Rebate: A Four-Letter Word
December 15, 2005
In the not too distant past, I made it a point to find myself a solid laptop computer that wouldn't be obsolete in a year but wouldn't dent my pocketbook either. My search ended with a capable VAIO PC for just under $1,000. Better yet, the store threw in a wireless router (which I needed) and a printer (which I didn't) for free. Kind of. After rebates. Several of them. EIGHT, to be exact.
That's right, my $1,000 computer plus freebies actually cost me over $1,400 at the register. Then, after I complete more paperwork than most DMV's see in a week, I will receive my refunds in tiny increments over the course of the next decade. When my new laptop is ready for the trash, the last check should be in my hand.
I'm normally not a sucker for the rebate trick, and I knew the computer was $999 AFTER rebate, but I didn't think they would break down the rebates into increments of $10, $10, $20, $20, $30, $50, $100, and $150. I would feel less violated if I got involved in a pyramid scheme or answered one of those e-mails where some Jamaican prince promises to give me a quick hundred grand if I could just let him use my bank account to hold his millions.
Many people never send in the forms, and others mail them in with the incorrect information ("I'm sorry, sir, you didn't mail the form between 12 to 14 days after the purchase date, AND you included a copy of the PC UPC and the original printer UPC - we asked for the original PC UPC and a copy of the printer UPC"). Arrgh!
In order to avoid such problems, I made a checklist and acted as if I were auditing Enron before sealing any envelopes. But how would I remember if I received a $10 rebate check 3 months later? That's right, I made a spreadsheet, including amounts, product information, date mailed, date received, contact information, etc. This way, when summer rolls around and I realize I never got my $150 back, I'll know who to call.
Overpaying and making rebate spreadsheets is not the way I intended on using my new laptop, but thanks to the rebate scamming world, it was the only way I could ensure I would pay under $1,000 for the computer. Eventually. Until then, I'll keep checking my mail and try to avoid paying interest on so called "$1,000" computer. For the record, the rebates went out in late October. The tally so far? Three checks, five to go!