• United States

Beating the rebate runaround

Jan 29, 20044 mins

* How to get your money from Dell and other vendors

When I’ve heard people complain about Dell’s rebate runaround in the past, I never took them very seriously. Then last July I bought my son a Dell Inspiron laptop. If I’d followed Dell’s procedure, I’d still be waiting for my $250 rebate. 

Am I picking on Dell? I don’t think so. Unlike CompUSA, from which I recently bought a monitor with rebate, Dell and I have a direct relationship. Dell took my order, built the computer, shipped the computer and knows it arrived. Dell Financial knows I paid for the computer. So why do I need to prove I deserve the rebate by sending Dell all sorts of materials? And why does Dell bring in a third party,, to handle rebate processing?

When I asked Dell spokesperson Venancio Figueroa these questions, he said, “This is just a process in place. The vast majority of customers, when they follow the processes and do them properly, get their rebates.”

That didn’t answer my question, so I tried some others. How many rebates are never redeemed? “We can’t give company specific information,” he said. Why do you need a packing slip to receive the rebate? “I don’t have that data,” he said.

Linda Kelly, another spokesperson and executive support representative from “Michael Dell’s office,” took a harder line. “It’s the customer’s responsibility and obligation to follow through, not the vendor or the rebate facility,” she said. However, she did fill out some internal form that helped get me my money, which I received on Dec. 22, nearly five months after submission.

On Dell’s customer care forum, I found others unhappy with Dell’s rebate processing. DM said, “I buy systems five at a time. In the beginning, I was getting rebates back for only one system. Now I write post-it notes on the rebate forms, stating clearly the number of systems on the order, and the rebate amount per order, and request the name the rebate check be made out to. I have drastically minimized problems this way and generally get my rebate checks in 4 to 6 weeks.” DM also said sometimes 12 weeks would pass before he’d be told he needed to supply extra documentation not requested on the rebate form, which would then bump the request to the back of the line for another 12 weeks.

Another customer, HD, distrusts “Every two out of three checks that are supposedly mailed to me have either never mailed or mailed a month or more after the indicated date. When I ask for a new check, they call it a rebate resubmission and put you back in the queue for processing.” HD also wonders why one rebate check for $50 was handled within 25 days, but another for $750 was lost in the mail twice before it finally arrived.

DM and HD both advise customers to ignore and call Dell directly. Figueroa says to call the Dell Customer Care numbers, not technical support. Customer care numbers are for Home & Office: (800) 624-9897; Small Business: (877) 773-3355; and Medium Business: (877) 671-3355.

Consumer advocate Benjamin Dover, who posts advice and letters to help you get your rebates at, advises taking a careful approach. Send materials with confirmed receipt, and keep copies of everything. Don’t accept a vendor-only credit for your rebate amount for future purchases; demand your money. And most important, never give up.

After ignored several of my phone calls, I received, finally, a letter from the company on Jan. 15 stating it couldn’t process my rebate. Good thing I went directly to Dell.

Delaying tactics, constant demands to resubmit information, and sending checks disguised as junk mail postcards have earned rebate providers serious ill will. In sales pitches, rebate processors tout their “slippage control” procedures. Rebate processing company TCA estimates at least 10% of all rebate checks are never cashed. Read about it at