Read the small print in this year's Black Friday ads and you may discover that some of the low prices reflect mail-in rebates. The rebate process can be a bit of a pain, and too many consumers seduced by the potential savings never realize the lower price. Studies have placed the redemption rate at about 40 percent, which calls into question the value of a Black Friday deal that hinges on a mail-in rebate.
Checking prices at different stores may net the same deal without a rebate. Take, for example, a Black Friday offer on a KitchenAid Classic Plus stand mixer, advertised for $199.99 at Kohl's after a $30 mail-in rebate. The same model (KSM75) will be offered for $199.99 in a Macy's "door buster" sale until 1 p.m. on Black Friday, with no mail-in rebate required. On the other hand, shoppers who remember to mail in the rebate come out ahead at Kohl's, which is offering an additional $15 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 spent.
JC Penney's Black Friday ad lists the similar but less powerful KitchenAid Classic Series mixer (K45SS) for $199.99 -- after a $50 mail-in rebate. But here is the real kicker: KitchenAid stand mixers are available for this price at other times throughout the year, and consumers can buy the Classic model (in black) for $189.97 on Amazon today -- no waiting or early rising necessary.
JC Penney stands out for promoting kitchen-related sales with mail-in rebates during Black Friday. A price of $29.99 on an Oster 16-speed blender depends on a $10 mail-in rebate, and the Keurig 2.0 brewing system will be $99.99 only after a $15 rebate. Food storage sets, cookware, a pressure cooker, and a toaster oven are similarly listed at sale prices that reflect mail-in rebates.
Although consumers typically must take the traditional mail-in route, a few retailers expedite the process by letting customers claim rebates online. Staples features what it calls "Easy Rebates" for some products. Shoppers submit purchase information online and receive a rebate in four to six weeks by check, Visa prepaid card, or PayPal. Black Friday deals with Easy Rebates include an HP laptop for $399.99 after a $250 discount and $50 rebate; 500 sheets of multipurpose printer paper for 1 cent after rebate (a deal offered throughout the year); and Kaspersky Internet Security software for 1 cent after a $14.98 discount and $45 rebate. Sears and Costco likewise accept online rebate submissions for some merchandise.
Instead of relying on savings from a mail-in rebate, let the offer clue you in to the price point you might find at another vendor on Black Friday. If the price is 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 the weekend after Black Friday to fill out and mail the required documents.
- Make copies or take pictures of all the forms before sending, so you can reference them if there are complications down the line.
- Consider mailing the forms with some sort of delivery confirmation so you have proof that the company received them.
- With some rebates taking months to arrive, it is possible to forget about them altogether. Make a note on your calendar to contact the manufacturer if a rebate hasn't arrived 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 will not have the option to return the gift.