What is Rbate?
There are plenty of services that can help you find someone who can sell you a particular product at a good price , but first you have to work out which product would be best for you.
But how often when working out which product to buy do you feel overwhelmed by choice, and starved of information that would simplify that choice? You give up and make a leap of faith, putting yourselves in the hands of (and paying the the premium of) a full-service retailer (and hoping you get served by well-trained staff), or choosing based on price, availability, brand, advertising, packaging, or the limited information you were able to dig up — a decision you may regret when you get it home.
Rbate aims to make comparison shopping less frustrating and time consuming by making it easier to find articles, clips, websites, and experts that can provide you with product information, product reviews & recommendations, product demonstrations & try-outs, and even services that can save you time by evaluating, choosing, buying, and delivering the most suitable product.
Such purchasing assistance may be delivered in many different ways — in a publication or a recording, over the Net (by website, email, chat, or VOIP), over the phone (even while you're out shopping), at the provider's own premises, or at your home or office.
You can find these media and services using Rbate's search engine, dedicated to such purchasing help. A separate product search engine allows you to keep up-to-date with new products in the product categories that interest you. Rmarks allow you to keep a record of your product research and favourite sources of purchasing help.
Rbate aims to improve the quality, breadth, and availability of media and services that can help you choose the right product by paying these providers of consumer assistance (which Rbate calls Helpers) when they help someone decide what to buy. When purchasers use Rbate.com to claim a cash rebate, they are asked state which providers helped them make their choice. Claiming a rebate usually involves completing a survey, written by the maker of the product, and getting paid for answering questions posed by other product makers.
The net effect is that the help you get will often be free. Money that product makers now spend on advertising instead funds better information for prospective purchasers, and better feedback from purchasers to makers.
Once you've made your informed choice, make your purchase at the retailer with the best prices, policies, or people.
Another aim of Rbate is to help fund material that doesn't influence product purchases, such as general journalism. People making a Rbate cashback claim are given the option to donate part of their rebate to creators of any material that they've marked as helpful. Publishers can offer rewards to encourage these donations. Such rewarded and credit-card-free donations will hopefully be more popular than the usual kind.
A full description of how Rbate works can be found here.
What are the problems with the current ways to get professional purchasing help?
A new way is needed to provide consumers with purchasing help, because current methods either don't provide the sort of help that people seek, or provide it in an inconvenient form:
With the exception of media and services funded entirely from consumer fees and subscriptions, each the above ways of funding professional assistants has an explicit quid pro quo for the payments that assistants receive: either some sort of paid inclusion, or direct income from selling products. In contrast, the Rbate system only rewards professional assistants when their material has helped a purchaser, and allows assistants to respond in their own (properly-disclosed) ways to product-maker incentives — ways that are compatible with both their organization's policies and their stores of consumer trust. However product makers still always get something substantial from their Rbate bonus payments: they have sold a product where their customer has been helped. The Rbate system also makes it possible for consumers to directly reward helpers with a share of their rebates, providing an alternative to unpopular, and often unworkable, subscriptions and up-front fees.
Here is a list of benefits provided by the Rbate system:
What's wrong with advertising?
Is Rbate anti-advertising?
To be successful, a business needs its potential customers to know what it has to offer. Ideally, shoppers should learn about these products from assistants who are as independent from the product maker and seller as possible. This minimises both the self-serving withholding and distortion of information, as well as the demands that advertising places on consumers' time an attention. One of Rbate's goals is to make such independent consumer helpers more ubiquitous and useful.
But no matter how useful these helpers become, and how attached consumers become to using them, businesses will still see an advantage in getting their own message out. So advertising will always be with us.
However advertising comes in many forms that vary in intrusiveness and bias.
Least intrusive are passive forms of advertising, such as company websites, directory listings (including relevant search-engine ads that have been specifically requested, or when you're in an acquisitive mode), and point-of-sale information. These do not push information to consumers, but allow them to access it on their own initiative.
Next along is advertising that although pushed, is either appreciated or not interruptive or highly wasteful. An example would be highly-targeted direct mail that the recipient can peruse at their leisure (or immediately round-file), relevant ads in a shopping context, or online or outdoor ads that don't use sound, motion, size, position, form, or colour to draw attention to themselves.
