Thursday, March 10, 2005

Taxes and rebates

I hate em!

Prepare for a rant.

One of the first items on my agenda when I moved here from Australia was to get a new computer. I had 4 back in Australia but the youngest was 3 years old and it wasn't worth the expense of shipping even one of em. So I burned what I wanted to preserve to CD and gave the computers to friends.

On my third day here I went a-shopping (I did say it was one of the first items but I didn't say it was highest priority ). I did the appropriate research on the 'net using my wifes computer and decided on a set of bits; did the searches for the best prices available and prepared the list. A couple of years down the track I don't remember exact prices so bear with me.

One of the things I wanted was RAID so that meant a motherboard with a RAID controller; and two hard disks. Best price I could find for a walk-in was US$99.95 for an 80 gig Maxtor at CompUSA. So I go to the local CompUSA and sure enough they have Maxtor 80 gig drives on the shelf with a very prominent price tag - $99.95. Some of you already know what's coming! I grabbed two of em and went to the counter and the cashier rang it up, $139 and some odd cents each! What? The shelf price is $99.95. 'Ah', says the smarmy young bastard behind the counter, 'that's after rebate'. 'What's a rebate' asked the innocent. It turns out there's a $30 rebate. Ok, so that'd make the price $129.95 right? Wrong! There's also tax.

I'm a simpleton it seems. Where I come from the price marked on the shelf is the price you pay in cold hard cash at the register. All the taxes are included. If you see an item marked at $100 and you have a hundred bucks in your wallet you're good to go! And 48 years of being used to that makes for a difficult to break habit. To this day, more than 2 years down the track, I still find myself forgetting half the time that the price you see on the shelf isn't the price you're going to pay at the register.

But it gets better. You pay a state sales tax of so many percent and you also pay a regional tax of so many percent. I don't know the exact rate here in Scottsdale - I think it's a total of 7.81% but I'm probably wrong. Now that's a monumentally difficult rate to calculate in your head. When I remember I have to do it I apply a flat 10% to be sure I have sufficient cash on me to complete the transaction.

I'm sure that those who were born and raised here don't think this is anything exceptional - 'that's the way it is'. But, to me, it smacks of dishonesty. I'm aware that if you purchase something from another state you don't pay the sales tax - but that exemption seems only to apply to mail and internet orders. I've never seen anyone (nor have I succeeded myself) showing their drivers license to prove they live out of state and are therefore exempted from the taxes. If you walk up to the counter with the item in your hot little hand they'll charge you the taxes. Therefore, they know that the price they put on the ticket isn't correct. This can lead to embarassments for the foreigner. I vividly recall grabbing a copy of the LA times (price marked 50 cents) and offering two quarters. I had no other US money on me and lacked the 7 cents to complete the transaction. This was nearly 20 years after my first visit to the US so you'd think I'd have known better but I'd forgotten that minor detail. Tres embarrassment!

And the rebates? The taxes are bad enough but the assumption here is that you both know the taxes are on top of the marked price and that you know the exact amount. The rebates are something else. I've learned to use my reading glasses! Back to the CompUSA example. The price tag on the shelf had $99.95 in large print. In very small print it said 'Store price $129.95 - $30 mail in rebate'.

Now, assuming you, my reader, has no idea what I'm talking about (I was such an innocent a mere 2 or so years ago), let me explain. A mail in rebate is a way for a lying scumbag to pretend that something costs less than what it really costs. Such a scumbag is free to advertise anything at a giveaway price and gouge you at the register. They'll advertise somethiing at $99.95 but extract $129.95 (plus taxes) at the register. You take your purchase home, snip off the UPC code, enclose the original receipt and mail it off to some address. If you're VERY lucky 10 or 12 weeks later a cheque arrives in the mail for the difference between the advertised price and the extracted price.

The states collude in this because the taxes you pay are calculated on the price without the rebate. Naturally, even if the rebate is paid, the extra taxes aren't refunded!

More usually what happens is that you failed to dot that third I from the left and they deny the rebate. Given that they want both the original receipt and the original UPC code and they never return those for a denied application you're hung, drawn and quartered!

I NEVER buy anything that has a rebate. Nor should you. Ever. Period!

1 comment:

tom said...

I hate rebates equally so, and the sales tax is definitely a rip off (my guess is the company keeps the difference?) but in all fairness I've had at least 3/4 rebates actually come back and cash out. I've sent out for dozens.