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January 9, 2012

Office Depot Dilemma: Multiple Rebates Require Same Original UPC

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:08 am

Two consumers contacted Mouse Print* and Consumer World this past week complaining that Office Depot’s current tax software promotion was misleading and a “scam.”

The offer promised $1300 in free software — 24 different titles — if you bought certain tax preparation software like TurboTax Deluxe or H&R Block Deluxe. All you had to do was pay for the free software and fill out rebate forms to get your money back. Not so simple, as it turns out because of a conflict in requirements for many of the rebates. And to add insult to injury, some rebates are debit cards instead of cash back.

For example, if you buy TurboTax, you can get a starter edition of Quicken free, as well as several Norton security products among others.


To prove you bought TurboTax and Quicken, you need to enclose:

Quicken and TurboTax UPC labels (shown below) for the eligible software products, located on the product boxes (photocopies will not be accepted).

And in order to receive a rebate on a Norton combo-pack when purchasing TurboTax, you need to enclose:


Enclose the original UPC code from Norton Internet Security 2012/Norton Utilities Premier Edition and any Turbo Tax, H&R Block, or Tax Act software or tax forms. The UPC code is a 12-digit bar code found on the bottom of box. Photocopies will not be accepted.

Oops. The same original UPC has to be included with the rebate requests for multiple companies and products. Oops. This scenario is repeated for some of the other free software products which also require the original UPC from the tax software. What is a consumer to do?

Our two consumers contacted Office Depot, but were initially given the runaround. One consumer ultimately got the store manager to lower the price of one of the software packages to compensate him for the $15 rebate card he cannot obtain. The other consumer had to jump rank and contact “executive resolutions” to get satisfaction, and was told that Symantec (Norton) was adjusting their rebates to not require the original UPC. She even followed up with Symantec and their rebate fulfillment house to ensure they would accept copies of the UPC. They said yes, but none of the PDF rebate forms have been updated to eliminate the requirement of an original UPC.

Mouse Print* asked Office Depot’s PR folks for an explanation of how they intended to handle this mess, but they did not respond.

Thanks to William-Andrew and Rebecca for contacting us about this issue.

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  1. I haven’t even considered a product offering a rebate in years due to runarounds just like this. The rebate programs got to be too much of a hassle and several submissions were rejected for what I considered to be bogus reasons. Since then I make my product selections based on the regular or sale price alone.

    Comment by PC — January 9, 2012 @ 12:07 pm
  2. I had a similar situation when I bought a Compaq laptop in 2005, but since I was evacuating from Hurricane Katrina at the time, I didn’t have the resources or inclination to fight for the rebates I missed out on. I’ve never bought any Compaq products since then.

    Comment by Lana — January 9, 2012 @ 12:17 pm
  3. PC and Lana I joined your ranks years ago. You can’t discount the product upfront or give an instant rebate forget it.

    Comment by Rick — January 9, 2012 @ 3:22 pm
  4. This is not a new situation (although it might be for Office Depot).I have been buying Quicktax (now Turbo tax) for many years now and several years ago I needed 2 original UPCs to get the two rebates they offered (I think one was on the tax software and one was on the Norton Antivirus). After spending far too much time trying to figure out what they wanted, I eventually called their Customer Service and by the end of the call I was practically screaming “How can I send 2 originals when only one exists??”. They eventually relented and allowed me to send a photocopy, but I think they deliberately do this and most people just give up in frustration. (By the way, does anybody know why, in this day and age, it takes 6-8 weeks to process a rebate???)

    Comment by Phil — January 9, 2012 @ 6:49 pm
  5. @PC, Lana, & Rick – Same here. I don’t even consider rebates, with the exception of with Verizon Wireless. Their rebate form is simply name, addr, phone, & acct number and send us the box upc, and often the store does it all for me (fill out the form, cut out the upc, address the envelope) and all I have to do is put a stamp on the envelope and drop in in the mail. They’ve never rejected one. That said, I don’t trust ANYONE else not to cheat me on a rebate (I’m looking at you bigbox office supply stores).

    @Phil – It “takes” 6-8 weeks to “process” a rebate with these fulfillment houses because they are hoping you’ll forget about even sending it in, and they can add you to their list of unpaid suckers. I get my Verizon Wireless rebate cards usually in 10 days or less. That shows me that they actually EXPECT to pay the rebate.

    Of course, I do not understand why a rebate is necessary, ever. Just discount the darn price to begin with.

    Comment by Eric — January 10, 2012 @ 8:58 am
  6. I’ve done several rebates with AT&T Wireless with new phone purchases. I followed the instructions to the letter and received the rebates within the allotted time.

    I don’t buy a product because of a rebate, but I will take advantage of one if offered.

    I personally don’t find the debit card such a bad idea. If nothing else, you can use it at a gas station as long as you go inside. Most stores are comfortable with splitting the total due between two payment types( gift debit and regular debit/credit card/cash).

    Comment by BobL — January 10, 2012 @ 3:03 pm
  7. I stop doing rebates a long time ago. Too much hassle and too many restrictions. Why don’t they just discount the price, I will never understand this. Anytime I see a rebate offered, I just ignore it. Office Depot is notorious for having rebates on their laptops. I agree with the other commentators about rebates.

