Get the facts about a computer rebate.
Often used as a purchasing incentive, a computer rebate can put money back in a consumer's pocket after purchasing the equipment. The drawback is that the money is not received for several weeks or perhaps even a few months. Consumers also need to follow the rebate instructions verbatim; failure to do so can result in the rebate being null and void. However, as computers are an expensive purchase, computer rebates sometimes allow consumers to save a hefty sum of money.
Computer rebates are used to move merchandise off retailers' shelves and into businesses or consumers' homes. There are two major types of computer rebates: those offered by the manufacturer and those offered by the retailer. From the consumer's point of view, both options are more or less the same, as long as the money eventually arrives. The manufacturer rebate is the more popular option and is used to counteract a competitor's sale or to move excess inventory. In this case, the money comes directly from the manufacturer. By contrast, with a retailer rebate, the retailer either receives an incentive from the manufacturer or provides the money on its own.
By offering computer rebates, retailers are able to get consumers in the store with hopes that they purchase more items. Consumers should be wary, however: According to the Better Business Bureau, many rebate promotions use larger print to advertise the after-rebate price of the computer. However, the buyer must pay for the computer in full, being reimbursed for the rebate later on and without including sales tax.
Manufacturers and retailers tend to offer the best rebates during the holiday season and for seasonal back-to-school sales. During these times, manufacturers often throw in free or almost-free printers or offer cash rebates for the purchased computer. A popular day for computer rebates is on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), when retailers advertise bargain deals. One downside to shopping during these periods is that checkout lines can be extremely long, but crowds can be avoided by shopping online (making sure that the rebate still applies).
Some Web sites, such as Price Grabber, also publish lists of current computer rebates. Consumers should check out several sites before making a purchase; comparing the information from the sites can help determine which stores to visit and what items to purchase.
As is the case with other merchandise rebates, instructions on rebate forms should be followed carefully. In general, it is best for consumers to send in or fill out all the information as soon as possible, which may mean printing out rebate forms online the day the item is purchased. Also, it is a good idea to make photocopies of any documents sent through the mail. Ultimately, if consumers have a problem or complaint about a computer rebate, they should contact the rebate company and write down the name of the representative with whom they spoke. If they are unable to resolve the issue themselves, they can contact the state's attorney general in the state in which the company is located or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Because of advances in merchandising technology, some electronics stores enable customers to participate in rebate offers without having to pick up paperwork from a customer service department. Usually, the sales receipt contains all of the information needed to properly file the rebate, which can be done electronically at some stores. Customers are not able to do this at all stores, however - some retailers and manufacturers have no way of verifying the purchase without having them mail in UPCs (Universal Product Codes) and copies of receipts. Because of this, consumers should double-check the receipt before leaving the store to make sure the rebate information printed properly. Additionally, consumers can track the status of the refund online, which can help them know how much time has elapsed since they submitted the forms and whether they should follow up with the rebate company.
According to Consumer Reports, some manufacturers are scaling back their computer rebate programs. Although there may be a decline in rebates, consumers needn't worry about rising prices. In some ways, buying a computer is easier without having to consider the ins and outs of the rebate process, allowing the buyer to focus solely on features and overall price.