"Cash for Clunkers," Appliance Edition.  I've been looking forward to Florida's appliance rebate program ever since I first heard rumor of it.  Our refrigerator was old when we bought it used in 2001, and I'm sure it uses up much more energy than a refrigerator should.  Plus, who knows how long it will last?

Actually, that question is spurious.  Our neighbors bought a new, high-end appliance a few years ago and it has required multiple repairs—even while still under warranty—whereas our old clunker is still going strong, albeit with strange nocturnal (and diurnal) noises.  Still, you never know.

However, this is no "shop carefully, get the best deal, purchase your appliance, and apply for the rebate" program.

A website, the address of which hasn't yet been released, will be launched Thursday to give consumers step-by-step instructions and also be used to take the reservations beginning April 16. ... [C]ustomers will be expected to register online for a reservation after making their purchase and before applying for the rebate. After reserving a spot, customers must then fill out a rebate application form, available online or at some retailers. The application, with original receipts, must be submitted no later than May 10.  Demand for the rebates is expected to be high, and Florida has just $17.6 million for the program. Though it's scheduled to run for 10 days starting April 16, the program will end when the funds dry up.

In Iowa, high demand exhausted the $2.9 million budget for its rebate program less than eight hours after it began, not before causing both the Web site and the phone system for the program to crash. Ditto for Minnesota, where a $5 million budget was gone in a day.

[T]he Florida program will offer no guarantee of a rebate for customers who purchase an eligible appliance and go online to reserve a spot, only to find out that the rebate money is already gone.

Sounds more like a feeding frenzy to me.

No rainchecks.  Bait and switch.  Lure the customer in with the hope of a rebate, then "tough luck, Charlie" after the purchase has been made.  If a corporation tried this they'd be hauled into court.

One local appliance dealer said hopefully, "I still believe there are people out there with the funds available to buy, but they're not motivated," said Kimball. "I think this will motivate them."

Or not.  Perhaps the recession has alerted people that having funds available does not imply an obligation to spend them.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 9:45 am | Edit
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