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Arrgh

A while ago I finally caved to the pressure and got a cell phone. Yes, it can be convenient and so on – leave me alone, I got one, didn’t I? I chose a provider pretty much at random (well, not entirely) because they’re equally out to screw you overall and it doesn’t make that much of a difference. At least not when you read enough customer reviews, where half of them are singing the praises of this company and berating all the other ones and the other half are bilious rants of near-transcendent hate and rage almost lyrical in their gibbering antipathy against that same company’s service. And it doesn’t matter which provider you’re researching.
Anyway, as part of the deal to hook you, this company was offering a rebate of $50 on the purchase of the phone with the 2-year-plan. Fine and dandy. But of course they couldn’t just hand me the money or, you know, not charge me for it in the first place. No, no, that’s not how it’s done. There’s a mail-in component to this rebate, a long-held tradition whereby the seller quotes you the price after rebate on the box in order to sucker you into thinking you’re getting a bargain. Then you pay full price but you get the fantastic opportunity of filling out a form in fine print, participating in a Schnitzeljagd/treasure hunt for the bar code and receipt and whatever other pieces of paper they require – careful with those scissors on the cardboard now – and sending all of this off to some place in Texas. And then you get your money.

If you remember to do it before a certain date that is. Because naturally your friendly seller, when offering you this fabulous bargain of a rebate, is hoping you’ll forget to send it off and so pay them full price under the illusion of having gotten a bargain. But hey, that’s how business works, and if you don’t like it you should stop buying stuff and move to Nebraska or somewhere nicely isolated like that. If you don’t play their game, you’re not a good consumer and that makes you a bad American.

Having resigned myself to the mail-in rebate thing a long time ago, I was all ready for my rebate. I filled out the form, cut out the bar code, found the copy of the receipt, made a copy of all of these materials for my own records (always recommended in the fine print, don’t you know), and spent 39 cents on postage in the happy anticipation that I would get my $50 rebate in 6 to 8 weeks.

Ha.

Let’s not even go into the waiting period. At least there I have the chance of a happy surprise when I find a check in my mailbox that I had forgotten I was getting. But did these nice people at Cingular Rebate send me a check? No, that would have been too easy. They sent a Visa rebate debit/credit card instead. One that I then had to activate and that was supposed to be easy to use. Except that I got rejected at the very next store I tried to use it.

Yes, if you try and make a purchase that is over $50, and want to split this between the rebate card and another credit card, you must ask the cashier to first deduct the amount over $50 and pay that with your alternate means and then you can use the rebate card for the remaining $50 balance. Yeah, right.

Ganesha was in the same situation, also having gotten such a rebate card. He tried to buy an Amazon gift card. No there’s a $1 charge pending on the rebate card and nothing is happening and he has no gift card. Easy to use, is it? Ha. The scam here is clearly that they are hoping to force you to buy something that costs less than $50 and then whatever rest amount remains, say a dollar or 50 cents, will become impossible to spend with the card and they get to keep it. Free money from you, how nice.

We are on a mission to find something that costs exactly $50 and not a cent more or less. It’s harder than you would think, what with our obsession of pricing everything with the 95 or 99 cents range at the end. That’s a whole other trick to get you to think the price is lower than it is.

Man, they should have just sent me a check or not offered a damn rebate at all. This kind of nickel and diming, underhanded attempt to squeeze a few extra pennies out of the consumer is just so much more bullshit. And frankly, there’s enough of that in life already. Thanks, Cingular and Visa!

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2 Responses

  1. Hi – found your blog while reading general b*tching about rebate card online, I just got one too & had never seen before – somebody at another blog had a good idea, said to take it to the gas pump & put in the exact amount of gas. Don’t know if $50 will fit in what you drive but you could split it between two tanks. Anyway I have a $30 card I plan to put in the gas tank next week, taking a grim satisfaction in thwarting what seems to be a clear plan to reduce the amount of rebate dollars Cingular actually returns –

    hth

  2. Hey, thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, at least for any successful implementation of your idea, I do not own a car. So I’ll need to find some other kind of gift card with which to try and wrest the full $50 from the Cingular rebate card.

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