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Thursday 24 March 2005

Yet More Rebate Fraud

I never buy products because there’s a rebate offered on them, but a rebate will occasionally sway my opinion in a situation where the product with the rebate sells for the same as or less than comparable no-rebate products.

That was the case this week, when I bought a Western Digital external hard drive for $220. There’s a $80 rebate offered on the thing, and the other disk I was considering purchasing costs $250 to begin with, and there’s no rebate: a clear advantage for Western Digital.

But I’m considering specifically excluding products with rebates from future consideration — no matter whether they’re cheaper or not — and here’s why.

Here are the terms of the Western Digital rebate:

How To Submit

Here are two views of the box the product came in, shrinkwrap and all:

Wd Box 1 Wd Box 2
(Click on the pictures to pop up bigger versions)

Notice what’s missing? There’s no UPC barcode anywhere on this box. There’s a barcode on a sticker inside the shrinkwrap, but that’s for the disk’s serial number — which is not a UPC code.

It is, in short, impossible to comply with the terms of this rebate offer. Fortunately, the rebate form gives a number to call with questions:

Mail This Form

This was, of course, no help. The person on the other end frankly didn’t believe me that there was no UPC on the box. Her recommendation was to return the disk and get another one that did have a UPC barcode.

So not only do I have to buy things wondering whether or not they’ll work, and not only do I have to screw around with mailing things in to get rebates, but I also have to be part of Western Digital’s packaging quality control staff. Fuck ‘em.

Particularly interesting is that just a couple weeks after CompUSA settled with the federal government over their past practice (CompUSA’s, that is) of screwing people out of rebates (though that was a somewhat different situation).

Posted by tino at 15:20 24.03.05
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There is a UPC barcode on the box. Look at picture 2, the left face of the box. There’s a barcode underneath the laptop on the girl’s lap.

Posted by: Doug at March 24, 2005 05:53 PM

There’s a barcode there, all right, but it’s not a UPC barcode. As I mention above:

There’s a barcode on a sticker inside the shrinkwrap, but that’s for the disk’s serial number — which is not a UPC code.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Tino at March 24, 2005 06:55 PM

I built my last PC out of all rebated stuff, as an experiment. The mobo/case/power supply had a $70 rebate, err, make that a $30, $20, and $20 rebate. The $30 one came so fast my head is still spinning, less than 2 weeks. The other two are long overdue. Looking at the fine print, they don’t even have a phone number I can call and harass them and threaten to sue them, only an email address. I send off the email with predictable results.

If the people who offer the rebates fulfilled their end of the contract formed by the consumer properly filling out the rebate form and promptly sending it in, I think rebates would be work the small amount of effort of redeeming them. Based on my experiments, though, because of the added time I am required to perform (which means calling them up and threatening them) rebates seems to be a net waste of my time.

I think there is a trend to split up the rebates in smaller chunks so it’s less worthwhile to pursue a legal remedy.

Posted by: steel at March 25, 2005 03:47 PM

hey i work for a rebate company, but not specifically western digital. other big name companies. i can honestly tell you that rebates are legit or else i wouldnt be doing this. there has to be a UPC on the box if the item was purchased. the upc is the barcode they scan in at the store to get the price. there may not be a label that says upc, but its there nontheless.

as for compusa, the reason why they were sued wasnt their fault. there was a rebate offerd for qps but qps didnt pay compusa the difference minus the rebate amnt so we couldnt pay the customers. then customers started blaming compusa for all of this. stuff like this causes delays.

Posted by: chyya at April 14, 2005 12:34 PM