Are You Losing Money on Rebates?

POSTED: Monday, November 2, 2009 - 8:27am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:59pm

We are attracted to bargains. That's why rebate offers are so popular. Pay one price at the register, and then get money back in the mail. But while it seems simple enough in the store, once you get all those receipts home, the process can get much more complicated.

"The business can set the rules or the restrictions or guidelines they want to around you getting that rebate back. So they can make it challenging for you in hopes that you're not going to get that return," says Sheryl Bilbrey of the Better Business Bureau. While shoppers have good intentions when they buy items with mail in rebates, nearly 25 percent never send them in.

Bilbrey says, "It takes some time. It takes some energy, you get excited about the discount and you lose your four dollar off coupon or you find out it costs more to mail and go through the hoops than it's really worth." The Better Business Bureau hears complaints every year from people who don't get their rebate checks.

Many times the consumer is to blame for not following the rules in the fine print, for mailing the rebate application after the deadline, or for simply giving up. Consumer Reports Todd Marks says that's common. "Many people just can't be bothered, and that's money in the bank for manufacturers which is why they like em so much." Consumer Reports advice? First try to get a good price without a rebate, but if a rebate is offered, get ready to do some work.