Thursday, August 9, 2007

Drugstore Rebates: Free Stuff or Con Job?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

rebates--letting people by useless crap for free since 1947

By L. Shepherd

You may have heard about the drug store chains that offer rebates, either through newspaper circulars, the rebate kiosks in the stores themselves, or from that friend who will not stop talking about the free deodorant and toilet paper she got from CVS. Seriously–will not stop.

Rebates are an alternative to coupons that a lot of stores prefer for several reasons. First, there is the obvious impulse purchase situation once they get some sucker into the store for the free shaving gel. Secondly, they expect a certain percentage of the population to buy the items, take the rebate forms home, and then lose them on an untidy desk piled with other crap. So, the rebate is never filled out and the buyer has gone out of their way to buy something they ordinarily would have ignored.

If the rebates are followed faithfully, which my friend always does, rebates can actually save Type A personalities a lot of money. The rebates offered from Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and other national chains are well publicized through circulars. And if you don’t get those, check out the front of the store where there are rebate booklets you can fill out for each product you buy. If you can faithfully record each of the listed items you choose, make the notations on the receipt, and mail all of it back to the company, then yes, you’ve gotten free products. The only cost is the sales tax on the items and a little bit of postage.

I tried this only once, buying three 12 packs of Diet Coke with every intention of filling out the forms and getting my money back. Unfortunately, I immediately fell into Gen X slacker mode and lost the paperwork before I even got home. Based on this experience, I believe that coupon clipping is likely a better use of time if you’re looking to save on grocery and drug store items. Coupons are right there, in your hand. They are hard to screw up, and you don’t have to do anything else once you leave the store.

But, if coupons are too easy for you or you just have a love for pushing paperwork, most drugstores offering rebates will have a page to advertise items with rebate offers so you can check out the free stuff before you hit the store. Some sites will let you make an online shopping list of the items you can get for free. If you have the presence of mind to do this, you may do well at the rebate shopping game. And if you are of a seriously frugal nature, you will one-up the drugstore by being a double threat. You can use a coupon for the rebate items, getting it for less than the advertised price, and then get a rebate for the full amount. So, the store actually pays you to take their stuff. And for the well organized frugal shopper, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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L. Shepherd is a freelance writer and has been self-employed for six years. You can contact L. Shepherd at http://thewritersite.com.

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