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My “Staples Easy Rebates” Horror Story

by Jonathan Kamens

Last updated: $Date: 2005/10/11 01:42:41 $ GMT

Latest news

July 28, 2005: I got another Staples Dollars check, this one for $10, from Staples. This means I've now made more in rebates and gift certificates than I paid for the purchase that started all this!

July 25, 2005: I received another $10 rebate check from Parago via DHL overnight delivery. I have no idea why. What a kick!

Executive summary

On February 28, 2005, I bought a product from a Staples store which was eligible for a $10 rebate. I submitted a rebate request through the Staples rebate Web site on the same day. I still haven't received the rebate, and the correspondence I've exchanged about the problem with Parago, Staples' rebate processing vendor, suggests either massive incompetence or intentional fraud. I am going public with my story and submitting written complaints to Staples various other places in an effort to force Staples to pay me what they owe me and fix whatever went wrong in the processing of my rebate so other people don't have to go through what I've had to.

The story in detail

On February 28, 2005, I purchased a 512MB PNY Secure Digital card from Staples for $49.94 plus tax. At the time, Staples was offering a $10 rebate on this card. Here's the rebate redemption form that I was given at the register (cut into pieces so it would fit on my scanner):

Form Part 1

Form Part 2

Form Part 3

Form Part 4

Later that same day, I submitted a rebate request through http://www.stapleseasyrebates.com/, a site run by Parago, Staples' rebate processing vendor.

On March 1, I received this message confirming that my rebate submission had been received:

Message-ID: <21348730.1109663461258.JavaMail.jboss@prodapp06>
From: Staples Easy Rebates <StaplesEasyRebates@StaplesEasyRebates.com>
To: JIK@kamens.brookline.ma.us
Subject: We got it. And soon you will get it back.
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 01:51:01 -0600 (CST)

Thank you for submitting your rebate request(s) through Staples Easy
Rebates. We have received rebate information for the following
product(s):

PNY 512MB SECURE DIGITAL CARD

We will begin processing your request(s) shortly. In the future, you
will be able to track the status of your rebate(s) here:
http://www.stapleseasyrebates.com/staples/Search.do?claimNumber=XXXXXXXXX

Please do not respond to this email. If you have questions about the
content of this email or about the Easy Rebates process, please read
our Frequently Asked Questions at
http://www.stapleseasyrebates.com/staples/SplashAction.do?action=FAQ

On March 24, when I hadn't heard anything further about my rebate, I went to the Web site and checked on its status. The Web site claimed that a rebate check had been sent to me and had cleared, even though I never received any check. Here's the confirmation page printed out directly from the Web site:

Confirmation page

Since I never received a check, let alone deposited it, I sent a message through the Web site asking what happened. This resulted in the following e-mail being sent to Parago:

From: “Jonathan Kamens” <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: <Staples.Rebate.Center@StaplesRebates.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2005 5:19 PM
Subject: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)

Salutation: Mr.
First Name: Jonathan
Last Name: Kamens
Company Name:
Street Address: XXXXXXXXXXXXX
City: XXXXXXXX
State: XX
Email: jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us
Zip Code: XXXXXXXXXX
Phone: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Rebate For: February
Comments: Your Web site says that my rebate check has cleared, which is
fascinating since (a) I never received it and (b) when I submitted my rebate
request I told you I wanted the rebate sent via direct deposit.  What's
going on here?
So much for “easy rebates”!
Promo Code: 05-27851
Tracking Number: XXXXXXXXX

On March 25, they responded as follows:

Message-ID: <003d01c53182$6c95bff0$2569f80a@mira.helpdesknow.com>
From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
To: jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 17:34:27 -0400

Dear Johnathan Kamens:                         Tracking number: XXXXXXXXX

Thank you for your rebate inquiry. We are pleased to inform you that your
reward was sent to be shipped on 03/16/05. Please allow 15 days to receive
the item. In our records, it shows that you had the option of a $10.00
rebate check or a bonus item. Our record of your submission also shows that
you chose to receive the Pinnacle Instant Album as your reward.

We appreciate your participation in this promotion. If there is anything
else we can do to assist you, please contact us at
Staples.rebates@parago.com. We are always happy to help.

Be sure to visit our website at www.StaplesEasyRebates.com  for future
rebate opportunities.

