date. If by that date and you haven't received some of the rebates as expected, you can save one day to take care of everything such as resubmitting, making phone calls... That way, it helps to organize our schedules easier.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HTN added:
Not sure if the following tips helped in securing my rebates or not, but thought I would pass them along too. 100% success rate so far, probably because I stayed away from the questionable resellers and rebate offers.

1. Always PRINT your name & address info in UPPER CASE. (Easier for them to read.)
2. Even with in-store rebate receipt/form attached, I also include copy of completed on-line form. (Some of these in-store rebate receipt barely have enough room to write anything.)
3. Even with rebates requesting original UPC, I always put a copy of UPC along with sales receipt. (Sort of telling rebate company I have copies so don't mess with my rebate.)
4. On copy of sales receipt, I circle important information like purchase date and items purchased including adding additional info like SKU# and UPC#.
5. I feed my envelopes thru the laser printer to print out the sender/receiver address. (Minimize the chances of USPS not being able to read my handwriting. I probably can take this one step further and printout the destination bar code for them.)
6. Of course, I scan everything that I submit for future reference. (Only thing I don't like is scanning those long in-store rebate forms. a section at a time on a flatbed scanner. )
7. Regarding how to attach the original UPC, I always stack and staple everything to top left hand corner. UPC code first, rebate form second, and copy of sales receipt last.

OK, so I may be a little paranoid when it comes to submitting rebates. I'm not giving these guys any excuses to invalidate my rebate submission.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you find this list useful, you can copy and paste to your notepad and save it for future reference.


Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
Rebate! Rebate! is OK but does anyone have usefull ideas for how to use to track multiple rebates for one product. I mea... (more)

trayfer (May. 21, 2005 @ 11:53a) |

use the other option mentioned...excel spreadsheet. that's what i use, and it works very well. all rebate submssions sen... (more)

sc0rpio (May. 21, 2005 @ 1:46p) |

Good tips Sc0rpio! I think I'll outsource my rebate processing to you. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.g... (more)

MeBeDealing (May. 27, 2005 @ 2:58p) |

Quick Summary is created and edited by users like you... Add FAQ's, Links and other Relevant Information by clicking the edit button in the lower right hand corner of this message.
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Thanks 911. Good info!!

thx alot...this will come in handy

thanks...i've always been weary of MIRs. i mean, the deal is: pay up now, and then hope to get it back later. but this article is encouraging.

thanks op

good write-up... very encouraging to MIRers

Excellent guidance, 911!
Some folks may want to take a look at a free "rebate tracking" software program called "Rebate! Rebate!". I've been using it for about a year and have found it to be very helpful in organizing/tracking rebates. I have nothing to do with the software...other than being a satisfied user.
It can be downloaded HERE directly from PCWorld's website.
Hope someone finds it helpful. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif" border=0>

i think this must be suited better in deal discussion.

Lorriev said: [Q]Excellent guidance, 911!
Some folks may want to take a look at a free "rebate tracking" software program called "Rebate! Rebate!". I've been using it for about a year and have found it to be very helpful in organizing/tracking rebates. I have nothing to do with the software...other than being a satisfied user.
It can be downloaded HERE directly from PCWorld's website.
Hope someone finds it helpful. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif" border=0>

Thanks. I downloaded it. It looks good and has many options.

Count26 said: [Q]i think this must be suited better in deal discussion.

I thought about that. But I felt more people would see it here.

But hey, it got bumped anyway......<img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif" border=0>

Thanks for the info. I've been keeping track, but always thought I could do a better job. This made for a very interesting read.

Very nice work you have there Mr. 911
I'd like to just add in a couple comments that I think it may help from my personal experiment.

1. I do agree with 911 that scanning everything is the perfect way to keep record. The way I do it, I scanned everything and keep it there. When I received the rebate, I just go back and rename the file as "Received" or "Clear" If you are the person that has a diskspace crisis, which I highly doubt, then you can delete the file after you get the money.

