Netgear Rebate Ripoff
by Randy Cassingham
(Updated! See below.)
I do backups of my files daily, but wouldn't you know it, the first time I ever had a hard drive fail, it was my backup drive! Sure enough, I was in the process of reorganizing my laptop at the time, and I lost some files. ("If your data is in only one place, it's not backed up." --Leo Notenboom)
So I decided to look into a RAID device -- a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks -- so that even if I had a drive failure, I can drop in another drive and it completely rebuilds all the data, all by itself, from the "redundant" information that's spread across the drives. Laughably, the hard drive manufacturers have worked to rename it from "Inexpensive" to "Independent" because they don't want their products to seem cheap. Yet it's their very cheapness that makes this technology attractive in the first place.
And sure enough, I found a nice $569 Netgear unit with four 1-terabyte drives in it; just plug it into your network and you can backup any computer on your network to it. If that seems a bit pricy, Amazon noted there was a $150 rebate available through the end of June, bringing the final price down to a much-more-manageable $419:
Now we're talking! I ordered.
Netgear even has an online service where you can "preregister" your rebate to speed processing, which eliminates the possibility that a dopey clerk types in your address wrong. Even before I bought, I went to the site to confirm that purchases through Amazon qualified (yes!), and that the model number --
-- qualified. Yes. Yet the Netgear site showed the rebate as $200, not $150. Sweet? or "Uh oh!"? Maybe I should have been suspicious, but the model number matched. I alerted a friend who wanted a new backup drive too, and he put in an order also.
When the unit arrived from Amazon, I plugged it in and started backing up my hard drive. Everything tested out nicely, so I did the online thing for the rebate, and cut the proof of purchase from the box:
I printed the form from the web site (and kept a copy), and mailed it in with the UPC and the requested original sales slip from Amazon (after scanning it first).
Sure enough, I quickly got confirmation that everything was received -- but that my rebate was declined because of an "invalid UPC" (the proof of purchase cut from the box).
About that time, I got a note from my buddy: did I get my rebate? His was declined too. He was also smart enough to have copied the Amazon page.
I went in to Netgear's "ProSafe" rebate site (uh, "safe" for whom?!) and "tracked my rebate" to find the same message. One of the selections for inquiry was "I checked the status of my rebate and it states that my rebate is invalid. What do I need to do to receive my rebate?" The response came the same day: "Unfortunately, in order to validate this record I will need a valid UPC code that qualifies for the promotion since the we have received does not."
Ask a stupid pre-written question, get a stupid pre-written answer. My friend did the same thing, though, adding that he has the printout from Amazon, and his response was that his rebate was approved!
I went back and looked at the online rebate form more closely. Sure enough, I saw that I had puchased model number RND4410, but on the form I chose model number RNDP4410. "Uh oh" indeed. The "P" apparently stands for "Pro" -- a higher-cost unit. No wonder the rebate amount was a bit more.
So I responded: "Here's the REAL question: if I screwed up in choosing the eligible product due to your poor web site user interface, then what does it take to get you to apply the UPC proof-of-purchase you have received to the CORRECT product, and send me my rebate? I bought this because Amazon.com promised a rebate."
No reply, so I again went in through their web site and asked the same question, adding that without a satisfactory reply, "I'll escalate it via bad publicity." The reply: "I'm sorry but the UPC is not for a product on this promotion Mr Cassingham."
Yet my friend got his!
The Rebate Scam
So why do manufacturers do rebates, which obviously costs them plenty to process, rather than just reduce prices? First, it's a hassle to reduce prices for stuff that's already in the supply chain (e.g., sitting in Amazon's warehouse). Second, they can goose sales by having a "limited time" rebate create sales pressure: I wasn't immune to that, considering I hurried up my purchase to get my unit before the end of June.
And they get those benefits even if the buyer forgets to send in the rebate form by the deadline, in which case they get the sales boost and don't have to bother sending the rebate. But I submitted mine in plenty of time. Yet I can't start over because they have my proof of purchase, and the required original sales slip.
Meanwhile, I checked: the reason I chose the wrong model is because the right model isn't shown on the form.
I'm screwed, and Netgear doesn't care. (And yeah, I know some minion in the rebate center doesn't give a rat's ass about "bad publicity". Thus, I have to resort to being a Cranky Customer.)
It certainly feels like a scam. Surely Netgear can apply the UPC for the RND4410 to the RND4410 rebate program, but they choose not to. They hold my proof of purchase hostage so that I can't do it.
Amazon still shows the $150 rebate (but "Get Forms" is blank), so perhaps the deadline has been extended ...or not. May as well extend it, if you're getting the sales boost without having to pay out very many rebates! And when a rebate clerk can decide he likes one guy's story and approves it, but some other guy with the same story gets denied.
I like the backup I'm getting from the unit, but it leaves me with being a Cranky Customer.
I'll update this if I hear from someone at Netgear that's somewhere above "rebate clerk".
In the Comments, Greg in Washington suggested that I complain to Amazon. If it's true that there just wasn't a rebate anymore from Netgear, then Amazon's promise on the sales page that there was one means it's their error, not Netgear's. So I followed Greg's suggestion and wrote to Amazon's customer service.
I'm sorry to hear you haven't received your mail-in offer.
We support a wide range of mail-in offers, but this particular offer is a transaction between you and the manufacturer. If you need more help with the offer, I recommend contacting the manufacturer directly.
From your email message I can understand that the manufacturer doesn't help you in this issue.
Because of the circumstances, I've made an exception to our standard policy.
I've requested a refund of $150.00 to your credit card.
You'll see the refund on your Visa statement in the next 2-3 business days.
Once processed, you'll be able to see the refund request here: [link removed]
We hope to see you again soon.
And I confirmed today that indeed, the refund has been processed and has appeared on my credit card statement.
While I think it's great that Amazon did this, I have to admit I paused at "this particular offer is a transaction between you and the manufacturer." Yes and no: if there is a valid rebate, Netgear truly failed and ripped me off. If there isn't, it is certainly Amazon's responsibility to make good on the rebate that they promised. Either way, the issue is resolved.
I heard nothing whatever from Netgear. You should consider that if you ever choose to do business with them. Thousands of people have read this page, and I can't believe (especially when I pinged Netgear's Twitter folks with a link to this page) that someone Netgear wasn't one of them. Yet Netgear has remained silent. "Fail!"
And: my buddy did, in fact, get his rebate -- $200, not $150. He bought the exact same unit, the same day, and used the same rebate form. So for those who said it's my fault, well: explain that!