By Laura Heller, dealnews contributor Trying to redeem a rebate can be a frustrating and confusing process. You buy a product because of that promised money back, fill out tedious forms, and then wait. (And wait… and wait.) The process is further complicated when large retailers like Best Buy and TigerDirect sell goods as a marketplace vendor on sites like Amazon and eBay. This can be confusing if, for example, you see a laptop on TigerDirect with a rebate, then find that same system for a slightly cheaper starting price on eBay — still sold by TigerDirect, but without the rebate. If you buy it and send in the rebate, will it still be accepted? It’s a risk a consumer might not want to take, if he or she is unsure. Rebates for Marketplace Items Should Apply, But They Might Get Held Up In most instances, rebates are processed through a third party center that acts as a conduit between the retailer and manufacturer. They track, manage, process, and issue redemptions, and when you add a complication like a receipt from eBay when the rebate is being honored for purchases for a different merchant, it can complicate the process for everyone — even the retailer. “Sometimes the rebate house doesn’t understand that a customer bought it from TigerDirect via eBay,” said Lonny Paul, TigerDirect spokesperson. “But generally all rebates are manufacturer rebates and extend across all [our] locations unless it specifies otherwise.” Rebate redemption in general can be problematic, and data about how many customers do so successfully is erratic. Retailers and rebate providers tend to keep those figures to themselves, or they claim that as many as half of all rebates are paid out successfully. But advocacy groups like the National Consumers League estimate that as few as 2% to 3% of forms are successfully submitted, while rebate centers such as Parago report that 47% of all consumers filed a rebate in 2010. The forms get lost, forgotten, filled out incorrectly, or encounter problems on the processing end. How to Handle Rebate Redemption Issues Paul advised that customers who encounter issues while trying to redeem a rebate should contact the retailer’s customer service department directly. “We don’t want a customer to be dissatisfied and always go to whatever extent necessary,” he said. A lot still fall through the cracks, though, even with diligent retailers like TigerDirect that claim to go to bat for their customers. According to the Better Business Bureau, there have been multiple complaints and even a lawsuit by the attorney general in Florida on behalf of consumers in 2008, alleging that rebates were difficult to navigate and redeem. The complaint was settled and TigerDirect’s parent company Systemax made sure that proper rebates were paid out to all eligible complainants. (They also donated $100,000 to the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs to purchase computer equipment.) The incident illustrates however that there can be many stumbling blocks along the way to redeeming a rebate, even if a marketplace vendor doesn’t come into play. But keep in mind that any rebate offered by a retailer on any officially affiliated site should be honored. Also, be sure to read the fine print closely and follow directions carefully, to avoid any and all red tape. Photo courtesy of TaxBrackets.org Laura Heller is a freelance writer based in Chicago who specializes in mass market retail trends and consumer electronics industries. You can follow her on Twitter@lfheller. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.