More intrusive is advertising that is pushed and either interrupts or is otherwise designed to distract; or is poorly targeted, and so likely to waste both resources and the recipients' time. Interruptive ads include door-to-door selling, telemarketing, webpage overlays, and in-stream video or audio ads (particularly if they can't be skipped).
Many tolerate a halo of ads as a quid-pro-quo for free or subsidised content. But that doesn't make them effective, which is advertising's raison d’etre.
The problem has been that much independent advice media is funded by intrusive advertising. Often the better the quality of the content the more intrusive the advertising needs to be to divert attention from that content. A vicious circle has developed where a drop in media outlets' ad revenue, caused by better measurability of advertising's effectiveness, growing disinterest in ads, and the appearance of alternate advertising and advice channels, including search-engines, manufacturers' own websites, and social media, has increased the volume and prominence of advertising in the media, while reducing the quality of the products being advertised. This has in turn increased avoidance behaviour such as banner blindness, ad-blocking, and ad-skipping.
Rbate offers media outlets a pressure relief valve by making it easier for them to earn income from their material itself, rather than from the advertising around it, and gives product makers a new way to better inform their prospective customers, particularly those they can't currently reach via advertising.
Even if an ad's form is acceptable because it's likely wanted or easily ignored, it's still unlikely to clearly tell the whole truth. This is particularly concerning when a payment, sales, or other business relationship responsible for some editorial content's presence or position is not clearly disclosed. This includes advertorial (a.k.a. native advertising).
Every Rbate Help Source has a “policy" page that states whether that Helper has chosen to receive bonus payments from Rbate (over and above voluntary payments purchasers give from their rebates), to what extent they can browse offers of such payments from product makers, and a statement of rules to which the business adheres for that particular source of help. In combination with a Helper's reputation, this should allow shoppers to easily assess to what extent a Helper is working in their interest, despite Helpers having a wide range of business models and philosophies, and despite Help Sources taking a wide range of forms.
In summary, although advertising has a big potential to be inaccurate and annoying, Rbate acknowledges that advertising has its place. However by making it easier for professional purchasing help to be offered free or at low-cost, without the need to fund it by either surrounding it with ads, adding spin in return for payment, or selling the products concerned, Rbate hopes to reduce both the need and demand for those ads and forms of help which are the least useful and the most misleading.
Aren't there plenty of product reviews and other types of help already available?
Very few professional review, recommendation, and demonstration services are wholly and directly funded by consumers through either subscriptions or fees. People baulk at paying subscriptions for information they'll only occasionally make use of, and, except for large purchases like cars and real estate, are not willing to pay fees for a service that may end up not being that helpful. Reviews in magazines and newspapers are partially funded by subscriptions, but this subscription revenue is slowly drying up in the face of freely-accessible reviews on the Web. So reviews must be funded by advertising, while recommendation and demonstration services are usually tied to a sales service.
Advertising is not however a secure way to fund a review service because busy and bombarded consumers are increasingly ignoring ads, using do-not-contact lists and technologies such as digital video recorders and on-line blockers to actively bypass ads, or simply purchase their entertainment and information outright. Some consumers always have and always will pay little attention to advertising, disliking its push-based nature, but have had to deal with the dilemma of advertising being the only source of income for some review and information services that they wish to use. Moreover, the general move of just about everything to an ad-funded model has spread the limited pool of advertising dollars more thinly. To boost advertising revenue some online review sites riddle their work with distracting advertising, or resort to excessive pagination (via short pages or long-winded expositions) in order to maximize advertising impressions.
Likewise, the potential of product recommendation or demonstration services is limited by being funded by sales. Such services will either sell a limited range of brands (e.g. a car dealer), or often won't make too much effort to compare alternatives in case you ultimately purchase from a low-service discount outlet. Many online review sites are also effectively involved in sales via links to affiliated retailers or price-comparison services, but miss out on any affiliate revenue if a purchase is made of a different product, or at a different time.
