I was helping a friend investigate buying a new HDTV as her gadget guru, and we thought we'd found the perfect one: A 40-inch 1080p LCD flat screen by Samsung, which had just gone down in price to about $1,080 — and to sweeten the deal, there was a new $200 rebate (not surprising considering Samsung is rumored to be slashing prices to clear out old stock), bringing the total down to about $880.
My friend added the TV to her cart, had her credit card ready to go when I said "Wait!" and insisted she figure out what exactly the details of the rebate were, just in case. Turned out it was the right move: After downloading the $200 rebate to fill out and return, the rebate form revealed that it's not actually a $200 savings — it's a $200 gift certificate to "NFL Mounted Memories".
I called Amazon customer service to verify what I was thinking — that the total would still be $1,080 and this $200 rebate check would actually be a certificate for something I wasn't interested in. To hear what happened, just read more.
The rep confirmed that the rebate was not a check for cash, and reported it was Samsung's rebate and that Amazon automatically updates the "price" if the manufacturer adds one — hence, the $880 price tag we were excited about.
In the end, my friend decided to wait a little longer for a TV, defeated by what we both agree is a pretty misleading listing. Lesson learned: Always read the fine print on big electronics purchases!
Update: the adjusted, $200-off price display (pictured in my screenshot above) disappeared last night, though the rebate is still listed at the bottom. I'd like to think my call had something to do with it!