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   rebate hell
Saturday, February 7 2004
In the past I've had so little faith in getting rebates back from my purchases that I've always been willing to pay a 10-20 percent premium for not having to deal with a rebate at all. But recently I've had more success with getting my rebates back. My crowning achievement came when I somehow managed to get two $50 rebates for two identical flat panel displays, even though the terms of the rebate coupon clearly stipulated that only one rebate could be redeemed per household. So I've gradually increased the amount of "rebate risk" I'm willing to take with a purchase. In the past few weeks I've bought a slough of computer equipment, most of which I immediately resell to clients. So I'd accumulated a rather substantial backlog of rebates which I needed to recoup. Redeeming rebates is one of the least pleasant forms of paperwork, because there's never any guarantee that you'll get anything back for all the work you put into printing out forms, cutting off UPC codes, and xeroxing invoices. It feels like unnecessary busy work, deliberately made into a hassle so as to reduce the number of people willing to put forth the effort.
For starters, I get the feeling that Adobe is in cahoots with the redeemers of rebates. Most rebate coupons for e-commerce transactions are distributed in the form of Adobe Acrobat files that must be printed out and then filled out, but (as of Feb. 2004) I've yet to find a computer platform that can reliably run Adobe Acrobat. I've used lots of powerful software in my day, but I've never launched anything as demanding as Adobe Acrobat. It seems that (at a minimum) you should have 5 Gigabytes of installed memory and a 10 Gigahertz Pentium VII processor (preferably with a 50 Megabyte L2 cache) before attempting to run this program. My main computer runs a pretty fresh install of Windows 2000, but whenever I launch Acrobat, its usual behavior is to completely bog down my computer for a couple minutes and then become (as Windows informs me) "unresponsive." If I'm lucky and am able to print out a copy, that's it. I have to launch Task Manager and kill off all Acrobat-related processes before I can try running Acrobat again. Mind you, this is just using Adobe Acrobat 5. I've read Acrobat 6 is even worse. The obvious question is: what exactly is Acrobat doing that requires such enormous processing power? Hopefully they're solving the biggest problem facing intelligent life: getting humans to go from being concerned with short-term individual needs to caring instead about long-term societal issues.
Despite that digression, I'm not done complaining about the ordeal of filling out rebate coupons. Even worse than the torture of using Adobe Acrobat is finding out, at the very last minute, that the terms of the rebate are such that you can't actually redeem it. Take for example all the Gigafast networking equipment for which I thought I could recoup rebates. I was smart enough not to buy more than one unit of any particular Gigafast model, knowing that there's usually a limit of one rebate per household per product. But Gigafast takes that concept "to the next level" (as they used to say). Under the terms of the Gigafast rebate, one can only get one rebate per household for all Gigafast products! What kind of crap is that? Most of the time when I buy equipment, I honestly don't care who made it. All I care about is that it abides by standards and is able to communicate with other devices. With commodity devices, it's all about functionality, not brand loyalty. But in their myopic corporate arrogance, Gigafast assumes I'm somehow keeping track of whether or not I've bought other products from Gigafast! This reminds me of the similar arrogance demonstrated by corporations who sell software and then bury their programs in the Start Menu inside a folder bearing only the name of their corporation, say "PastaSoft." How am I supposed to remember that "PastaSoft" made the program that deletes embedded style information from junky Microsoft-generated HTML or hides special Al Qaeda directives inside a JPEG? Why should I, the user, care about PastaSoft? I just want to find my program when I need it!
What with the frustrating battle with Adobe Acrobat and a continually shifting sense of what exactly the rebate coupons were demanding I include with them, I probably spent a couple hours just on rebate paperwork. Given the small amount of money I could expect to recoup, it really wasn't worth the effort. That's the whole idea.

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