Are Black Friday Rebates Worth the Hassle?
Read the small print on Black Friday offers for 2014 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 six in 10 consumer electronics rebates. An industry consultant quoted in The Wall Street Journal in 2006 put the number for all redeemed rebates at four 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.
Photo by flickr.com/mccun934
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 $50 mail-in rebate. An identical machine will be available on Black Friday for $199.99 at Target with no rebate. Still, Kohl's holds an advantage because it awards shoppers an additional $45 back in a Kohl's Cash gift card.
Similarly, a 4.5-quart KitchenAid mixer is $199.99 during Black Friday sales at Macy's, but the deal requires a mail-in rebate and is a doorbuster, with the price rising after 1pm. J.C. Penney lists the 4-quart Classic Plus mixer from KitchenAid for $199.99 and a 5-quart model for $299.99, both after a $50 MIR. But here's the kicker: You can get the Classic Plus mixer for $199.99 and the 4.5-quart mixer for $169.99 on Amazon today -- no waiting or early rising necessary.
J.C. Penney stands out as one retailer during the 2014 Black Friday season that is promoting many kitchen-related sales with mail-in rebates. An 11-piece nonstick ceramic cookware set is available for $79.99 after a $20 MIR and a 12-piece nonstick aluminum set costs $69.99 after a $30 MIR. (The aluminum set is the larger cousin of a nonstick set recommended in Cheapism's cookware buying guide.) Hand blenders go for $19.99 after a $10 MIR and there's even a Nostalgia Electrics novelty popcorn cart for $99.99, post $50 MIR, of course.
Staples is offering rebate deals that are somewhat attractive. Although shoppers still must take the traditional mail-in route at times, Staples also features what it calls Easy Rebates for some products. Customers submit the purchase information online and receive a rebate after four to six weeks in the form of a check, Visa prepaid card, or through PayPal. On Black Friday this year Staples will match Easy Rebates with several items: wearable tech (like a fitness tracker) qualifies for a $25 Visa Prepaid card; a fire-resistant safe costs $79.99 after a $40-off sale plus a $60 Easy Rebate; and Kaspersky Internet Security for one cent(!) after a $45 Easy Rebate.
Sears, Tiger Direct, Walgreens, and Rite Aid likewise accept online rebate submissions for some merchandise.
Although some mail-in-rebates deliver a little extra savings, many just clue you in to the price point you might find during a Black Friday sale at another vendor. If the item you're eyeing is an exclusive, don't consider a mail-in rebate a deal breaker -- just take all the necessary steps to collect.
- Check the expiration date on the rebate form and mail everything on time. 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 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 purchasing gifts on Black Friday: Mail-in rebate forms often require 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.