By Adrian Morrow
Best Buy and Future Shop are scrapping mail-in rebates at their stores and switching over to instant rebates and discounts.
However, the new policy could result in lower savings for customers as more people cash in with the easier system.
The plan to dump mail-in rebates has been in the works for two years and Best Buy is making the move to save customers the hassle of redeeming them. Mail-in rebates take a long time to redeem and missing a single piece of information can cause you to lose out. Best Buy’s plan is to make rebates available at the time of purchase, negating the need to mail receipts and barcodes to manufacturers.
When Jordan Furness, a fourth-year urban planning student, tried to redeem a mail-in rebate for a memory key and a wireless router, Best Buy redeemed only one of them.
“One I didn’t get because I forgot the UPC,” he said. “There’s always a lot of details you have to include.”
He doesn’t often buy items with rebates attached but said it was still something he’d notice when shopping. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea to get rid of mail-in rebates altogether.
“It might make the value go down if it’s easier to (redeem them),” he said. “It’s a little disappointing in that sense.”
Dan Demaria tried to redeem a rebate and had to wait two months before he heard back. In the end, he got a letter telling him he wasn’t eligible.
“It was more of a hassle than it was worth,” said the second-year radio and television arts student. However, he didn’t think it was a bad idea to keep the mail-in rebates around.
“It’s a hassle, but some people use them,” he said.
While Staples the Business Depot continues to offer mail-in rebates, they’ve been running an online system for the last two years to make it easier to process them. And according to a Staples executive, it hasn’t resulted in fewer deals for customers.
“The actual number of rebates keeps going up, oddly enough,” said Pete Gibel, vice-president of merchandising for Staples.
He said that customers are happier with the new system and that it has resulted in more people redeeming their rebates.
While he said that switching from a mail-in system results in smaller rebates, customers would receive only about 20 per cent less of a discount.
The switch at Staples was motivated by customer complaints about the mail-in process. However, it doesn’t go quite as far as Best Buy’s new service does.
“Four or five years ago, we got a lot of complaints that manufacturers weren’t taking care of (the customers),” he said.