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OfficeMax Drops Mail-In Rebates

Itasca, Ill. — OfficeMax has eliminated nearly its entire mail-in rebate program.

In place of offering rebates, OfficeMax said it will now work directly with manufacturers to offer periodic exclusive savings in-store, which will be reflected as an instant discount upon checkout.

The policy, which went into effect July 2, was initiated to improve the customer’s in-store experience, the company said. In doing so, OfficeMax becomes the first national office products retailer in the country to eliminate mail-in rebates on select products.

According to Ryan Vero, executive VP and chief merchandising officer for OfficeMax, “We’re intent on providing OfficeMax customers with the best shopping experience possible and the retail mail-in rebate program was not consistent with that goal. By simply reflecting a discount in the purchase price for computers, printers, digital cameras, and other products at OfficeMax stores, we are giving customers what they really want without subjecting them to a complicated and often confusing rebate process.”

He added that a “small assortment” of products sold by OfficeMax will continue to carry a manufacturer’s rebate.

OfficeMax cited statistics by America’s Research Group indicating that only about one-third of national retail consumers who buy merchandise with mail-in rebates actually send away for the refunds and take advantage of the sale price. “That statistic means that 70 percent of shoppers who thought they were purchasing a bargain actually cheated themselves out of the ‘sale’ price,” Vero said. He added that consumer advocates have advised shoppers to ignore after-rebate prices when comparison shopping because so few actually receive rebate savings, and that OfficeMax’s move “brings more integrity to the shopping experience.”

On the specialty CE side, Best Buy began eliminating mail-in rebates on a category by category basis in April 2005, with the goal of dropping them entirely by 2007. Some 65 percent of all mail-in rebate offers had been eliminated by last April, Best Buy said, which most recently added PCs and accessories to the no mail-in list.

The action followed a 2005 order from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for CompUSA to make good on hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid rebate claims. The FTC also warned all retailers that they will be held accountable for rebates they advertise, including those sponsored by vendors.