In this post, I joked about the complexity of mail-in rebate forms. It turns out that this is not a joke. It is in fact a deliberate swindle, which I am now quite sorry that I fell for. Ed Foster writes,

the average claim rate on the rebate fulfillment house’s table was about 25 percent.

“Now, here’s the interesting part,” the reader wrote. “The rebate fulfillment house will GUARANTEE IN WRITING to the manufacturer that the percentage of rebates claimed as presented in this table will not be exceeded. They will eat the cost if it is.”

Small wonder then that the rebate house sometimes just can’t see that receipt you’re certain you included in the envelope. If they wind up paying the rebates out of their own pocket, it makes sense to just pay off those who scream the loudest. And small wonder the vendors are tempted to offer these magical discounts on their products. If one rebate fulfillment house won’t guarantee to keep your costs low enough, just use a slightly sleazier one that will.

More on my experience is here. The CompUSA rebate center was particularly hard-nosed. Does CompUSA know that I bought the products there? Of course they do. But they now claim that the rebate requires that I send the UPC code for two products, not just the product on which I was to get the rebate. The fact that I bought both products means nothing. The fact that I am “not in compliance” with their (new) rules is what they rest their case on.

For Discussion. The rebate game is widespread in the computer industry. Is there a tendency for cutthroat practices to emerge in certain types of businesses but not others?