2. In regard to keeping the log, I'd recommend to include the estimate deliver date, so that you can group many rebates into one estimated date. If by that date and you haven't received some of the rebates as expected, you can save one day to take care of everything such as resubmitting, making phone calls... That way, it helps to organize our schedules easier.

I hope this helps to some extent. If any of these two is appealing enough to you, you may add them onto your list Mr. 911 Thanks again for the advises, and good luck to FWers

great post and great replies. if this was in hot deals, you deserve a green positive!!!

Thanks. Good information.

I second the nomination for 'Rebate! Rebate!'. It is a great tracking program. I've tracked over 60 rebates with the program for a total of just over $1500. With the tracking abilities, I have received every single one of the rebates that I have sent.I am quite pleased with the program.

insure your mail in rebate at the post office for the amount of the rebate. if your rebate gets denied because of UPC label not included(knowing that u submitted it) then u can claim the USPS insurance.

jaxkewl said: [Q]insure your mail in rebate at the post office for the amount of the rebate. if your rebate gets denied because of UPC label not included(knowing that u submitted it) then u can claim the USPS insurance.

I don't this is going to work.

If you get a MIR rejected sometimes going to the B&M and complaining helps get it resolved on the spot.

jaxkewl said: [Q]insure your mail in rebate at the post office for the amount of the rebate. if your rebate gets denied because of UPC label not included(knowing that u submitted it) then u can claim the USPS insurance.

Good luck with that one. Have you actually done this?

bozo007 said: [Q]jaxkewl said: [Q]insure your mail in rebate at the post office for the amount of the rebate. if your rebate gets denied because of UPC label not included(knowing that u submitted it) then u can claim the USPS insurance.
I don't this is going to work.I'm sure you'll be able to buy the insurance, but there's no way in heck you'll be able to make a successful claim.

As Homer Simpson discovered, insurance only covers actual losses, not made-up stuff. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif" border=0>

its what i read from other threads about not getting your money for your valid rebates. no personal expereience. all my MIR seemed to go through except 1.

Since 2001 I have done over $10,000 in rebates. I've gotten all that I fought for. Some I just don't care about. But definitely make copies or scans.

thanks op...nice advice!!

I don't know about doing the second mailing if the rebate is denied on the first. I called instead, and got the rebate approved twice out of twice.

I am replying about a related field because I think I have useful info. I had some time on my hands and started sending for the free gift cards you see everywhere. (They're real spammers.) About 25% didn't come until I reported the company to the BBB. (Look up Official Thread for Complaints.) I may get them all! I'm still waiting on a few or haven't complained yet. And these were companies who didn't even reply to my emails. I had 10 complaints out of 40.

overclock said: [Q]Since 2001 I have done over $10,000 in rebates. I've gotten all that I fought for. Some I just don't care about. But definitely make copies or scans.jeebus! I thought I was bad and have only done 1/2 that in the same period. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif" border=0>

The only rebate that i've had unpaid is IOMagic. And that was despite a lot of work. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-mad.gif" border=0> In the scheme of things, 99.4% is still a great amount back.

OfficeMax is generally the worst (not manufacturer, but the "extra" rebates) and those are the cause of at least 80% of the follow up I have to do (and i'm patient... 16 weeks is when I start complaining unless I get a rejection email/postcard). Best Buy is worthless for trying to get assistance with rebates. Fry's had the most flaky offers, but at least corporate paid all the unpaid rebates I submitted to them.

I'm not really complaining, over 90% of all the rebates I submit come within a reasonable amount of time (on time or a little late) with no follow-up necessary. And the majority of the problems are minor and solved with either an email or quick call.

I got $54 of rebate checks in the mail today <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif" border=0>

Not sure if the following tips helped in securing my rebates or not, but thought I would pass them along too. 100% success rate so far, probably because I stayed away from the questionable resellers and rebate offers.

