As you may know from reading my blog, I buy quite a bit of computer hardware components from places like Micro Center. It is fairly common for items like memory or motherboards to have a mail-in rebate (MIR) offer from the manufacturer. The idea with a MIR is to stimulate sales with the appearance of a lower final price while trying to minimize the rebate redemption rate. If it is too much trouble to jump through all the hoops to submit your rebate, or you simply forget to do it, the manufacturer wins.
This is not a new development. MIRs have always been a painful experience, and many people simply ignore them. Some retailers have stopping offering MIRs, which I think is a great idea. What has changed over the last year or so is how many manufacturers have made the MIR process even more complicated than it used to be. In the past, in order to claim your MIR, you usually just had to fill out a rebate form, cut out the UPC code from the box, include a copy of the receipt, and send all of that in by mail. Then, 6-8 weeks later, you would get your rebate check in the mail. Getting a check let you do anything you wanted with the money, so I typically would deposit it in my savings account.
Over the past year, many manufacturers have switched to a much more complicated system. Now, you have to go to a rebate web site and register your rebate request online. Next, you have to print out the rebate registration form from the web site, along with an address label. You also still have fill out the rebate information on the register receipt, cut out the UPC code from the box, and tape it to the rebate submission form. You also have to cut the address label from the rebate submission form and tape it to your envelope. Then you send all of this off to the manufacturer, and 6-8 weeks later, you get a prepaid debit card. The latest wrinkle on all of this is that you have to call a 1-800 number to activate your prepaid debit card! All of of this is a lot of time and hassle to get a $10-20 rebate card, which basically forces you to buy something else in order to use it, rather than just letting you deposit it in your account.
Obviously, this is not a huge issue in the overall scheme of things. Many people have much bigger problems to worry about. I do feel a little better going on this mini-rant though…