My grocery store rebate is missing in action — can you help me retrieve it?

By | October 13th, 2016

When Melissa Drozdowski’s MillerCoors grocery rebate never arrives, she considers taking legal action against the company. Can a consumer advocate fix this — or should she file a lawsuit?

Question: I have been waiting almost two months for two $25 grocery rebates via PayPal from MillerCoors. I received emails from Miller saying I’d receive them within 14 days.

I have called Miller’s 800 number repeatedly, emailed, posted to its Facebook page, spoken with umpteen phone reps and supervisors, and gone through their online chat service — nothing!

Other customers who selected the gift card option have already received their rebates. The automated system thinks that both of these $25 rebates have already been sent to my PayPal account. However, my account balance still shows $0.

The only option that the customer service representatives keep giving me at this point is to escalate my problem to whatever department releases these rebate funds. This is the same thing I’ve heard at least seven or eight times now. I’ve been stonewalled, kicked out of a chat session, told that my problem is being resolved. And yet, here I am.

I know MillerCoors has faced class action litigation over their rebate processes in the past. I’m wondering if I should start looking in that direction. Yes, that sounds silly over a pair of $25 rebates. But I’ve heard from other customers that they haven’t received their PayPal rebates either.

Multiply that missing $50 by possibly thousands of other customers, and suddenly, it doesn’t sound so silly, right? At this point, it’s the principle of the thing.

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I’d like to receive the $50 in PayPal rebates that were promised. I’m not asking for anything else — just what I think I’m due for jumping through all these hoops. If I really wanted to grind the axe, I’d add in the cost of my time (my hourly billable rate at work is about $50), which would be another $200 or so.

I realize that mistakes happen, but come on … this is getting ridiculous. — Melissa Drozdowski, Snow Camp, N.C.

Answer: MillerCoors should have sent you the rebate weeks ago. This offer appears to be a standard beer rebate — a way for breweries to incentivize customers to buy their products without falling afoul of state law, which prohibits rebates on alcohol. Instead, you get a rebate on other groceries you might buy with your six-pack of Miller Lite.

Your rebate offer looked pretty routine, and the money should have been in your PayPal account more or less instantly. Instead, you embarked on a long journey — which you painstakingly documented in emails and chat transcripts — before coming up empty-handed.

By the way, nice work blazing a paper trail. You kept such great records, including the claim numbers for your rebates, that it made getting to the bottom of this case so much easier.

MillerCoors admits your refund was delayed as the result of an “an unfortunate situation with our third party rebate center,” according to a company spokesman.

“There was a glitch with PayPal whereby many consumers weren’t actually paid — though they appeared to be paid – due to a missing email address,” he added. “The rebate center technical team did uncover the issue, at long last, and payments should have cleared to PayPal.”

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Was there anything you could have done to expedite the rebate? Well, the emails, phone calls and posts didn’t hurt. Collectively, they applied pressure on MillerCoors to do the right thing. Oddly, this is one of those times when threatening to sue the company might have made a difference. If nothing else, it underscored the seriousness of the situation.

I have a problem with rebates, because they often entice consumers to buy something they wouldn’t normally purchase. Maybe you’re spending money to “save” money or get something free. Sure, a few consumers are benefiting because they would have made the same purchase anyway. But many aren’t. When a company refuses to give you the rebate in a timely manner, you have every right to feel ripped off.

MillerCoors says it has finally sent you the missing money.

  • sirwired

    I miss the long-gone CompUSA and Office-Max rebates. Both chains used to be ABSOLUTELY INSANE as to the volume of rebates they’d offer. Useful software for a buck after rebate, 200 CD-R’s for free (as an IT worker, a stack of disposable CD-R’s and a Sharpie was a godsend in the days before cheap thumb drives), a laser printer for $30 (still use that one today as my primary printer)

    The only one I ever had a problem with was them sending me a postcard letting me know they couldn’t issue a rebate because they couldn’t read my mailing address. (I’ll leave you to ponder that one for a minute… yes, it’s exactly as stupid as it sounds.)

  • The Original Joe S

    I bought a bunch of CDs from them before they went Tango Uniform. Cheap. You get what you pay for. They won’t burn any faster than 24X. However, since I DO have ’em, and don’ t make many CDs any more, I’ll have enough to see me through to Armageddon…..

  • Regina Litman

    As someone who has lived only in Maryland and Pennsylvania, with some supermarket shopping near where I work in New Jersey, the whole concept of shopping for beer in the same store as groceries is an alien concept to me. Yes, I’ve seen beer in supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores in my travels (and in Virginia, when I commuted there from my Maryland home 30+ years ago), but it is still a culture shock.

    Three supermarkets that I know of in Upper Moreland Township and nearby Warrington in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia are now selling beer in a separate part of the store, though.

