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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mail-In Re-Bait

I'm at the computer store, trying to ignore customer after customer complain about why they have to send in mfr's mail-in rebates to get the sale price printed in the store's flyer. So, to alleviate my misery, I shall explain to all you "special" people out there the mystery of why mail-in rebates exist.

Mail-in rebates are like weapons of mass destruction: they're man-made; they were invented by assholes; and they both serve a single purpose. In the case of a mail-in rebate it’s FALSE ADVERTISING.

Manufacturers like HP, Brother, Microsoft and Lexmark use them so they can advertise unrealistically low prices for their products. Morons look at large, brightly coloured numbers in various fliers and think, "I'm gonna buy one of those even though I don't need any more crap in my life."

Then they waft over to closest mega electronics retail establishment to find out that insanely low price they saw in the flyer is only valid after 17 mail-in rebates. Then they get pissed off. (God forbid they actually READ the flyer before they come to the store.) But the advertisement served its purpose and the person is in the store, grudgingly purchasing stuff that will eventually reside in the local landfill.

The other reason mail-in rebates are so beloved by manufacturers is because most people never redeem them anyway. That results in manufacturers never having to sell their products for less than full price. Even if you do bother to spend the time and money sending your rebate off, you may never get it for many reasons including: it was "lost" in the mail; rejected due to some vague restriction in the fine print of the coupon; they didn’t get the correct barcode; or the rebate fulfillment house just didn't bother sending it hoping you'd forgot after the ridiculous eight weeks it takes them to cut a cheque.

And after waiting eight weeks and your rebate fails to arrive, what are you gonna do about it? Protest? Sue? In Canada, it would cost approximately $1000 to retain a lawyer to look at any small claims case. In the US, no lawyer would waste his time trying to sue for $100 or less. So you lose and the manufacturer wins.

A business only exists to generate profits and mail-in rebates are an ingenious way to advertise a sale without actually selling anything at a sale price. It’s a legal scam like auto insurance. So, next time you are vexed or confused about mail-in rebates, don't rant to the salesman in front of you because:

a) they don't care.
b) there's nothing they can do about it anyway.
c) they really don't care.

Now you know all about mail-in rebates and knowing is half the battle.

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