Monday, May 23, 2011

The rebate dance

My car didn't look all that dirty, but I know it's been a long time since I gave it a wash. A bright, sunny Sunday seemed like as good a day as any to have it cleaned. There's a drive-through car wash nearby, so I elected to pop in to clear off the grime that accumulated over the winter and this wet spring.

The place was offering a rebate that takes a third of the price off the most expensive wash. Going all out sounded good to me as I haven't had the car washed for several months. The free use of vacuums to clean out the small pieces of leaves and gravel from the floor is a nice perk of the business too.

I'm handed the rebate form as my car is about to enter the automatic wash. I looked it over as I've handed control of the car to the machine pulling it through. Now I know that rebate forms are often semi-complicated to follow so that those offering the money back don't have to pay it out. This one had a stipulation that I don't recall coming across before, and I thought it was pretty underhanded.

You see, I was going to get the rebate ready to go in the mail on the following day (today), but the rules state that the claim cannot be postmarked no sooner than five days from the purchase. Otherwise the rebate is void. Let me write it out again and bold it for emphasis: the claim cannot be postmarked no sooner than five days from the purchase.

Obviously the idea, as with most rebates, is to secure the purchase but impede the buyer from actually collecting the amount being offered back. Usually the tactic is to have several specific instructions that must be followed to the letter and to make a short window in which the rebate must be sent in. This case strikes me as particularly underhanded. Since there's usually a rush to send these in, writing in a voiding penalty for mailing it right away is sneaky. You know it's there because the longer one waits to send it in, the more likely one is to forget about it.

Translation: don't forget to send this in for those three dollars!

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