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Wait-listed consumers could be in luck for appliance rebates

Wait-listed consumers could be in luck for appliance rebates

The mad dash for $5 million worth of cash-for-appliance rebates didn't result in a mad dash for rebate redemptions.

By KARA McGUIRE, Star Tribune
Last update: May 25, 2010 - 9:09 PM

Consumers who found themselves on the wait list for Minnesota's appliance rebate program might want to start shopping. After extending the deadline for submitting the materials by a month, the program has paid out just $3.2 million of $5 million in rebates.

When the program was launched March 1, consumers complained of a faulty website and busy phone lines as they clamored to get the rebates of up to $200 to buy a more energy-efficient appliance. While programs in other states languished with rebate money unclaimed, all of Minnesota's federal allocation was snatched up within 24 hours. While nearly 26,000 Minnesotans initially secured the right to rebates, only about 18,500 submitted materials before the deadline, the Minnesota Department of Commerce said Tuesday. The state put another 9,400 people on a wait list.

The department still has about 500 rebates in the first pool to process in the next week or two before working through the 2,500 applications sent in by consumers on the wait list. There should be enough money to satisfy requests in both of those groups. Checks for those consumers started going out this month.

Funds should also be left over to pay rebates to some wait-listed consumers who now choose to go out and make a qualifying purchase, department spokeswoman Nicole Garrison-Sprenger said.

The department is still working out the process of how the remaining 6,900 wait-listed Minnesotans would be notified of additional funds. Many of those people may have delayed a purchase until they knew whether funds were available. Those on the wait list who bought and submitted their paperwork already were gambling they would make the cut.

The deadline for submitting materials has already been extended once -- from March 30 to April 30.

Some consumers complained that back orders on some appliances made it impossible to recycle their old refrigerators, dishwashers, freezers or washers and buy a new one in time.

Why would someone clamor to get a rebate and not follow through? Blame human nature and busy lives, said Hal Stinchfield, CEO and founder of Promotional Marketing Insights in Orono. People plan on filling out the rebate, but they forget, or put it off only to realize the offer already expired.

Stinchfield said rebate redemption rates are "infinitely variable," depending on everything from the length of the offer to the size of the discount. The larger the amount, the more likely the customer will follow through.

"Nobody walks away from a $50 or $100 bill on purpose. It's unintentional," Stinchfield said. But even when rebates are up to $200, as in this case, Stinchfield said more than half of consumers tend to leave money on the table.

Consumers who are still fuming because they didn't get a spot on the wait list may get another chance. If some of the 6,900 wait-listed participants decide not to follow through, "then we would have a little money left over," Garrison-Sprenger said. Consumers with questions can contact the Appliance Rebate Call Center directly at 877-243-8208. To check your rebate status, visit www.mnappliancerebate.com.

Kara McGuire • 612-673-7293

The mad dash for $5 million worth of cash-for-appliance rebates didn't result in a mad dash for rebate redemptions.

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