  • doug_jensen

    A lawsuit would have to be either a class action one (non-trivial, expensive, and time-consuming to put together) or better yet for you alone, a small claims court one in the company’s home state. Even that would be a lot of hassle and expense for $50 and the satisfaction that winning (virtually guaranteed) would provide. Lawsuits against companies are almost always a net loss for a consumer, they have vastly greater legal resources and funds, and even their legal costs are usually tax deductible.

  • Notice the almost total disappearance of mail-in rebate offers these days? Once a popular marketing tool, their aura tarnished when it was revealed that most rebates are never cashed, including a large percentage of those which were mailed in. Companies found that since almost nobody bothered to log which rebates they are applying for and because the checks always came months after the customer had forgotten all about sending in the application, rebate applications that simply vanished into the ether worked as well for market as the ones that were actually fulfilled.

  • redragtopstl

    True, I see fewer mail-in rebates these days. Menards, however, seems to be doing very well with it.

    (For those unfamiliar, Menards is a Wisconsin-based chain of home improvement stores that also carries many other items — cleaning supplies, seasonal decorations, food items, you name it. In fact, I buy cereal there regularly now, because they carry the same double-packs as Costco, for about the same price … and I only have to drive 2 miles to buy it, as opposed to driving 12 miles to Costco! Their stores are mostly in the Midwest.)

    Anyway, Menards regularly offers generous rebates on many items, and makes it fairly easy: The sales receipt prints out with a separate piece at the bottom listing the rebate item(s) by number; this will be enclosed with the rebate slip(s). You then pick up the appropriate rebate slips or (easier) go to the store website’s rebate page, enter the rebate numbers being claimed, and it generates the appropriate rebate slips that can be filled in online and printed out (or can be printed and filled in by hand). You can mail all to the same PO box with one stamp. We’ve gotten back rebates of $20, $20 or more at one time. It’s basically a store credit that can be used at Menards. We’re expecting a $67 one any day now. (No, I don’t work there.)

  • RBXChas

    I sent in a $3.50 rebate on a health care product in May, and I got a postcard in July that the rebate couldn’t be issued because they couldn’t read my name on the rebate form. I had kept copies of the form and can tell you that my name was clearly legible (I suspect it got damaged somehow), but the funny thing is, they mailed the postcard to me using my name, correctly spelled. I had to call the rebate center to ask, “Really?” And yes, I had to mail the card back with my name written clearly, again. All for a $3.50 rebate, which I got in August.

  • Sam Petersen

    Growing up in Colorado it was the same thing for me. We had 3.2 beer and wine coolers nothing else in the store. First time I went to CA and saw an alcohol section in the store my mind was blown. LOL

  • Michael Anthony

    Off topic, but I noticed how long it took to get your rebate. Last December, I got a letter that they were immediately stopping the publishing of a magazine we subscribed to. They would switch us to one of their best selling titles, a good move.

    The 2nd paragraph did me in. It said “It will take 9 months to process”. The first issue arrived last month! Mind you, this is a top publisher in the digital age. You wouldn’t even believe me what they told me the reason was when I called to inquire.

  • Fishplate

    I agreed to reduce a recent rebate rebate by $5 (out of a $70 rebate) in order to be expedited and paid electronically. I had the money in three days.

  • Patrica

    What we’ve found…. is that the “sale” or “11%” rebates, or the rebate allows the item to be the SAME price as at Home Depot only 1 mile further…. Ergo, we don’t have to go through mailing the form in, waiting, and perhaps forgetting to use the “rebate” check. We just get the items cheaper and with a more knowledgeable (about construction, building) staff without the extra trouble. I know it’s not much of a trouble, and I don’t know if this is in other parts of the country, but it is here. Yes Chris, I will admit that with the “rebate” at Menard’s I have purchased items I never would have otherwise..and subsequently have found I’ve not used them (some were weird-like optical wipes that you had to add fluid to, so you needed to buy a companion item).. I’m pretty much out of this rebate cycle now.

  • RBXChas

    I grew up in NJ, where you can only buy alcohol at state-licensed stores, but I went to college in Philly. I remember once going through a drive-through place to get beer.

    It wasn’t until I moved to Michigan that I saw alcohol being sold in supermarkets. However, I was shocked when I got my grocery shopping done early (for me) on a Sunday morning. I was checking out around 11:45AM and wasn’t allowed to purchase the bottle of wine I had with my groceries because it was before noon. They said I could wait 15 minutes, then buy it, but it wasn’t worth sticking around for. Georgia was more fun with no alcohol purchases at all on Sunday, and thankfully SC is a little better, allowing only beer and wine purchases on Sunday. I rarely drink, but in GA it was a pain if you decided on Sunday to buy a bottle of wine to have with dinner and couldn’t. Almost as bad as deciding you want Chick-Fil-A, then realizing it’s Sunday.

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