When Windows XP came out, one of our local retailers was advertising a free webcam with the purchase of the upgrade. I couldn’t have cared less about the webcam, but if they were just giving it away, I wouldn’t say no to it. So, I take the software and the webcam to the register, and the cashier charges me for both.
"Wait a sec… the webcam is supposed to be free!" I protested.
"It’s free after the rebate from Logitech," she said. She handed me a form. "You fill this out and mail it in with a copy of the receipt and the UPC on the package, and they’ll refund the purchase price." Needless to say, I told them what they could do with their "free" webcam, and after much wrangling with the cashier and her supervisor, they voided the sale and rang up just the software.
I think what bothered me was they didn’t say that it was "free after rebate," or that point was not clear on the sign (i.e. I missed it). I wouldn’t have even messed with the camera had I known that.
Rebates are usually pretty generous, because you have to work to get them. If you don’t mind doing all the work (filling out the form, gathering the other stuff to send in, finding an envelope and stamp, sending everything in on time, and waiting 8-12 weeks for them to cut you a check), revealing your information to the manufacturer (who will then use it to try and sell you more stuff), and waiting for your money, they’re terrific. From the retailer’s and/or manufacturer’s perspective, only about half of the people eligible for the rebate claim it, so any money that they’ve set aside to pay for the rebates earns interest, and when the promotion ends they get to keep the money, plus they now know who their customers are and more about them.
So, if you get a mail-in rebate, be sure and mail it in.