Thursday, September 6, 2007

You Always Knew As Much

The SJ Mercury News reports that they found over 1,300 unopened mail-in rebate applications in a dumpster outside a company hired to manage these things. Seems the deal was for a $3.50 rebate on a USB hub, but they decided they couldn't be bothered to process them after all, preferring the alternate approach of, well, just throwing them away and hoping no one would notice. (Since you have to register to read stuff on this site, one, here's the gist of it ... )

"I know that Shu Wong of San Jose hasn't received the $3.50 mail-in rebate for a Vastech computer networking USB hub purchased at a Fry's Electronics in May. Richard Louie of Austin, Olivia Sattaypiwat of Saratoga and Buu Duong of San Jose haven't received their rebates, either.
I know this because they told me so, and because I am staring at more than 1,300 rebate requests sent to Vastech on Bonaventura Drive in San Jose. The envelopes were tossed - unopened - into a garbage dumpster near Vastech. I have two boxes of envelopes that were thrown out without being processed. In all of my years of reporting, I have never encountered such outrageous behavior against consumers.

An employee of nearby Dominion Enterprises found the letters, along with hundreds of others addressed to Vastech, at his company's dumpster. He turned them over to his boss, Joel Schwartz, who gave them to me. All of the letters were addressed to UR-04 Rebate or some variation of the product name at the Vastech address."

Come on now, you aren't really that surprised are you? We all know it happens. For rebates that small the mail-in rate must be not much more than 25 or 30% at the very most. Companies routinely track the return-rates they see against the amount of the rebate so they know in advance just how much of the supposed discount these offers imply is actually going to get taken up. All this is, therefore, is a further nudge in a direction that's already baked-in: most people just can't be bothered to fill this crap out and so binning a few of them won't cause their phone to ring off the hook for a year-and-a-day. "$3.50?? Fuggeddaboutit."

And is this sorry tale really that much worse than, oooh, shall we say, Apple, for gipping people for an extra $200 in order to be amongst the first to buy an iPhone, and then offering a $100 store coupon back when they get antsy after the price drops a few weeks later, thereby cunningly instead giving them the chance to spend even more on Apple's products? I think not.

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