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Business group: Follow instructions when claiming rebates

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Shoppers who've recently made a big-ticket purchase may have been offered a discount on the item in the form of a mail-in rebate.

"Typically, around any major holiday period, it is not uncommon to see rebate discounts," said Mike Boynton, vice president of marketing and sales for the Better Business Bureau Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia, Inc.

When claiming a promised rebate, it is important not to overlook the smallest steps, said Boynton.

The Better Business Bureau, citing a Consumer Reports survey, said that 70 percent of consumers took advantage of rebate offers from manufacturers in the past 12 months, and that 21 percent of those who applied were unsuccessful. Those who failed to collect promised rebates either simply didn't receive the rebate, or were turned down because of a technicality, the Better Business Bureau said.

"Rebates are a great way to get a deal, but they can also be a great source of frustration for consumers," said Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia. "By acting quickly to redeem the rebate, and reading the mail-in instructions carefully, consumers can significantly reduce the stress associated with redeeming rebates."

The bureau said that before purchasing an item with a rebate offer, consumers should read the instructions for claiming the rebate. After purchasing the item, consumers are advised to save the packaging, because the Universal Product Code (UPC), or other parts of the packaging, might be required when redeeming the rebate.

Consumers should also make copies of all the paperwork needed to claim their rebate, Better Business Bureau officials said.

Boynton said that while a paper rebate check gives consumers more options on how to spend the money, it has become more popular for manufacturers and retailers to issue rebates on pre-loaded debit cards.

"When you do get a card ... you actually have to spend it to get the value out of it," said Boynton.

According to Jody Farmer, vice president of strategic marketing for CreditCards.com, retailers may benefit from sending rebate cards by requiring consumers to use the rebate money toward purchases at their stores.

Farmer said consumers should be aware of any fees or expiration dates associated with the cards.

"I think most consumers would rather get it [a rebate] in a form of a check," said Farmer.

The Better Business Bureau said that if a rebate doesn't arrive within the specified time frame, consumers should contact the business. If it never arrives, consumers can file a complaint with the bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, or their state attorney general.