Colleen
Promotions Customer Service

I responded as follows:

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 17:38:51 -0500

I don't know what's going on here.  I never chose to receive a bonus
item, not a Pinnacle Instant Album or anything else.  I asked for a
$10 rebate check, and that's what I should receive.

You still haven't explained why your Web site says, “Rebate Check has
cleared,” under my rebate status when I have not received any check.

You also have not explained why I never received e-mail asking for my
direct-deposit information.

I don't want a “bonus item.”  I want my $10.  If I receive any sort of
“bonus item” from you, I will return it unopened.

This is what you call “easy rebates”?  Please, give me a break.

  Jonathan Kamens

Their response on March 26:

From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
To: <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2005 19:35:34 -0400

Dear Jonathan Kamens:

Thank you for your rebate inquiry. In that case, you will have to retune to
the website and enter your submission again and this time click on 10$
reward and the bonus item.

We appreciate your participation in this promotion. If there is anything
else we can do to assist you, please contact us at
Staples.rebates@parago.com. We are always happy to help.

Kim
Promotions Customer Service

My response:

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2005 20:52:06 -0500

Surely you know that I can't resubmit a rebate.  I tried to do so and
it refused to accept the rebate submission because that Easy Rabate ID
number has already been submitted (by me, the first time!).

What possible legitimate reason could you have for telling me to do
something that your own Web site won't allow me to do?

Look, this is very simple:

I submitted a valid rebate request for $10.  I have yet to receive the
$10.  Your Web site claims that the rebate check has cleared, a check
which I never received.  This is YOUR PROBLEM, AND I EXPECT YOU TO
SOLVE IT.

Am I going to have to file complaints with the BBB and the
Massachusetts Attorney General's office about fraudulent
rebate-processing practices before you'll send me my $10?

Their response on March 28:

From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
To: <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 15:27:51 -0400

Dear Jonathan Kamens:                        Tracking No.: YYYYYYYYY

Thank you for your rebate inquiry.  Because your issue requires further
research, your email has been forwarded to a special team.  We should have a
resolution within 10 days.

We appreciate your participation in this promotion.  If there is anything
else we can do to assist you, please contact us at
Staples.rebates@parago.com.  We are always happy to help.

You can also track the status of your rebate, using the Rebate ID above, at
www.StaplesEasyRebates.com.

Christina
Promotions Customer Service

I waited more than 10 days, and then I sent them this message on April 10:

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 00:11:09 -0400

It has been more than 10 days since you sent the message below, and I
have not heard anything further back from you about why I haven't
received my $10 and when I will receive it.

By the way, why does the tracking number in your message below say
“YYYYYYYYY” when the tracking number of the rebate we're discussing,
and indeed the tracking number which appeared in the messages from you
before the last one, is “XXXXXXXXX”?

  Jonathan Kamens

We then exchanged the following series of messages:

From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
To: <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 14:01:12 -0300

Dear Jonathan Kamens:                         Tracking number: XXXXXXXXX

Thank you for your rebate inquiry. We are pleased to inform you that your
gift check was sent for shipment on 03/16/05. Generally, customers receive
their gift checks within 15 days of this date, but we must wait 30 days
before we can reship. If you have not received your gift check within 30
days of the shipping date, please contact us again and we will be happy to
stop payment on the original gift check and issue a new one. Be sure to
include your complete mailing address at that time so that we can verify it
against the address we have on file. Also, our team verified and the choice
that you selected on the website is your final choice and that means you
will be getting the product and not the check reward. I do apologize for the
confusion.

We appreciate your participation in this promotion. If there is anything
else we can do to assist you, please contact us at
Staples.rebates@parago.com. We are always happy to help.

Be sure to visit our website at www.StaplesEasyRebates.com for future rebate
opportunities.

Kim
Promotions Customer Service

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 16:30:29 -0400

You're now just repeating yourselves.  I've already told you that the
rebate offer I submitted didn't say anything about a gift and that I
asked for a $10 rebate, not a gift.  I've already told you that the
check was never received even though your Web site claims that it has
already cleared, which makes it absurd for you to claim that I have to
wait longer for it to arrive.

It's rather odd that now that it has been more than 15 days since you
claim my check was sent, you've stopped saying that I have to wait 15
days and started saying that I have to wait 30 days.