    Comment by SmartCookie — January 11, 2012 @ 9:04 pm
  8. SmartCookie… Many people say forget the rebates, just offer the discount at time of sale. That will not happen. The stores DEPEND on a large amount of people either not being able to follow the inane rules or just forgetting to submit the rebate forms on time. What needs to be done is to have laws in place that put restrictions on some of these rules(like having to have multiple original UPC codes). The problem is is that that is not going to happen either. The business lobbies will not allow that to happen.

    Comment by grainofsalt — January 12, 2012 @ 10:34 am
  9. A lot of the people that say “just offer the discount at time of sale” often preface it with their theory on how the whole rebate process is a scam in the first place.

    If they truly believe the process is made needlessly complex simply to bilk customers out of their deserved rebates, why would they think businesses are just going to offer the discount up front instead?

    Comment by Jimbo — January 15, 2012 @ 5:13 pm
  10. The same thing happened to me, with the 2010 Norton utilities, Ghost, and Norton Antivirus. I bought it from Fry’s, and there were two rebates from Norton. I called Norton to ask if I sent a copy of the original UPC, and the original UPC code would I get two rebates. They said yes. Never received anything from Norton, even wrote a letter to Fry’s customer service, saying the same thing. I had no answer from Fry’s.

    Never ever, do I use rebates from 2010 on!

    Comment by Marv — January 18, 2012 @ 1:54 pm
  11. I am so fed up with the rebate “scam” that I never buy anything for the so called rebate.

    Comment by Vennyo — January 23, 2012 @ 11:56 am
  12. I just checked the form and this is NOT what it says. There are 2 rebates for the Norton bundle. The $80 rebate requires the Norton UPC and receipts showing purchase of tax software but NOT a UPC from that. There is a $20 upgrade rebate that requires the proof of purchase but no UPC. Both rebates are valid and can be obtained. Here are the forms:


    People who do not read rebate forms properly and follow the directions are the ones who have problems with rebates. Norton products routinely have two rebates and one needs the UPC and the other the POP. People who think they know better read POP as UPC and assume that the rebate is bad. They’re wrong. See Marv’s comment above for one example.

    Are there some bad rebates? Yes. But I am sure that this is not one of them.

    If you don’t like rebates, shop at OfficeMax, which doesn’t do them. Or shop at Staples, where almost all of their rebates can be submitted online as “Easy Rebates”. No need to cut and mail anything.

    Edgar replies: Since all the complaints were made, Symantec revised their rebate form, that’s why you no longer see the UPC requirement for the tax preparation software included. Obviously, if was never there to start with, there would not have been a problem that generated so many complaints.

    Comment by Bill — January 27, 2012 @ 1:46 am
  13. @Eric — you rail about rebates but say that Verizon Wireless is good. But why should they even need to have you submit a rebate? Why can’t they just apply the rebate to your account? It’s not like you don’t have an ongoing business relationship with them.

    Stores do not give customers the rebates up front because they would have no way of limiting customers to a single copy, as they can do with rebates. If customers could just walk out of the store with $1500 of free software with no rebates, people who resell on ebay (and Craigslist and Amazon) would clear out the stores when the sale started on Sunday.

    Comment by Bill — January 27, 2012 @ 2:03 am
  14. I bought the HR Block tax program and the Norton bundle from Offic Depot not realizing you need the orignal UPC code for both rebates. I went back to Office Depot and they gave me a refund of $15 to take care of the HR Block tax rebate. I sent the original UPC to Norton and I received the $80 Visa card today in less than four weeks. I also sent in a copy of the UPC code off the HR Block box and enclosed a note about two offers requiring the original UPC code. I called HR Block today to check on that rebate (which I had already received from the store)and the lady said it could not be honored since I sent in a copy. After explaining the situation and sweet talking her for a few minutes she processed the rebate as a one time courtsey just for me. Now I am $15 ahead of the game. Here is another tip. For the past twenty years I have been keeping a log in a notebook for every rebate I send in. I also keep copies of all the rebate slips, UPC codes and receipts. When the rebate comes in I check it off or if I don’t receive it I call the company. After 567 rebates, I have only missed getting paid once but I have had several duplicates where I got paid twice.

    Comment by Paul — February 3, 2012 @ 11:05 pm
  15. You shouldn’t be paying for software in the first place! There are so many good open source titles available now that there’s seldom any good reason to use expensive commercial software.

    Instead of Microsoft Office you can go with LibreOffice (OpenOffice). Instead of Photoshop you can use GIMP. The list goes on and on. There is even an entire open source operating system (Linux) so you can ditch Windows or Mac OS entirely!

    Free yourselves from the shackles of the greedy commercial software publishers. Open source software is just as good, and in many cases better.

    Comment by IGnatius T Foobar — February 11, 2012 @ 12:56 pm
  16. This is the third year in a row I have purchased my tax software from office depot along with a dozen of other “free” software titles. Last year the main issue was all on one reciept, however if you have a large purchase its all on different packing slips. None the less I’m hoping the promotion continues because I have not had to pay mainly for anitvirus software…I love the rebate process, I rarely have problems with it; If you do contact the orginal vendor they are always willin to work with you!

    Comment by Malik Idris — February 13, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

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