The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mail-In Rebates are Evil

Mail-In Rebates (or MIR) are becoming the scourge of our modern economic society. Retail businesses are increasingly using MIR as a means to attract buyers by promising significant savings. However, MIR is also a cowardly way for manufacturers (and now retailers) to exploit consumers' weakness. The problem with MIR is that the onus is on the customer to collect the saving post-purchase. Most of the time, the customer either forgets to submit the MIR application, or he can't be bothered to follow through with the MIR process. In fact, this is what the vendors are counting on and that's why the MIR sales tactic is so attractive to them - MIR draws in the buyers but the vendors still benefit from the full purchase price - they can have their cake and eat it, too!

In case the subtlety is lost on you, let me rephrase the above for you in terms that you can understand: You are being ripped off through a deceitful and manipulative scheme.

Failing to submit the MIR application is not the only way the vendors get to keep your promised savings. Even after you submit the MIR documents, and after the requisite waiting period (typically six weeks or so), the rebate cheque may be delayed. It is up to you to chase after the delinquent rebate cheque! And that's if you even remember that you are owed the rebate. All too often, the rebate cheque never arrives, supposedly due to some "clerical error" at the fulfillment comany, or due to some error on your part.

Not too long ago, I complained to a sales person at Futile Shop that MIR is a genuine nuisance for consumers. He replied that unfortunately this is how manufacturers choose to do business - by adopting MIR and passing the savings on to customers via the retailers. The retailers have no control.

Unfortunately, this devious gimmick is no longer limited to just manufacturers. Recently, I discovered that major retailers are starting to employ this unethical business practice. The Canadian computer direct marketer, MDG, is a case in point...

In early 2006, MDG began offering their computers at significantly reduced prices. However, this is AFTER Mail-In Rebate. What is striking about this example is that MDG are both the manufacturer AND the retailer for their own products. This begs the question: Why are they foisting MIR on you when they could just as easily give you the immediate price discount at the store???

The answer is obvious. They stand to gain from the full purchase price when a large portion of their customers are too forgetful or too inconvenienced to avail themselves of the MIR. How sneaky is that?

MIR is growing like a cancer. It is reaching epidemic proportions. Pretty soon, MIR will be employed everywhere and it will be impossible to extricate ourselves from this insidious business practice.

I strongly encourage the public to fight against Mail-In Rebates by boycotting, or complaining to, retailers who use this slimy sales tactic. We must nip this trend in the bud. And you should avoid making purchasing decisions based on MIR - when doing price comparisons, ignore the price after MIR. Understand that MIR is a potential saving, not a sure thing. Understand that the saving is contingent upon you following through with the troublesome process.

Understand that MIR is a devious gimmick to rip most of you off. It is unethical. And it is evil.

Here is a good discussion of Mail-In Rebates.


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