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Consumer Reports says manufacturer's enticing rebates often go unclaimed

Posted Friday, February 23, 2007

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Consumer Reports March issue offers tips to ensure consumers collect their rebate money

Yonkers, NY — Rebates move merchandise and promote new products, so manufacturers like them—especially because they so seldom have to pay out: four of 10 people who qualify for a manufacturer’s rebate never collect, says Consumer Reports in the March issue.

“Rebates are aggravating because they make you work hard for your money” said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports, “It’s easier to do nothing, but if you want your money back you’ve got to get off the sofa and do paperwork—and plenty of it.”

To be sure, rebates claims make consumers work. Consumers must gather the serial number, sticker or label, original receipt, UPC code, and box top; fill out (letter-perfectly) an official rebate form, all by a tight deadline. The last requirement is patience: and after all this, it can take eight to 12 weeks to get the refund.

Fraud is the biggest reason behind the exacting process, but Consumer Reports found some good news: some businesses are streamlining the rebate process. Best Buy, Circuit City, and others, let you apply electronically and check the rebate status online.

Consumer Reports offers the following tips to better your chance of successfully completing a rebate and getting your money back:

  • Read and understand rebate requirements, including deadlines, before making a purchase.
  • Make copies of all rebate materials and put everything in a file folder, in case the company rejects your rebate claim or loses your submission. A paper trail is critical if anything goes wrong. Write down on the cover of the folder in big letters the date when the refund is due.
  • Act quickly. If the rebate form is available online, be sure to print it out immediately after you buy the product. While you may have a few weeks to submit the claim, the official form may be removed from the Web site after the promotional period ends.
  • Submit rebate requests promptly. Don’t wait until the filing deadline. If the company informs you that something’s missing, the extra time will be necessary to gather the requested documentation before the clock runs out. It may sound silly, but also remember to put enough stamps on the envelope, in case the enveloped is oversized.
  • Keep a careful eye out for your rebate check, as it sometimes resembles junk mail.
  • If the rebate doesn’t arrive when promised or at all, contact the company and jot down the name of anyone you speak with. If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, file a complaint with the state’s Attorney General where the company is based or the Federal Trade Commission at or 877-382-4357.
For more information on rebates, the March 2007 issue of Consumer Reports is on sale February 6, wherever magazines are sold.
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