In this age where every transaction is almost instant, a lot of marketing efforts also shifted their way into the digital age. But one marketing relic still exists and a lot of companies still leans on old-school mail-in rebates.
Digital rebates already exist are being offered by a lot of online shops. In hindsight, there should be no more reasons for companies to engage in traditional mail-in rebates. But even in the era where digital advertising dominates as the next big thing, mail-in rebates still exist.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of mail-in rebates. I don’t think anyone like messing with mail-in rebates. They are troublesome to redeem, takes forever to process, and hard to keep track of. But in reality, mail-in rebates are still a thing in the United States. I’ve done them for Macy’s, Kohl’s, and other big-box stores in the past. All to my annoyance mind you, but hey, free money, I guess?
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What Are Rebates?
A rebate is an amount of money returned to a buyer after he or she successfully reached the requirement of a certain purchase. The requirements are usually purchasing an item in a specific period (e.g. get $50 back if you buy on Memorial Day weekend) or in a specific quantity (e.g. get $50 back if you buy 100 pieces).
Unlike discounts (which are presented before payment), rebates are given after purchase, either via cashback or via store credit. Mail-in rebates are usually used in electronics, food, household, and pet products.
What you need to do if you want to claim a rebate is fill out the rebate form after making the required purchase. You will then need to send the form in along with your proof of purchase and UPC code by a certain deadline.
You will then need to mail off everything in person at a post office or drop it into the mailbox.
Third-party rebate processors will check your claim and decide whether your rebate form will be rejected or not.
The process is usually done in about six to eight weeks.
If done right, using rebates is an effective way to save money. But mail-in rebates also require more effort and follow up. If you the mail or rebate check was misdelivered or lost, you would need to follow up with every party from your postman to the company. You also need to keep track and remember the deadline of these things.
With efficient handling, it is a way to save decent money especially on bigger or recurring purchases like a new refrigerator or an annual subscription of air filters.
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5 Reasons Why Companies Love Giving Rebates
These mail-in deals are still popular to deal hunters who want to make every hard-earned penny count. Companies still love giving rebates because of the five reasons listed below:
1. Majority of people usually forget about rebates
Ha! What a rip-off! One of the reasons why companies still send out rebates is the fact that the majority of customers forget to mail in their requirements after the purchase. According to a statement by Consumer World, 60% of rebates are never redeemed. Companies are hoping that their customers will forget to mail rebates, which causes a justifiable rebate rejection. And if the rebates are rejected, the company doesn’t need to release funds at all while still getting their sales numbers.
2. Rebates serve as a push to buy paired items
Another reason why mail-in rebates still exist is to draw customers to make a purchase. There are even products that offer rebates for the full purchase price or up to 80% of the original price, just to entice shoppers into buying.
While rebates can serve as a way to save money, it is also used for making additional sales. Notice that most of the heavily rebated item will usually require additional items. What would you do after getting a great rebate deal on a mattress? When you’re already in their store, might as well buy a foam topper and new bedsheets too, right?
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3. Speeds up inventory turnover
Items under rebate promotions are usually overstocked items or products that did not sell well at full price. Usually, stores will sell these items at a discount. Rebates are also used to reach the customers who won’t make a purchase above a certain price think they are getting a steal deal.
4. Gather personal data to improve marketing strategies
Since most of the rebates require personal information to complete, this information will likely be used as advertising data by the company. Most rebates will explicitly warn users that the company will take user information and use it for marketing strategies. Don’t be surprised if the company will mail you again in the future with their “recommended products.”
5. The delay will keep them from giving the rebate immediately
One of the most frustrating things when it comes to claiming rebates is its long delay. It usually takes a month or more before you know if the rebate was accepted or not.
By the time you get your answer, you might’ve forgotten all about it, or the rebate deadline period has already passed. This delay is actually because rebates are handled by third parties so it usually needs additional processing time. Companies prefer the delay so that they won’t have to release the fund right away, keeping their cash flow higher.
5 Tips To Rebate Like A Pro
A mail-in rebate feels like a dreaded process even to the most frugal of us. All the follow-up, filling out forms, giving out personal information…it makes me feel like I’ve already earned the rebate. In reality, I’ve got 1-3 months before I’ll see a rebate check if it was approved. Here are some tips if you do find a good rebate worth sending in:
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1. Know where to find good rebates
If you’re still determined to save money using rebates, the first thing you need to do is to find great ones. One of the best places to start searching is your Sunday newspaper coupon inserts. Check the stores for promotions, you’ll likely get deals and offers including rebates. Lastly, there are times when you can find items that have rebates while shopping, so always keep an eye for rebates. Online stores usually discount their products directly, but there are also occasional mail-in rebates available.
You can find good mail-in rebate deals using the Slickdeals app or the Dealnews app.
2. Don’t forget your UPC Barcode
The UPC barcode is the numbers located in the box or the packaging of the product. Some rebates require the UPC barcode in order to complete the process, while some rebates do not require it. Just to make sure, check your rebate form for details and fill out the UPC bar code anyway (or cut it from your purchase).
3. Opt for an online cash rebate instead
Online rebates are also available to sites like Newegg and Macy’s. The typical instruction in claiming a rebate is to cut the UPC code from the product, register the rebate on the website, fill out the form and send it via regular mail. You will then have to wait for a few weeks to get your rebates.
Sometimes to prevent popular rebates claims, companies would pull the rebate forms down from their sites. With the form not in the rebate application, your rebate will likely get delayed or rejected. That’s why it’s good practice to print forms from online sources immediately even before deciding if you will go ahead with the purchase.
4. Use mail-in rebates for your next big purchase
The nature of mail-in rebates makes it a pain in the neck for most of the customers. Mail-in rebates shine the brightest if you’re planning on making big purchases (usually in electronics, appliances, or bedding.) If you’re planning to get rebates on small purchases, stack your items, but separate your transactions.
If you have other promotions such as coupons and discounts, make sure to take advantage of those along with the rebates (if you’re allowed to). If you shop with online, you can check out Amazon’s Rebate to see if you can claim rebates on your Amazon items.
5. Make a copy of your files before you mail them
After filling up the form and making sure that every document is inside your envelope, it is time to mail your rebate. But before that, you might want to make a copy of all your documents and keep them in another envelope. After keeping a copy and mailing the original, you should start tracking your rebate. You can do this by using a spreadsheet or other rebate-tracking services.
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Can mail-in rebates save money? – For sure, most of the time if you handle it right!
Is it worth the hassle? Eeeee, well that depends.
If it’s a good rebate deal and you were planning to buy the item anyway, then there’s no reason to not send it in. But a rebate should not be the make it or break it decision to making the purchase. A rebate should only be the icing on top.
These days, a mail-in rebate offer of $5 to $10 dollars off just makes me annoyed. But our refrigerator had a mail-in rebate of $150, which was definitely worth it to send in, just keep in mind to follow up and make sure your rebate comes through.
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Interesting stat that 60% of mail in rebates are not redeemed! I usually try and keep up with them but to be honest I haven’t sent one in, in a while as I don’t see them very often anymore.
Mike - DadSense says
Hi Lily, I think you nailed the biggest reason mail-in rebates still exist…most people never redeem them! I admit I’ve been guilty of this myself due to losing the receipt or just plain old forgetting about it. I have to assume that companies are making enough in increased sales to cover the additional cost of processing the refunds, so until that changes I don’t see mail-in rebates going anywhere.