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Dude! This computer rebate thing is frustrating

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002

One day in the early 1970s I walked into the print shop of the newspaper where I was working and asked one of the guys working there why he was watching television.

"It's a computer," he said.

Little did I know it was the beginning of a series of events that would lead to me sitting up until the early morning hours mumbling about packing slips, order numbers and customer numbers and, intermittently, screaming into a telephone mouthpiece, "I don't want to press 4, damn it, I want to start getting my misdirections from a human being!"

Until Al Gore took time off from being a role model for romance writers and invented the Internet, computers remained pretty much the purview of journalists and other geeks, and the first several that I used could only be used for writing, but, as we all know, that changed.

When we finally got the real deal at work, we were encouraged to play with it and use it as a means of developing sufficient skills to use it for research so we would stop bugging our librarians.

And it didn't take me long to master the basic skills of chat, online shopping and research into just about anything except hate Web sites or those involving dirty pictures.

But I knew, as retirement approached, that the day was coming for me to go ahead and buy my own computer. I held out as long as I could, hoping they would be outlawed or something, but the lure of easy banking, having printed copies of hotel reservations and being able to communicate without having to look for a stamp or shell out an arm and a leg for a phone call, finally won out.

Since my wife was job-hunting at the time, I did the manly thing and bought the computer as a gift for her so I can still claim I don't own one.

A young computer-literate friend helped me order what I wanted online, and I was amazed at the speed with which nearly a thousand bucks made it from my checking account into the account of the company whose front man begins all of his sentences with, "Dude!"

I can only assume that the company's rebate process was designed by someone who probably talks the same way.

I'm not sure I understand the rebate thing anyhow.

It's a lot like those cards the grocery and retail store chains want you to carry so that you can "save" money when you shop at their stores, when what they really mean is that what is represented is the amount they will overcharge you if you don't have their card. Why, I wonder, can't they just charge you a fair price and keep their cards. I already have two wallets overflowing with grocery cards, music store cards, bookstore cards, service station discount cards and business cards from people I can't remember having ever met.

I'm sure there is some reason to sell somebody something and then put them through administrative and call-sorting hell just to get back the $100 you could have taken off the price up front. I'm sure it is some mystical marketing tool that is beyond my poor ability to comprehend.

I am becoming convinced, however, that at least some of the motivation is that a certain percentage of customers will just get frustrated and disgusted and give up and they can keep the $100 they only grudgingly want to send you.

At this point I have been online or on the telephone for several hours trying to find out how to order the rebate and how to come up with the documents (they neglected to enclose a packing slip) I need to apply for the rebate.

I just recently passed the point where, at an hourly rate based on my salary, I have exceeded the $100 value of the rebate in the number of hours I have spent trying to get it.

I have spoken to two helpful people, one of whom told me how to order the documents online and another who told me I had to print them off the Internet, although the site he sent me to didn't have them.

I couldn't print them anyhow -- I don't have a printer -- but the same company has a dandy rebate offer on printers.

Dude! I'm tired.

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