So, allow me to start by briefly discussing rebates.
Rebates, for the sake of discussion, are used by manufacturers to stimulate sales of a product (or service I suppose) by making them appear less expensive than they actually are. For example, suppose a manufacturer wants to clear out some computers. Normally they cost $1000 but they go "on sale" for $800, with a $200 mail in rebate. You buy the item, mail in a rebate form and proof of purchase, and in theory some time passes and you get some money back.
Big deal, right? Everyone wins, you say. The consumer gets the computer cheaper and the manufacturer gets the sale.
Well, it's not really that simple. You see, the reason rebates are popular among manufacturers, is that statistically speaking there's a high probability that the consumer either won't ever claim the rebate, or will make a mistake with their claim, enabling the manufacturer to deny the rebate. Most of the statistics I've seen suggest that in general, about 50% of rebates go unclaimed. Naturally, the higher the rebate amount, the higher the probability that someone will want to claim it. Most people won't bother with a $5 or $10 rebate, but a lot more care about a $200 rebate.
So my big problem here is that rebates are proffered with the basic assumption that as a consumer you're either too lazy or too stupid to claim the rebate. That's pretty insulting, but it gets worse.
I've never been really big on rebates for the reasons I've just described, but not long ago I purchased a cordless phone with a rebate offer because I figured it was a pretty good deal. Now, the few times I actually bother to deal with a rebate, I do it -very- carefully, because I do not want to fall into the category of "too stupid to claim it". To make a long story short, I very meticulously filled out the rebate materials for this phone, jumped through the hoops, dotted the 'i's and crossed the 't's and sent it in, fully confident that I'd be collecting a $50 check 6 to 8 weeks later.
Well, I was wrong. It occurred to me today that I'd never got the rebate check, so I went to a website that tracks these things (wheresmyrebate.com) and checked. Turns out my rebate was denied, because "the offer was not valid for the phone I purchased." Well, let me just tell you - that's a whole big steaming load of Grade A Bullshit. I was very VERY careful to be sure it was a valid offer. In fact, I obtained the rebate form directly from the place that sold it to me. So I know for an absolute fact that it was a valid claim.
Here's the really beautiful part: Unless I want to go all Erin Brocovich, I have basically no recourse. The rebate processing company has my original UPC code, and even though I still have the product box it's the UPC code that constitutes real proof of purchase.
So I guess that in addition to assuming that consumers are lazy and stupid, manufacturers (or possibly the rebate processing companies) are now assuming that they can also be easily cheated. As far as I'm concerned this is nothing short of outright fraud.
As a side note, there was a whole company during the dot com era whose business revolved around giving people consumer goods that were "free after rebate". The way it worked was, you paid a super high amount for an item (for example, $200 for a $30 watch) but then you got the $200 back a few months later via the rebate. I had always wondered how they expected to make money on that, but at the time I figured that it was by earning interest on the $200. When they finally went bankrupt, there were all kinds of news stories about it, and I learned that their business model had nothing to do with earning interest. Their whole business model was based on consumers being (yes, you guessed it) too stupid or lazy to collect their rebates. Now, I can fully understand people not bothering with the $1 and $5 rebates.... but if you paid $200 for a $30 watch, don't you think the odds would be better that you'd be inclined to get the money back? Apparently this company didn't think so. They had so much faith in the ineptitude of the consumer public that they ran a multimillion dollar business to exploit it.
I used to think that rebates were a distateful but reasonable proposition, but this experience (with Motorola, by the way - and the phone's not even all that nice) has taught me that rebates are a big fucking waste of time. And as you can see, I've found it necessary to waste even more time writing about so that I won't be quite so pissed off.