Rbate gives each of these service types a reliable revenue stream that depends on the quality of their reviewing work, which means better quality product reviews, recommendations, and demonstrations. This may manifest in more detailed reviews that allow every potential purchaser to decide whether a product suits, in reviews that make it easier find and digest the key information you're looking for, or in better follow-up work that summarizes new information as the product matures and consumer feedback rolls in (rather than just reports of new-release press junkets). It may also result in new forms of review services, such as automated purchase advisors, or businesses dedicated to providing product demonstrations and purchasing advice. Often all a consumer wants is news and other information — they can learn about the product through word-of-mouth or by trying it themselves. Rbate allows such information sources to be rewarded for the help they provide, even though their work is not an immediate motivator for purchase, where an affiliate link may otherwise fund the work.
Aside from these professional review services, purchasing advice can be obtained through consumer-written reviews and the recommendations of knowledgeable friends. The trouble with consumer-written reviews is that they usually reflect only one person's experience with one product, are often terse, poorly-written, un-illustrated, anonymous, and are buried among a large number of similar reviews. But in aggregate they can be a valuable resource. That's why sites that collect consumer-written reviews are eligible to apply to be a Rbate Helper and be paid for their work, possibly sharing their revenue with their consumer authors. Moreover, Rbate provides an incentive for groups of consumer-written reviews to be summarized into master reviews, by providing an easy way for both the compiler and the original authors to be rewarded.
A similar allocation of credit can occur for knowledgeable friends, to whom you may turn for advice on a purchase. If such a person is eligible to register with Rbate as a Helper, then any research they do on your behalf can be credited. If desired, credit can be allocated to the sources on which your private advisors drew.
Can I trust helpers to give honest opinions when their work is funded by product-maker rebates & bonuses?
Rbate may pay a cash bonus to a provider of purchasing help when a product purchaser states that the provider helped them choose that product. Rbate Helper bonuses are funded by the companies that make the products purchased by help recipients. A helper can also be paid when you donate part of a Rbate rebate, or when a helper service fee is deducted from a rebate.
An advisor is most likely to work in your interest if you are the only one paying them. Even if you pay an advisor a fee for their service, they may still accept another source of income which has the potential to distort their advice, such as when doctors accept rewards from pharmaceutical companies.
You may however be reluctant to pay an up-front fee for advice about many types of products. This is because that advice may not turn out to be helpful, or because it may involve purchasing a subscription to a lot of unwanted material. Rbate's donation and deferred fee systems provide a convenient way of paying only for the material and services that you found helpful.
Until consumers become willing to pay advisors directly, professional advisors will need an alternate source of income. The most common ways have been advertising and sales. But advertising is becoming less lucrative as it becomes more unpopular, with this financial pressure increasing advertising's influence over and intrusion into editorial content. The alternative of high-quality advice from salesmen (including affiliates), which is already usually strongly biased towards what is being sold, is becoming less able to be supported by increasingly competitive retail markets.
But even if an advisor accepts advertising, or makes their money by selling products, you may still hold their advice in high regard because they have earned your trust in some way.
Rbate's bonus system is another way for advisors to get paid for their work. In this system an advisor is only paid when a purchaser indicates that they found the advisor's material or service helpful, which makes it less worthwhile to offer advice that is either self-serving or has hidden-agenda. Moreover, bonuses are properly disclosed. Advisors don't become part of the selling process, and don't require contact with product makers.
Even though these features help make bonus payment recipients work in the consumer's interest, it's still all about trust, just as it is with the other means of funding advisors. While you may be comfortable that a trusted source receives bonus payments and views available bonus offers, new sources of advice may choose to increase consumer trust by restricting their access to bonus information, or by limiting their bonus payments, relying more on donations and deferred fees.
The recovery of service fees from suppliers is already well established for mortgage, insurance, travel, and investment brokers. Rbate simply extends this model to professional services and media that help people purchase every other type of product and service, as well as eliminating the need for any direct dealings between product makers and the organizations that evaluate their products. Rbate also allows helpers to be paid out of maker rebates, using the consumer's own funds.
Only professional media creators and service providers are eligible to register with Rbate as an organization that offers consumer help (Helpers). Such companies have a reputation to protect, and are more likely to have a culture of journalistic ethics.
Rbate makes the relationship between editorial selection, editorial content, and revenue as transparent and as flexible as possible by allowing Helpers several options as to what they know about the bonuses on offer, and how they are paid those bonuses, and by making these choices plus an optional editorial policy statement public via both Rmarks and Rbate's purchasing help search engine.
