My husband Dan and I have been married for 24 years. That's 168 dog-years or, in that even truer measure of marital fortitude, 6,240 loads of laundry. You cannot possibly live with another person for that many years, washing his underwear and socks, without getting to know him fairly well.
One of the things that I’ve learned from living with this man for so many years is that he’s unable to pass up a rebate of any kind. He’s completely powerless when faced with a rebate offer, as if the inability to resist it is imprinted on his DNA. As with many shoppers, a rebate check is the ultimate enticement to buy something that he doesn't need. The promise of cash coming back in the mail eight weeks later, long after he’s forgotten that he’s made the purchase, always seems to seal the deal.
Recently, our local hardware store advertised a certain brand of tools for sale, the purchase of which entitled the buyer to a cash rebate of $20.00. Dan wasn't going to buy them, of course, but the lure of the rebate was much too tempting.
"Look at these great tools I bought at the hardware store. They were only $40.00 with a $20.00 rebate!"
I die a little inside whenever I hear the word rebate. "Please tell me there’s not a rebate. Those things are always so problematic to redeem."
"What do you mean? It says here you can do it online. You don't even need to cut out the UPC codes. It can’t get much easier than that."
“That’s what the rebate masochists want you to believe, so that you’ll sacrifice an ungodly amount of your life and half of the hair on your head for a miserable $2.00.”
“But this one is for $20.00.” Apparently, in Dan’s world, $20.00 is worth giving up a large chunk of your life and most of your hair.
"I don't know, Hon. The last time I tried to submit a rebate online, I spent close to an hour fighting with the website and calling it inappropriate names before finally giving up."
"You gave up? How could you give up? That's like throwing money away."
"Oh come on! No one should have to endure that sort of anguish for a $2.00 rebate."
"Well, this rebate is for $20.00 so I'm going to redeem it."
"Have fun. Twenty bucks says there’s going to be swearing.”
Dan snapped up the rebate form from the kitchen table and went to the computer to enter it online. I could hear him tapping away at the keyboard. A few minutes later, the sound of quiet typing was replaced by the loud and angry sound of swearing, much earlier in the process than I’d expected.
"What's the matter?" I asked, feeling certain that a computer crash or some other tragedy had happened to cause such outrage.
"I typed the entire mile-long website address into the address bar and now it's telling me that the link is broken."
He retyped the web address, this time moving even more slowly and deliberately from key to key so as not to make a mistake.
"Son of a bitch, it did it again! The link is broken. Why would they have me submit a rebate to a broken link?"
"I'm telling you, I always have trouble with those online rebates. They make you work unnecessarily hard for the rebate money. I always give up and mail them in."
"Mailing them is too much work. You have to cut out UPC's and photocopy the receipt and the form. It will be so much easier to do it online. There must be another way to get to the rebate section on the website.”
I left him alone to try different things on the website. Ten minutes later, I heard the keyboard drawer on the computer cabinet slam shut, clear evidence that he wasn't successful in reaching the rebate part of the website.
"I don’t get it. They tell you to submit the rebate online, that it's so easy, but really, it's a total pain in the ass. I finally found the rebate section of the website, but the tools I bought weren't on there. How can they not be on there?"
"I've had that same thing happen to me. It’s very frustrating. You should just mail it in. It’s not worth wasting any more time on it."
45 minutes of aggravation later, Dan decided to follow my advice and submit the rebate form manually. With a defeated sigh, he began completing the form, filling in box after tiny box with his name and mailing address.
"Looks like I’ll have to get the UPC codes from the packages. Good thing I didn't throw them away yet." He went out to the garage to get the UPC codes off of the tool packages. Several minutes later, he returned with one UPC code torn completely in half.
"What happened to this one?"
"The piece of shit UPC code wouldn't come off the box. I started to peel it, it seemed like things were going well and then all of a sudden, it ripped right in half!"
“I just knew you were going to enjoy the rebate process.”
He pretended to ignore me. Nearly an hour had passed since he’d started working on his rebate submission. Then, another outburst.
"I don't see why I have to enter the product information again. It's already on the form. Can't they just use that?"
"You would think, but if they tell you to fill it in, you’d better fill it in. You have to do whatever the form says or else the rebate will bounce."
"But this is duplicate information. What's the point of having it on there twice?"
"I don't know, but if you don't do it exactly how they tell you to, you won't get your rebate check. It's happened to me before. By the time they let you know that you've filled out the form wrong, the time period for the rebate submission is over and you're out of luck. If you want that $20.00, you'd better do it right the first time."
He didn’t like my answer, but he’d already invested so much time in this one, single rebate that there was no way he was going to give up now. He re-entered the product information.
“Oh, what the hell? The instructions say, 'be sure to enter the total rebate amount due where shown on the form,' but there's no place to enter it! There are only the two lines for the items purchased and no place to fill in a total."
He quietly considered his options and then brightened with an idea.
“Here’s what I’ll do: I'll draw a box for the total and write next to it, why didn't you stupid fucks include a column for the rebate total if it's so damned important to you. "
"You can't do that! You'll never get your rebate check for sure that way."
He knew I was right, but the moment would be lost without acknowledging the unfairness of it all.
"I just don't get it. I don't ever remember rebates being this difficult or time-consuming to do."
"Hmmm...could the reason be that you’ve always made me redeem them?"
And that’s when I learned something else about marriage: after your partner has spent over an hour struggling with an impossible rebate form, it’s probably not the best time to remind him that you were right all along.
Just imagine what I’ll learn in the next 24 years.