The Value — and Risk — of Rebate Offers

When I wrote recently about the ethics and advisability of rebate offers, local reader and attorney Kevin Spence had this to say:

Gift cards, rebates and vouchers are all kind of a scam in my opinion. They are all designed with a certain failure rate. Whether the failure is caused by the recipient losing it in the wash the cost of the voucher to the business is less than the value of cash. Gift cards are particularly bad in my opinion.

Why people are convinced that buying a gift card to a particular store is better than giving cash that can be used in countless different ways is beyond me. Add to that the limitations and fees that are placed on some gift cards and I’m left scratching my head.

In the Oregonian, Laura Gunderson recently tackled the same topic:

Although some companies nationwide have veered away from redemption programs in recent years, many remain and are legitimate. Typically, marketing experts say, the easier a deal is to fulfill, the more trustworthy and beneficial it is — for customers and the company.

In Oregon, the legal bar on promotions is rather low. Offers that are inherently misleading — even simply confusing — can trigger an investigation.

In my work with car dealers and, in one memorable case, a siding company, I’ve had a chance to talk at length with Eugene Ebersole of the Oregon Department of Justice. Gunderson’s warning is correct — Oregon has always had some pretty explicit and strict rules concerning advertising and promotion. Those rules became even stricter about a year ago.

Considering a rebate or gift-with-purchase offer? Doing it wrong may not only anger your customers — it may get you a subpoena from the D.O.J.

Call me first.


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