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Reconsidering the retail rebate

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Tess Vigeland: Who doesn’t love a rebate, right? I mean, you pay for something, and then, you send away some paperwork and you get money back! It’s a win-win, too, ’cause retailers love them — the lower the price on a stereo or blender, the more likely you are to buy it. But there’s a catch.

Tod Marks: Forty percent of all mail-in rebates go uncollected.

Tod Marks is a senior editor at Consumer Reports. And you heard him right — 40 percent of us never bother sending in the paperwork, or we mess up the forms or miss the deadline to apply. Bad for us, but…

Marks: It’s easy to understand why manufacturers love them. They move merchandise and help promote new products. But there’s so much of the time that they don’t have to pay out. You often have to jump through hoops to collect the rebate. The higher the dollar value of the rebate, the more hoops you have to jump through.

So lawmakers in New Jersey are looking to turn the tables on stores like Best Buy and Target. They’ve introduced a bill that would force sellers to apply for the rebate themselves, if they want to advertise after-rebate prices to shoppers. So, you’d get the rebate instantly instead of waiting weeks or even months to collect it. See how they like filling out 23 pages to get 10 bucks back on a microwave.

Again, Consumer Reports’ Tod Marks.

Marks: It’s like spinning around the whole equation. It’s putting the onus on the retailer to collect from the manufacture rather than the consumer having to go through all these hoops. Isn’t that great?

Score one for the little guy, right?

Marks: Chances are they’ll come up with another gimmick. It’s to some extent, I guess it’s sort of like terrorism, where you have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Small victory, I guess.

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