How Dissatisfied Do You Need to Be to Use a Satisfaction-Guaranteed Rebate?
Many brands offer them: satisfaction-guaranteed rebates. While this helps to build reputation in the industry and gives genuinely disgruntled consumers an easy fix for their problems, is there a possibility that it’s too easy to get money back on the products you buy? We look at both sides of the issue to help decide when “attainable” may not always be “ethical.”
What is a Satisfaction-Guaranteed Rebate? Quite simply, it is an offer by a brand to give back the full purchase price of a product, assuming you aren’t satisfied. In many cases, this may mean that the product didn’t perform as promised, was defective, or had gone bad before purchase. While many companies offer you the opportunity to provide product feedback, these types of rebates are different, because they are usually fulfilled in the same way as a regular rebate. (You fill out a form, mail it in with your proof or purchase, and wait for a check to arrive.)
What’s the big deal anyway? Apparently, many people use money-back guarantees or satisfaction rebates to get money back on all kinds of purchases – even those they weren’t particularly dissatisfied with. While a conscious shopper may find that they are not happy with a purchase, search out a solution, and find that there is money-back guarantee on the product, others profit by following the process backwards. They scan deal and freebies boards, looking for new satisfaction-guaranteed rebates to print off. Then they go to the store and make the purchase, knowing in advance that they will redeem the rebate – even before they have a chance to try and be disappointed in the product.
It is important to note that there is such a thing as a regular rebate. “Try Me Free” offers are regularly offered with the objective of getting people to do the very thing I mentioned above: buying products specifically so that they can redeem the offer. The hope is that a consumer segment that hasn’t yet tried the product will get a taste (a free one) and come back as a paying customer. The satisfaction-guaranteed rebates, however, are designed more as a consolation for a bad experience.
So what is ethical? And what’s not? While I most certainly won’t try to be the rebate police, I have my own opinions on the matter. So do other money-saving gurus from around the web. Here is what they are saying:
Mercedes from Common Sense with Money says, “I am of the opinion
that only when you are dissatisfied you should submit these. Doing it
under other circumstances is against the intention of the manufacturer
and parallel to coupon fraud in my book.”
Tara from Deal Seeking Mom agrees. “I rarely use them, and
I don't promote them on my blog at all. I've seen a number of other sites
promoting them recently as a means to get free products, and I don't condone
Lynnae from Being Frugal states, “I think if people continually abuse the
consumer satisfaction rebates, companies will no longer offer them. I think
it's a great thing, if you're truly dissatisfied, though I've never used one.”
It sounds like most everyone is in agreement then, right? Wrong. Sam Pocker of RetailAnarchy.com, and author of the book by the same name, defends the position that the rebates are there for the taking. “The number of people who do this to excess is relatively small, I believe it is around 1% of all consumers at best. Only 5% of all coupons issued in the marketplace are redeemed in the first place.” Sam also says that no notice is taken of anything written on the form beyond the name, address, and dollar amount (the reason given for dissatisfaction is meaningless.)
So we know what consumers think of the practice of redeeming satisfaction-guaranteed rebates when there truly is no dissatisfaction, but what do manufacturers think? We can only guess (none would answer my request for comments.)
According to Sam, they could care less. Others, like ConsumerQueen.com’s Melissa Garcia, aren’t so sure. She works for a convenience foods company and is concerned about the rise in claims – which could possibly be a signal of false complaints. It is her opinion that this may be the reason that some companies no longer offer them.
Where do you stand? Have you ever redeemed a satisfaction-guaranteed rebate? If so, were you really dissatisfied? Or do you prefer to go about the traditional methods of rebating and product feedback?