Sep 29, 2009

Rebate Card Ripoffs

The first rule of Financial Literacy is (are you taking notes?):

Everyone wants your money.

We got some new cell phones last summer. The advertised price was "after rebate" because if they told you that you'd have to front the money, you might not want to buy such a costly phone. So let's say you really like the phone and you agree to the after-rebate price.

Now the fun begins.

The sales representatives gives you reams of paperwork to turn in to get your rebate. You dutifully cut the box apart to send in the code printed on the side. You send in forms, receipts, etc. and now... you wait. Weeks later you get a text message on you phone saying they received your forms. Weeks later still, you get a message saying your rebate is on the way.

On that fateful day, you go to your mailbox to find.... cards? What?

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. You don't really get a rebate, you get a prepaid Visa card that is supposedly good at any merchant who takes Visa. When it's activated. What?

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. You will get instructions with the card that you have to phone a toll-free number to activate your card. Furthermore, you have to know the last 4 digits of the cell phone number to which this card is issued. They'll give you a hint: the last digit.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. If you buy more than one cell phone, be sure that the phone numbers do not end in the same digit. If they do, how will you know which cell phone digits to use to activate which "rebate" card?

Maybe you're a lucky guesser.

And maybe you'll be lucky at the checkout at Walmart, and get a clerk who actually knows how to redeem these dumb things for your purchase. If your card is less than the purchase amount, good luck.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. You are responsible for knowing how much (to the penny) is on your card. If you have forty-two cents on your card, you have to tell the clerk "I have forty-two cents on this card" so she can program in the forty-two cents to deduct it from what you now owe. Hope she figures it out before the card expires.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. AT&T secretly hopes that you'll give up in frustration without redeeming the full amount of your card, because if you let it expire (120 days) before you figure it out, they get to keep the money.


Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Canada doesn't even let AT&T use them. They get checks. Wish our lawmakers were looking out for us as well. Good luck with that.

Everyone wants your money.

Who are you going to hold accountable today?

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