It's official: We hate rebates

December 05, 2005 1:05 PM EST

If these postings on digg are any indication, consumer electronics rebates fall somewhere between lawyers and politicians in popularity.

The digg postings were a response to my recent blog in which I detailed my experience sending in  mail-in rebates for a "free" computer at Circuit City (see High-tech retailers, low-tech rebates) and my subsequent follow up blog (Slaying the consumer electronics rebate dragon) in which consumer electronics analyst Stephen Baker at The NPD Group explained why retailers still use such low-tech marketing tools.

Many people at digg seem to believe that retailers use rebates because large numbers of people don't send in their claim forms. In fact, one post references Rebate Madness, an undated story on Consumeraffairs.com that says rebate claim rates are in the range of 5% to 80%. While Baker did say the "vast majority" of consumers do fill out the rebates, I should have mentioned that he did elaborate on what "vast majority" meant. "We did some survey work about a year ago and asked about he stuff they bought on rebate and something like 80% said they had turned in their rebates," Baker says. So a significant amount of rebates are not claimed. While that may save retailers and manufacturers some costs for the promotion, I doubt that there is a conspiracy to make money from people who fail to file rebate claims. Rebates aren't a profit center unless you're a servicer.

In Rebate Madness, Stephanie Moore says "rebates are still stuck in the stone age to discourage redemption." I suspect they're stuck in the stone age because we keep buying products that use them. Retaliers and manufacturers can't move rebates totally online because they can't figure out a way to get around fraud issues without having users mail in those physical proof of purchases. Unfortunately, the bricks and mortar retail industry hasn't been able to come up with something more efficient. Rebates are just a crappy legacy marketing technique that no one likes but we're all stuck with because they do what they do what they're supposed to do - bring people into the store.