Monday, January 23, 2006

Watch out for rebate centers screwing you

So in February 2005, I decide it is worth it to buy some expensive phones for the wife-unit and I since there are enough rebates to make the phones free. After getting them, we see all the conditions that go along with the Inphonic rebates and dutifully note the 1 month window, six months after activation. We submit four rebates for my two cell phones in the summer of 2005, paying careful attention to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, making sure to mail the rebate in no earlier than 180 days and no later than 210 days after service activation. Each envelope had identical contents, with the minor exception that two had one type of rebate form, and two had a different type. All forms were mailed out the same day, and I'm certain that all were received by them within a day or so. How can I know? Because I received four confirmation emails, one dated Nov 1st, two dated Nov 2nd, and one dated Nov 3rd.

Included in the confirmation email was a web link to check online status of the rebate. Every two or three weeks, I checked the online status of the first one, the second one, and the fourth one. I left the third one marked as new so it would be easier to find the confirmation emails. On Jan 11th, I get a status email saying that they are processing three checks for me. Three?! Guess which one they claim had a late post mark? That's right - it just happens to be the one I never checked the status on. What are the chances of that? I try to avoid conspiracy theories whenever possible, instead assuming that the most obvious answer is the most likely one (Occam's Razor) - so I'm willing to assume that someone fat-fingered something. But after looking into this and seeing all the trouble that has been reported about Inphonic, am I being too generous? Is it possible they monitor to see which rebates have the status checked on, and then intentionally fat-finger the post mark date, hoping you won't notice until it is too late (or you give up in disgust)? Is it safe to assume they have not thrown away the proof (the envelope) six months later?


At Thu Feb 09, 08:30:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you call the rebate center to complain about #3? Give it a try. They were good to me.

At Fri Feb 10, 03:45:00 PM 2006, Blogger Marc Randolph said...

Follow-up: Yep, I called. The nice lady said I would need to email, and even provided step-by-step instructions on which online form to fill out. The sum-total of their email response was:

> Thank you for your email inquiry regarding your
> rebate.
> Please visit
> for the most up-to-date information
> regarding your rebate(s).
> You may also contact our partner at
> (866) 800-4303, 866-274-8573

So I called again, and after considerable time, they told me that their records show that the postmark on three envelopes were Sept 8th, while the fourth envelope was Sept 18th. And since it was "checked in" on Sept 25th, there was nothing they could do about it. When was the last time you heard of the post office holding on to something for ten days, AND THEN deciding to deliver it? I asked for them to fax me a copy of that envelope, to which they responded they do not have it any more. So you are at the mercy of their data entry people, and you have no means for recourse if you didn't send it certified mail. BIG lesson learned.


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