Rebate, Rebate, Who's Got the Rebate?

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - PC World readers send me hundreds of letters each month about a dizzying array of raw deals. But one complaint is easily the most common: unfulfilled rebates. In just the past few months, I've heard from nearly 150 readers whose rebates are months overdue. Worse, some of them won't ever receive their checks. The problem persists despite recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission actions. Earlier this year, the FTC reached a settlement with Memorex Corp. and Umax Technologies Inc. mandating that they pay their rebates in the stated time.

Why do so many companies fail to honor their rebate promises? The most common excuse is inability to keep up with customer demand--which naturally begs the question, Why offer a rebate if you're not prepared to process it? Some companies attempt to handle the job themselves and fail to staff up adequately.

More typically, they process rebates through fulfillment houses, where efficiency varies widely.

Here's how you can help ensure that you get the rebates you're promised.

Include all of the required documentation when you mail a request, and keep copies. If the rebate doesn't arrive on time, contact the company in writing, enclosing copies of everything you sent. Some vendors also allow you to check the status of your rebate online or by phone.

In cases of extreme rebate tardiness, consider filing complaints with the FTC, along with the state attorneys general and Better Business Bureau offices in both the company's state and your own. One last piece of advice: Never buy anything solely because of a rebate offer. Get the product you need, and if there's a rebate, consider it a bonus--once you receive it.

Gotten a raw deal? Or a great one? E-mail the details to onyourside@pcworld.com. We'll investigate complaints and publish items of the broadest interest. Anne Kandra is a contributing editor for PC World.

Letter Of The Month

Recently I asked Micron if there were any compatibility issues between Windows 2000 and the Micron Millennia Max system I bought last year. I was told that Micron would not provide support if I installed Windows 2000, and also that installing the OS would void all Micron warranties--hardware and software. If I want Windows 2000 on a Micron system with Micron warranties and support, I must buy a new PC with that OS installed. I find this unacceptable.

Benton Dexter, Palm Springs, California

On Your Side responds: Micron Communications Manager Melissa Boyd says, "If a customer loads a retail version of Windows 2000 on his system, [Micron] would refer them to Microsoft for support of the operating system. The hardware will still retain [its] warranty....However, for diagnostic purposes, we may ask the customer to reinstall the ...operating system that shipped with his product."

Micron is reevaluating the policy, says Boyd. This type of policy is common among vendors, so before you upgrade the OS, ask how the upgrade will affect the warranty.

Heads Up:

Netscape's Name Game: I've been hearing lately from angry subscribers to Netscape's free WebMail e-mail service. It turns out that Netscape, in one of its recent acquisitions, also acquired some duplicate e-mail addresses. Its solution? Force current WebMail subscribers to change their addresses, or be denied access to their e-mail. Says one disgruntled user, "I'll change e-mail providers instead of being treated so shabbily"... Total Recall: Bidding at an online auction always involves an element of risk, but at least now it's easier to avoid buying a dangerous product that's been recalled. EBay and Amazon.com Auctions have added links to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site (www.cpsc.gov), giving bidders easy access to information about recalls of products such as toys, tools, and exercise equipment. Regardless of where you do your bidding, check the CPSC site--before you bid--to see if the product you want is on the recall list... AMS Goes MIA: Things don't look good for Milwaukee;based notebook maker AMS Technology. Its phone lines have been disconnected, the Web site is gone, and my e-mail messages have gone unanswered. No word on where system owners can turn for service and support.

Stay tuned...

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