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Consumer Reports

How to improve your odds of collecting on a rebate | (KRT) Industry professionals, consumer advocates and veteran shoppers have these tips for improving your odds of collecting on rebate claims:

Before you leave the store, make sure the UPC code is still on the box. At stores that sell returned merchandise, the UPC code may already have been used for a rebate, making your request ineligible.

Test the product to make sure it works before sending in the rebate.

Read the rules carefully. Some require you to circle the product on the receipt. Others have strict deadlines. Make sure you've included the right mailing address. "Follow instructions to a T," said Linda Badger, a staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. "Sometimes they ask for the original UPC code. Other times, the serial number."

Make sure you get enough receipts when buying multiple products. Consumer Paul Houle of Costa Mesa, Calif., who says he has collected $2,245 on 114 rebates in the past 18 months, said, "If you purchase more than one rebate product, and the store doesn't print enough copies, you're in trouble. ... I've learned to carefully read online rebates before I buy."

Write legibly. David McIntyre, president of Global Fulfillment Systems, suggests using a mailing label, but that's not always allowed. Some rebate claims must be handwritten.

Keep copies of everything, especially the rebate form, so you know whom to contact if your rebate is lost or rejected.

Staple everything together. Missing UPC codes are sometimes found stuck in an envelope, IOgear marketing specialist Dave Green said.

If you run into a problem with your claim, don't call to yell at the person on the other end of the phone. "If someone cusses out the CEO, they're not going to get the rebate," said Bradley Morse, vice president of marketing at D-Link Systems Inc. "Cool heads prevail."

If your request is rejected, complain. Ask for the manager. Write to the CEO. Send copies of your complaints to government agencies. File a complaint with the agencies.


Where to complain:

Federal Trade Commission:

Better Business Bureau:

California Department of Consumer Affairs: or (800) 952-5210.

California Attorney General: or (800) 952-5225.

You can always complain to the store where you bought the product, even though most rebates are from the manufacturer and have nothing to do with the store. Many retailers pride themselves on customer service and may be willing to grant your rebate to appease a customer.

A few consumer Web sites are loaded with tips and contact numbers: TechBargains offers phone numbers and addresses for several manufacturers, retailers and rebate fulfillment centers, at (toward the bottom).

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The Rip-off Report, at, lets you search for complaints made against a specific merchant. It also offers merchants a way to rebut charges. Its editor, Ed Magedson, who favors federal standards for rebates, said he has received some 35,000 complaints regarding mail-in rebates in less than two years. His Phoenix-based site tries to step in when it can and has had success calling manufacturers and retailers about rebate problems, he said.

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© 2003, The Orange County Register Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services