You'd never invite a sales clerk at your local electronics outlet or home appliance store to reach into your wallet and help himself to some money. But that's effectively what you're doing when you don't claim a rebate that's owed to you.
Fully 40 percent of consumers don't collect their rebate money, according to Consumer Reports. Why are so many people willing to pass on their savings to the manufacturer? Sometimes they simply forget to apply. But many people have such a hard time parsing the fine print that they fail to include necessary documentation or miss the deadline.
Here's Consumer Reports' five-step plan for collecting rebates:
1) Understand the terms and conditions
Before you buy, make sure you know exactly what you need to do to collect your money, and make note of the deadline. If you have any questions, call the store for clarification.
2) Gather your materials
Before you throw away the packaging, collect the following: The original receipt, serial number, UPC code, box top and any stickers or labels. The company may ask you to provide some or all of these as proof of purchase.
3) Keep records
After you've filled out your rebate request carefully and double-checked that you've included all of the necessary materials, make copies of everything. Keep the copies in a folder along with a record of when you sent in the request.
4) Go online right away
If you're entitled to an online rebate, be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the necessary form may be removed from the Web site.
5) Beat the deadline
Apply for your rebates well before the due date to ensure that you have plenty of time to send in additional documentation if required.
The final step? Be patient. It can take as long as 12 weeks to get your check. If you think your rebate is late or you have a complaint, contact your state's attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.
Copyright (c) 2007 MarketWatch, Inc.