Are Black Friday Rebates Worth the Hassle?
Read the small print on Black Friday offers for 2013 and you'll find that some of the low prices reflect mail-in rebates (MIRs). The rebate process can be a bit of a pain, and too many consumers seduced by the potential savings never realize the lower price. One widely cited academic study from 2003 reported that shoppers never got around to redeeming about 6 in 10 consumer electronics rebates. An industry consultant quoted in The Wall Street Journal in 2006 put the number for all rebates at 4 in 10. Regardless whether those redemption rates hold true today, they call into question the value of a Black Friday offer that hinges on a mail-in rebate.
Toshiba Laptop Computer
Making a habit of checking prices for the same product at a variety of stores may net you a deal that doesn't require a rebate. Take, for example, a Black Friday offer for a KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer, which costs $199.99 at Kohl's after a $30 mail-in rebate. An identical machine will be available on Black Friday for $199.99 at Target with no rebate. Similarly, the 4.5-qt KitchenAid mixer is $199.99 during the Black Friday sales at Macy's, but the deal requires a mail-in rebate and is a Doorbuster -- the price rises after 1pm.
JC Penney stands out as one retailer during the 2013 Black Friday season that's promoting many sales with mail-in rebates. Nonstick aluminum cookware sets are available for as low as $29.99 (after $10 MIR) or a stainless steel set is $77.99 (after $20 MIR). A selection of Hamilton Beach, Cooks, and Nostalgia Electrics small kitchen appliances are also available for $9.99 each (after $10 MIR).
Staples is another retailer with attractive rebates. Although you still must take the traditional mail-in-rebate route at times, Staples also offers what it calls Easy Rebates for some products. Customers submit their purchase information online and receive a rebate in four to six weeks in the form of a check, Visa prepaid card, or by PayPal. Staples plans to offer a number of items with Easy Rebates on Black Friday: Several laptops are on sale for $379.99 after $220 in instant savings and a $50 Easy Rebate; Kaspersky Internet Security 2014 is even free after $14.99 in instant savings and a $45 Easy Rebate. Sears, Tiger Direct, and Rite Aid similarly accept online rebate submissions for some items.
Generally it appears that, while some mail-in-rebates deliver a little extra savings, many just clue you in to the price point you can expect from a Black Friday offer. With a little digging, you can often find the same deal without the rebate. If the item you have your eye on is sold exclusively at a single retailer, though, don't consider a mail-in rebate a deal breaker. Just be sure to take all the necessary steps to get your rebate.
- Check the expiration date on the rebate form and mail everything on time. Perhaps plan to set aside time during the weekend after Black Friday to fill out and mail the required documents.
- Make copies or take pictures of all the forms you are sending so you can reference them if there are any complications down the line.
- You also may want to mail the forms with some sort of delivery confirmation so you have proof that the company received them.
- With some rebates taking months to arrive, you may forget about them altogether. Make a note on your calendar and contact the manufacturer if you haven't received a rebate by the appointed time.
One final thing to consider if you're purchasing gifts on Black Friday: Mail-in rebate forms often require you to include the bar code on the packaging, and the redemption deadline may come before the holidays. That means gifting a box with a hole in it, and the recipient won't be able to return the gift.