Cingular’s New Rebate – WTF!

I recently picked up a styling new Cingular 2125 phone and officially switched from ATT service to Cingular even though they are the same company. After discounts and a “rebate” it was very reasonably priced.

Rebates in general give me a rash. I generally assume that the money will never be credited or the check never received. Between cutting out box tops, xeroxing receipts, and discovering the secret code of whatever scavenger hunt, there must be some risk adjustment. From a business perspective, they are a shameless manipulation with a precise knowledge of the % of people who will actually complete the hurdles.

Enter Cingular, with a new high tech rebate that scores big marks for byzantine cleverness and a horrific UI design. The usual nonsense (box top, receipt, postal mail) was required. The kicker is in the payoff! I got not one but two letters with two plastic cards (they look like credit cards) that apparently unlock the $100 value of the rebate.

Apparently these cards can be used at any location that takes VISA debit cards but when you use it you must tell them to treat it as a credit card (per the instructions.) Confused? You must also register the cards at Cingular’s special website where they actually have an initial screen that takes the card’s first 10 digits of 12 to “prescreen” you before you get to enter all 12 digits on the next screen and then a passcode (part of your phone number.) Better keep them hackers from stealing back that rebate you are desperately trying to obfuscate.

Why are there 2 separate cards for the same rebate? Are they banking on some lossiness from good old US Postal?

I’d really like to use them to pay my $#!@ing phone bill but I cant because that requires them accepting debit cards, allegedly.

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