Friday, August 18, 2006

The Black Hole of Rebates

Last night my son who has only a nodding familiarity with deadlines came home and announced that our cellphone contract had expired the day before so it was time to upgrade his cellphone. After dinner we made our way over to the Verizon Store on Wendover where the object of his desire, the new LG Chocolate, was the first thing we saw as we walked through the door. The Verizon store is a very busy place so we had to wait our turn as other customers got new phones, changed their cellphone plans and bought Bluetooth devices so that they could have that ultra-cool android look that's so popular these days.

The Chocolate is not cheap by any measure but if you renew your plan for another two years it's affordable. Plus, it comes with a $50 rebate. "It has a $50 rebate, dad, they're practically giving it away!" So after signing up and forking over some cash we left the store with my son in "new cellphone heaven".

Knowing my own tendency to procrastinate until rebate offers expire, I made it the first order of business this morning to get the thing in the mail. Rebate offers are full of pitfalls designed to trip up the unwary (and thereby void the offer) so I paid careful attention to the instructions, filling in the information in capital letters and enclosing all the necessary paperwork. However, as I was about to address the envelope I saw the dreaded address: Young America, MN.

Young America, MN is a suburb of Minneapolis whose sole industry as far as I can tell is rebates. There, hundreds and perhaps thousands, of young Minnesotans spend their days poring over rebate requests looking for ways to reject them and, if failing that, consign them to the local landfill "I'm sorry, we never received that request." The economics are simple and I wished I had thought of it. Rather than actually pay expensive rebates, the companies involved pay Young America a fraction of the cost to "lose" the rebate slip. The companies are freed of any responsibility and we rebatees can only fume at the oddly named town "Young America." After all, all we have is some Post Office Box, not even a name (unless there is someone there actually named "$50 rebate Offer.")

But like they say" You pays your money and you takes your chances." And then wait 4 to 6 weeks before you finally realize you aint getting any rebate.

I'm out. Gotta find a mail box. (with a David Bowie song stuck in my head. Isn't that odd?)


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