1. Always PRINT your name & address info in UPPER CASE. (Easier for them to read.)
2. Even with in-store rebate receipt/form attached, I also include copy of completed on-line form. (Some of these in-store rebate receipt barely have enough room to write anything.)
3. Even with rebates requesting original UPC, I always put a copy of UPC along with sales receipt. (Sort of telling rebate company I have copies so don't mess with my rebate.)
4. On copy of sales receipt, I circle important information like purchase date and items purchased including adding additional info like SKU# and UPC#.
5. I feed my envelopes thru the laser printer to print out the sender/receiver address. (Minimize the chances of USPS not being able to read my handwriting. I probably can take this one step further and printout the destination bar code for them.)
6. Of course, I scan everything that I submit for future reference. (Only thing I don't like is scanning those long in-store rebate forms. a section at a time on a flatbed scanner. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-frown.gif" border=0>
7. Regarding how to attach the original UPC, I always stack and staple everything to top left hand corner. UPC code first, rebate form second, and copy of sales receipt last.

OK, so I may be a little paranoid when it comes to submitting rebates. I'm not giving these guys any excuses to invalidate my rebate submission. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif" border=0>

" i think this must be suited better in deal discussion. "

Where was it before? I thought it would work for the rebate forum. DD has info at the top of the forum.
http://www.fatwallet.com/t/24/314746/


I have never had problems with 99% of my rebates... The best rebates are from Dell, Staples, HP and canon...

Rebate! Rebate! is OK but does anyone have usefull ideas for how to use to track multiple rebates for one product. I mean this is FW and we generally double, triple or quadruple dip? The only way I found is to subtract the rebates from original price as you enter (as if you had received them already) Otherwise if you bought a HP2550n with three rebates (OD$60,OD$150,HP$175) and enter the full purchase price each time, it appears in the statistics that you paid three times as much as you actually did and if you subtract rebates not received to keep dollar data correct it appears that your savings are off. Any help on this one?

Thanks,
Michael

use the other option mentioned...excel spreadsheet. that's what i use, and it works very well. all rebate submssions sent, received, and overdue are all viewable at a glance. here are the column headings i use:

Store Purchased
Item
Item Cost <-- My net cost (after coupons/shipping/tax, but before rebate)
Rebate Amount
Date Rebate Sent
Date Rebate Due
Date Received

- for each new rebate entry, i insert a new row at the top of the list. this makes it easier to browse through. otherwise if you had 1000 rebate entries, you'll have to scroll down to the 1001st cell for a new entry. not convenient.
- once a rebate is received, i select the row and use a grayed-out fill pattern which allows the text below it to be viewable.
- if i notice a rebate is overdue, i use a pinked-out fill pattern and follow it up by contacting the rebate center. currently, i have 3 rebates totaling $70 that are overdue.
- i don't bother entering rebate phone numbers or website addresses. if i have to follow up because it's overdue, i'll have to refer to the rebate scan anyway, so i'll view it then.

i've been using this method for about a year. i tried hard to appreciate the rebate rebate program, but it was a bit time consuming to do each item...especially if an item had multiple rebates. i call this excel file 'Rebate Status'. it is on my desktop and start menu for easy access.

- i scan in black and white to keep the file sizes small.
- i compress the multiple scans (rebate(s), receipt, upc) into a single zip file.
- i name the file like this: Store - Item Year-Month, i.e., Staples - Samsung Laser 2005-04.zip
- these zip files are in my documents > rebates
- when rebates are received, i put them in my documents > rebates > received
- when rebates are overdue, i put them on my desktop in a folder called 'overdue rebates.' i add a text file to the zip documenting what i did to resolve the issue. like when i called/emailed, who i talked to, and what i need to do next.
- i use my new samsung laser to print out the envelopes with the delivery bar code:
word > tools > envelopes and labels

Good tips Sc0rpio! I think I'll outsource my rebate processing to you. <img src="i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif" border=0>



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