Time At Hand To Fight For Rebates

Post-Christmas isn't just a time for returning gifts people don't want.

It's also a time to seek another sort of return — of money, in the form of rebates on gifts people keep.

But, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan, getting those rebates is a challenge, and many consumer advocates claim companies purposely make it one.

David Bookbinder says he can sniff out rebates no matter where they are, and he's determined to get them.

Bookbinder, who heads an eastern Massachusetts company called Total PC Support, says, "I will basically follow through and follow through and follow through until, eventually, I get that money."

And it can be a lot of money, Cowan points out, which is why Bookbinder thinks it's worth jumping through all those hoops the rest of us sometimes ignore.

"In terms of money," he says, "you're probably talking about 11, 12, 13 hundred dollars worth per year."

Some of the rebates Bookbinder seeks are for himself, some are for his clients, but even with his elaborate system of scanning receipts and barcodes, about half the time, he says, the rebates offer more pain than gain: "I've screamed at them, I've yelled at them, I've given them every name in the book."

Industry watchers say up to 40 per cent of mail-in rebates never get redeemed. That translates to more than $2 billion in extra revenue for the companies that offer them.

Consumer advocates such as Edgar Dworsky of consumerworld.org say companies don't make it easy, on purpose.

"Scores of consumers never follow through," he notes, "and that's found money for manufacturers."