It has been awhile since I have had a nice rant about something that has ticked me off in the computer world.

Today we're talking rebates.

It seems everything I buy now comes with a rebate.

I am not alone in thinking this ridiculous idea is keeping retail prices high because consumers actually think they are getting a bargain.

Here are the dirty secrets of rebates:

Most consumers don't fill them in and mail them. That means they are paying a much higher price for the goods than they thought they were going to. One industry figure I remember is 14 percent of rebates are actually redeemed.

Some are redeemed, but the user doesn't ever get the money. The redemption service uses some excuse about you not including the right UPC code or something and you never hear anything again.

Some are stolen in the mail (Kingston actually sends checks as postcards.)

So given all of this why am I still ticked off?

Well, normal purchases are not so bad. I bought some RAM the other day at Circuit City and the pleasant young cashier stapled everything together for me and even printed duplicate receipts for the two rebates (one for $25 and one for $5.)

The only kicker is the second one required a photocopy of the UPC code. But I did manage to use my all-in-one printer to make a copy and got them mailed.

However, I bought a bunch of parts recently from Tiger Direct, a large online seller. Five of them came with rebates. It was enough money to actually worry about, so I sat down with a dozen envelopes and the UPC codes.

Tiger (and some other retailers) now are using a service called On Rebate ( that purportedly makes it easier to claim your rebates. I actually consider it a step backward. Here's why.

For one, if you don't have a printer handy when you actually make the initial order, you don't have a chance to print the forms in one handy location. If you go back later, you have to visit Tiger's Rebate Center where invariably I can't find the right form.

With On Rebate you enter some information into an online form and you expect to be done. But this sites adds a wrinkle — you have to enter your e-mail address and wait up to 24 hours for a confirmation e-mail before you can click on that to then print out another form and then mail off all of the receipts and UPC codes.

To my mind that 24 hour delay makes it far more likely you'll never find a second time to sit down to work on rebates.

The plus side of the site is it will directly mail the rebate to PayPal in a couple of days; the downside is they want 10 percent of the rebate to do it in a timely manner. (A free PayPal deposit can take six to eight weeks.)

I have to ask ... why not just reduce the price?

I know the answer ... then everyone would get the lower price. And retailers don't want that.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Enter "rebate scam" in Google and you will find a page full of interesting sites and columns about how to improve your rebate chances.

James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is