By Stephen Schenck | March 23, 2011 7:27 PM
Mail-in rebates have been a thorn in the sides of consumers for years; while they eventually let you save some money, you can end up feeling like you’re jumping through hoops just to make sure that you get that check in the end. Sprint, to its credit, is finally taking a stand to stop the madness, getting rid of mail-in rebates (at least for now) starting March 27.
Rebates count on at least some buyers never sending in their paperwork, essentially letting companies advertise a product cost that’s lower than what everyone ends up paying. Sure, it’s those customers’ faults for letting it slip their minds, but applying all discounts at the point-of-sale is such a simple and fair way to conduct business, with everyone paying the same rates.
A less obvious way that rebates hurt consumers is by acting as interest-free short term loans. If you buy a phone with a $50 rebate off that takes eight weeks to arrive, that’s eight fewer weeks your money could be earning interest in the bank. That may only be pennies to you, but multiply it by millions of smartphone buyers, and it adds up.
Sprint’s dismissal of rebates in favor of in-store savings will only be temporary, sadly, but for now it’s an open-ended decision, with no announced date for the return of mail-in rebates. If you were wondering when would be a good time to pick up a new Sprint phone, start looking at models next week.