Inconvenient mail-in rebates are a thing of the past if you’re buying a Palm Pre Plus or Pixi Plus online from Verizon Wireless.
Verizon confirmed to Wireless Week that customers will instead get an instant online rebate when buying the phones, priced at $150 for the Pre Plus and $80 for the Pixi Plus. There was “a brief period where we tested mail-in rebates on some phones,” a Verizon representative said. “We have found that online customers expect instant rebates and since this is a very competitive arena in which to do business, we responded accordingly.”
I hope that means Verizon Wireless is done with mail-in rebates for all of its phones, because they’re not a consumer-friendly practice. In 2005, BusinessWeek learned that roughly 40 percent of mail-in rebates go unreturned. They’re basically a sneaky tax on the forgetful or disorganized. Perhaps that’s why Best Buy and OfficeMax phased out their mail-in rebate programs years ago.
You could argue that the mail-in rebate helps lower prices for those who do remember to send in their proofs-of-purchase — the same way credit card companies claim that penalties for late payments or overcharges result in better perks and rates for those who pay on time — but it’s a weak argument when smartphone prices are so low to begin with.
Therefore, I applaud the move by Verizon, but it seems like they’re still not getting the point of being competitive online. Right now the Palm Pre Plus is $80 from Amazon and $100 from Best Buy with a two-year service plan from Verizon. The Palm Pixi Plus is free. The Motorola Droid is $100 from Best Buy and $50 from Amazon. If Verizon’s eliminating the mail-in rebate, but still hosing customers that don’t know better than to buy directly from the carrier, that’s neither consumer-friendly nor competitive.