Rewards and Incentives to Purchase Consumer Products - Part I

I recently experienced a nightmare when purchasing one of the new cell phones. If you are older than 15 years of age, you are under the burden of not having grown up using technology. You may not have the experience and skills to operate the new cell phone and you may also become overwhelmed by the exact conditions required to receive the rewards or incentives offered for free with your purchase from the manufacturer.

In the last few months, I decided to write an article about my experience, warning others of the problems that one faces in seeking product rewards or incentives. I would not expect that most people would go to the lengths that I did to secure the rewards. Most people would not have the motivation and/or the time to go the distance. That is why I have come up with a list of considerations before purchasing products that have rewards and/or incentives attached to them.

  1. Before purchasing an item, ask for the documents. If the retailer at a store or over the Internet will not provide you with the documents you are to sign, I strongly recommend that you not purchase the item. On the assumption that you have the documents, read them to understand the content. Consideration should be given to consulting with an attorney. Often salespeople will characterize the document as “our standard contract”. You still have the right to modify the contract. However, some companies, particularly large ones, often will not modify their contract.

  2. In advance of your purchase, read any documents relating to rewards or incentives and look for the fine print that contains disclaimers expressing that the rewards are subject to conditions and availability. My experience was that the salesperson gave me a large number of documents and referenced a link described on paper and said that all I had to do was go on-line. I should've read the entire document which I did not. I was given over 12 pages relating to the cell phone, contract with Verizon, transfer agreement, accessories with explanations of their prices and description of each accessory. Finally I was given a receipt that was almost a yard long. Interesting is that the telephone number on the receipt does not ring at the local retail location, but rings at retail stores 10 to 20 miles away from the purchase retail store. I suggest that you ask the retailer in advance of your purchase what the phone number is for that particular retail store and that you write that number down and dial it from your cell phone, while you are in the store, to be certain that number actually rings into the retail store where you are.

  3. Always obtain the reward that is offered at the store from which you purchased the item. The difficulties of using the Internet are many fold. I could neither enter my first name without getting an error message nor could I speak to a customer service representative to remedy my registration of the cell phone. In advance of your purchase, you may want to call the 800-number of the manufacturer of the consumer good that you wish to purchase to see how much of an effort it takes to reach someone and prepare some questions and evaluate whether or not the individual responds to your questions.

  4. Not getting what you bargained for from customer service. Always get the name of the person that you have spoken to and place in writing confirmation of your understanding. Most customer service departments have limitations in place as to what a customer service representative has the authority to say or do. Therefore, you have to talk with supervisors and move up the organizational chart to speak to someone who has authority.

  5. Depending on the amount of the purchase price, you may want to take advantage of free services offered by the Office of Consumer Affairs for the State of Maryland. Typically what you do is fill out a complaint form and it may take several weeks before a response from the consumer protection office reaches you. Another possibility is to go to a local county office of consumer affairs or go to the Better Business Bureau. Consider seeking the advice and counsel of a private attorney. For individuals who have limited resources, you may contact the Maryland State Bar Association’s Pro Bono project which is staffed by lawyers who volunteer their time for individuals who are of low income.

After exhausting all of the above resources, if your claim is less than $30,000 you may go to your local Maryland district court. Recognize that for a small claim of $5,000 or less, the technical rules of evidence are not strictly applied. However, it is possible that you may run into an incident where those rules are applied.

Fred Antenberg for over 30 years has represented individuals in both small claims and in larger claims in Howard County, Maryland, and surrounding counties in Maryland. On our website you will find numerous examples of cases in which Fred has been successful. Prior success, however, is not an indicator of future success.

If would like to learn about my experience purchasing a new cell phone, please read Part II of this article.

Call Fred at 410-730-4404 and discuss your need over the phone. Request a Free Initial Consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.