It has become clear that you are intentionally and purposefully trying
to make this process so difficult that I will give up rather than
pursuing the matter until I get my refund.  Either that, or you people
are incompetent to the point of fraud and you have no right to be in
the business of rebate processing.

I intend to enclose our entire correspondence in complaints to
Staples' corporate offices, the Better Business Bureau, the
Massachusetts Attorney General's office, and the Federal Trade
Commission.  I also intend to post this entire chain of correspondence
to my personal Web site and to consumer sites on the Internet.

I will not allow your fraudulent behavior to go unchallenged.  This is
no longer about the $10, although I can assure you that in the end
I'll get the money I am owed.  This is about not allowing you to
continue cheating other people the way you're obviously trying to
cheat me.

  Jonathan Kamens

From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
To: <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 19:10:22 -0300

Dear Jonathan Kamens:                  Tracking number: XXXXXXXXX

Thank you for your rebate inquiry. We do apologize, but we do have to follow
the guidelines of the promotion.When you submit the rebate online there are
options you can check off;  it appears you checked the box to receive the
Pinnacle Instant Album instead of a rebate check. Once this rebate is
processed there is nothing we can do about changing the reward selected by
the customer. In this instance we are forwarding your request through to see
if we can make a one time courtesy for you. Please allow 7-10 business days
for a resolution to be made.

Thank you for your patience in this situation.

Kim
Promotions Customer Service

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 19:48:17 -0400

Since you seem to think it is appropriate and useful to repeat
yourselves, I will do the same:

I was not offered any options about what rebate to receive.  The only
rebate choice i was offered was $10 cash back.  I have the rebate form
in front of me right now, and it says nothing whatsoever about any
option to receive an album.  I also have the confirmation page from
stapleseasyrebates.com in front of me, and it says nothing about an
album.  It says “$10 Mail in Rebate”, and it says you issued a rebate
check to me, and it says the check has cleared, which may or may not
be true, but it certainly didn't clear into *my* back account, because
I never received it.  Your claims that I asked for and was sent an
album are contradicted by the information that is plainly available to
me on your Web site; this information must also be available to you,
so I simply cannot understand why you continue to assert that I asked
for and was sent an album.

The current promotion for this item may or may not involve the choice
of an album instead of a rebate.  The promotion that was in effect at
the time I submitted my rebate request did not include such a choice.

As I said above, I have already told you all of this.  Also, I already
waited 10 days as instructed for you to straigten out this mess, and
you already had all the information I've just repeated before I waited
that 10 days.  I'm not going to wait another 10 days just so we can go
another round in which you prove yet again that you're either
dishonest or incompetent.

I'm done waiting for you to do the right thing, and tonight I will be
posting the record of our correspondence along with the evidence of
your malfeasance to all of the agencies and forums I mentioned
previously.

  Jonathan Kamens

Late on April 10, after my last message shown above, I posted the page you're reading off of my home page to publicize my story. I also submitted complaints and/or links to my story at these sites:

I also submitted complaints to:

On April 14, I received a CD in the mail from Parago. I left the CD mailer sealed, marked it “refused. return to sender”, and put it back in the mail. Here's a picture:

picture of returned CD mailer

I also sent this e-mail message to Parago:

From: Jonathan Kamens <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us>
To: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com>
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2005 15:52:52 -0400

Yesterday, April 14, I received a CD in the mail from Parago.  Since,
as I've told you several times, I never asked for this CD, I have
marked it “REFUSED RETURN TO SENDER” and put it back in the mail.  See
attached image.

I have also sent complaints to the BBB and to Staples' corporate
office, as well as several other public forums, about your incredibly
wrong handling of this rebate.

  Jonathan Kamens

On April 16, I received this message back from Parago:

From: “Staples” <staples.rebates@rebateshq.com$gt;
To: <jik@kamens.brookline.ma.us$gt;
Subject: Re: Staples Promo Center Email (Thread:XXXXXX)
Date: Sat, 16 Apr 2005 11:43:33 -0300

Dear Jonathan Kamens:                         Tracking number:  XXXXXXXXXX

Thank you for your inquiry. We apologize about the confusion concerning your
rebate submission. Because you are a valued Staples customer, we will issue
a $10 check to you. Please allow 15 days to receive it.

If there is anything else we can do to assist you, please contact us at
staples.rebates@rebateshq.com. We are always happy to help.

