HolidayBuyer's Guide

The state of rebates: Has reliability improved?

When it comes to mail-in rebates, everybody's got an opinion. So let's hear yours! Are you once bitten, twice shy? Or have rebates gotten simpler and more trustworthy?

Rebates: Love 'em or hate 'em, they're still a ticket to great deals.Photo by Zazzle

This morning I was going to post a Fantom 500GB eSATA/USB external hard drive for $44.99 shipped--but then I saw the $20 mail-in rebate that's required to get that price.

Rebates. I know from reading nearly two years' worth of comments that many of you hold them in the same regard as telemarketing and tax audits.

Indeed, it's the rare rebate-oriented post that doesn't draw at least one "rebates are a scam!" response.

But are they? Many years back, rebates started earning a deservedly bad reputation owing to woefully complicated forms, delayed or unfulfilled claims, and at least a few disreputable fulfillment companies.

That was then. Today, I think it's safe to say that rebates are easier to deal with (some let you complete the forms online, track status on a Web site, etc.), and it's been ages since I've heard of any major controversies.

This begs the question: Here in late 2009, how do you feel about rebates? Have things improved? Do you trust rebate deals more than you used to? Is it worth jumping through a few hoops to get a check for $20? $50? More?

Or, do you still think they're scams, a pain in the neck, not worth the hassle?

Whatever your opinion, I'd love to hear some real-world background. If you've gotten a raw rebate deal recently, tell me about it! Or if you've had a great rebate experience, let's hear about that, too. Keep it current if you can; we're talking about the status of rebate deals in 2009, not 2005.

As I've mentioned before, I've never had a problem with a rebate. And while my preference is for instant-gratification coupon codes, I don't mind the minor inconvenience of filling in a form, cutting out a UPC, and mailing an envelope if there's at least $10 hanging in the balance.