Friday night topic: The joy of mail-in rebates

Following on the heels of our Friday deal of the week post is this evening's topic: the ever-growing, can't-kill-it phenomenon of the mail-in rebate. I hate them, and I want them to die. They are intentionally designed for and depend on low redemption rates in order to succeed, and rebate processing firms game things in order to ensure their success. Their shady practices bilk consumers out of millions.

Some of you, I know, enjoy rebate deals. You like feeling the charge of getting a special deal. Perhaps you hear the sound of a cash register ringing in the background as you fill out that microscopic form. Perhaps you just like being able to justify a purchase you might not otherwise make. Whatever the case, their psychology works for you. That issue forms the first part of tonight's topic: What the heck is wrong with you people? Don't you get it?


Next, there's the question of how the holy war to end the rebate menace is progressing. Best Buy pledged in April of 2005 to eliminate mail-in rebates "within two years," but rebate deals seem to remain a common sighting there. As I understand it, the store-supplied rebates have been cut back, but manufacturer's rebates remain. Best Buy still has some time to make good on its pledge, and some other companies are following suit, including Dell, OfficeMax, and Staples.

Unfortunately, the rebate people have taken their evil practices online. Rebate deals are now common at online retailers, and we're having to struggle with them in making our weekly deals picks. My inclination right now is simply to exclude rebates entirely from our choices, in order to protect you all and to avoid encouraging a shady practice. That leads us to the second part of our question: How evil do you think the ballooning trend toward rebates at online retailers is? Mass genocide bad or just something on the order of arson, theft, or assault? Discuss.

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