 You can also track the status of your rebate, using the Tracking number
above, at www.stapleseasyrebates.com

Terri
Promotions Customer Service

On April 19, the following response from Staples was posted to my Better Business Bureau complaint: “Emailed Parago, the rebate company that Staples uses to process it's rebates and advised them that the customer never received his rebate. I received an email back on the 18th advising that the customer will receive his rebate check in 7-10 business days. I will send a letter of apology to the customer with a $15 Courtesy Coupon.”

The $10 rebate check arrived from Parago on April 20.

The letter from Staples with a $15 Staples Dollars check arrived April 21. It reads:

Dear Mr. Kamens,

Thank you for taking the time to contact Staples concerning the problem with rebate offer of the offer [sic] that was advertised by Staples.

You were correct to assume that we do not want to tarnish our great reputation and, more importantly, cause customer dissatisfaction. We never intend to mislead our customers in any way, never the less [sic], they should have serviced you better [sic] than what you've described. I have contacted the product buyer to share with him your experience. He promised me that he would address this situation to ensure that this is not a problem for our valued customers in the future.

We always enjoy hearing from our customers, especially when they offer us the opportunity to correct a problem and regain customer satisfaction. We understand that this was a tremendous inconvenience for you and we apologize. I hope you will visit one of our stores again and use the attached, $15.00 coupon [sic] toward your next purchase, compliments of Staples.

Sincerely,
signature
Xxxxxx Xxxxxxxxx
Customer Relations Specialist
Office of the President
Staples Inc.

I don't usually criticize people's writing on-line, and I suppose I shouldn't nit-pick given that they gave me $15 for my trouble, but still, this is a pretty poorly written letter. The first “[sic]” is because the language makes no sense. The second is because of the run-on sentence as well as the fact that the author meant “nevertheless” rather than “never the less”. The third is because “serviced” has a colloquial meaning which makes it totally inappropriate in business correspondence. The fourth is because the comma after “attached” shouldn't be there.

On April 21, I found several forum threads on fatwallet.com (see thread 1, thread 2) from other people who had experienced the same problem, i.e., a rebate check which Parago claimed had already been cashed when in fact the customer had never received it. I added replies in the threads about my own experience.

On May 20, a month after the rebate check from Parago finally arrived, I received a call from a woman at Parago who said she wanted to get things straightened out and get me my outstanding rebate. It's nice that she called, but it'd be even nicer if Parago wasn't so screwed up that they didn't know I got my rebate a month ago!

On around May 30, I received a form letter in response to the complaint I sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office. They forwarded my complaint, without taking any action on it, to the Boston Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs And Licensing. So much for the Attorney General working to protect consumers!

On July 25, I received another $10 rebate check from Parago via DHL overnight delivery. I have no idea why. What a kick!

On July 28, I found out why. Apparently, the Mayor's office complained to Staples and Staples told Parago to send me another rebate check. I found this out because Staples sent me a copy of the letter to the Mayor's office responding to my complaint. Furthermore, in addition to telling Parago to send me another $10 rebate check, Staples also sent me another Staples Dollars check, this time for $10. I've now made more money in rebates and gift certificates than I paid for the original purchase! Here's the letter Staples sent to the Mayor's office:

Mayor's office [sic] of Consumer Affairs and LIcensing
Boston city [sic] Hall
Room 817
Boston, MA 02201

RE:Jonathan Kamens
Your File No. 05-7-7

Dear Ms [sic] [name deleted]:

     I am writing in response to your letter regarding the difficulties that Mr. Kamens has had trying to obtain his $10.00 rebate. We have investigated and resolved the matter.

     Our investigation was unable to determine why the rebate check was not sent. We have contacted Parago, Inc., the company that services our rebates, and the issue has been corrected. Per DHL tracking # [deleted], Mr. Kamens [sic] check was delivered to hsi front door on 7/25/2005 at 12:57pm. In addition, we have sent Jonathan Kamens a $10.00 Staples Courtesy coupon for his inconvenience.

     I contacted the residence on July 26th at approximately 11am. I spoke with a female who advised me to call back after 6pm. I advised her that I am not in the office after 6pm and this is in regards to the Attorney General Issue that Mr. Kamens filed. I advised her that the check was delivered and she thanked me and hung up before I was able to verify it was received.

     Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

[name deleted]
Customer Relations Specialist
Office of the President
Staples Inc.

CC:Johnathan [sic] Kamens
[address deleted]

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