We believe this open and professional system is preferable to systems where disclosed or undisclosed bonuses can be earned by "friends", "affiliates", arbitrary "bloggers", or deliverers of media testimonials. Advertising itself is certainly not unbiased, and is deceptive when it masquerades as content.
Payment by bonus avoids several problems with the currently dominant method of funding purchasing advice through either advertising or direct or affiliate sales.
If a review service sells ads to individual product makers or their representatives, they face the possibility of ads being withdrawn from their publication if a maker is unhappy with their work. An honest service will try their best to insulate their editorial choices from advertising bookings, but the direct threat to revenue remains.
Further, many online review services make money through affiliate links to particular vendors. Such affiliate relationships are often not disclosed, and sometimes the affiliate link does not even display the name of the linked vendor, merely the name of a product or topic.
Rbate allows these services to be less dependent on advertising, selling, or any direct relationship with makers by paying them specifically for their product assessment work. The best services get paid the most by being cited by the most consumers on their rebate claims. More review and demonstration services will be able to afford to purchase their own samples, no longer dependent on the supply of (possibly specially-selected) maker-supplied samples, which smaller makers may not be able to provide.
There is no strong pressure for a review service to write positive reviews of products that carry a Rbate helper bonus because they have no relationship with individual makers, and are still paid for their work when either (1), the reviewed product is purchased, and in the subsequent rebate claim the purchaser cites the review in question as being helpful in evaluating the pros and cons of the alternatives, or (2), it helps someone decide to purchase a different product that also attracts a Rbate bonus.
In any case an honest reviewing service will clearly separate the selection of products to review from the reviewing process itself, so the data and opinions they publish should be independent of the range of bonuses on offer at the time (though Rbate bonuses do make it more likely that particular products are either selected for review, or join the pool of recommendation options).
For what products can I get cashback through Rbate after purchase?
What is an Claim Code?
Rbate manufacturer rebates are only available for certain products purchased
in certain locations. Such products will often have a sticker on their
packaging that looks like this
Under the laminated scratch-off panel is a 15-character claim code that you enter on Rbate.com to begin the claim process. Please ask your retailer for another item if the sticker has already been scratched, or if it is missing (you should either see remnants or a heavily damaged packaging surface).
Rbate Claim Codes may also be found on different types of stickers, cards, and forms that have been created by the product's maker. For products delivered either electronically or directly from maker to consumer, the maker may instead provide the claim code in a Web-link, or may provide just the claim code characters on paper or by SMS.
When I make a claim how do I state which media and services helped me decide on my purchase?
When claiming your cash rebate you will be asked to select which of your Rmarks (the product-relevant media and services that you've bookmarked as helpful) both helped you come to your purchasing decision and remained helpful given your experience with the product (you weren't misled). This allows these helpful sources of advice to be compensated for their work.
If friends help you make your purchasing choice, you may like to ask them what material they in turn relied on, adding these Rmarks to your collection.
Later in the claim process you are given the opportunity to donate part of your rebate to the organizations that provided the information and advice you found helpful, not just those related to the product you bought, but anything useful you've come acroos. Your donations allow these useful media and services to reduce their reliance on advertising, product sales, and Rbate bonus payments.
What are deferred fees?
A Helper may like to charge a fee for their material or service, but charging the fee at the time of access may not be convenient, and many may not be willing to pay an up-front fee for information that may not turn out to be useful.
Rbate allows Helpers to instead provide the service or material at no charge, or at a reduced charge, and recover a fee from any subsequent Rbate rebates you receive. If a help source charges a deferred fee it will be noted on its listing in Rbate's purchasing help search engine.
If during a rebate claim you cite a help source as being helpful or very helpful on that purchase, and that help source charges a deferred fee, you are given the option to pay the full fee, a lesser fee, or nothing for the help you have recieved. Helpers can offer various incentives to fee payers and donors, which will be displayed here.
If you opt to pay less than the requested fee (for example if you find the fee excessive for the help you received, or because you can't currently afford it), you are given the opportunity to enter an explanation.
What is an Rmark?
An Rmark is a bookmark to a particular online or offline article or service that is a source of purchasing assistance. Rmarks allow you to organize, search, and re-visit the product research you've done, including rating, tagging, and adding notes to each source of help.
Rmarks also make the rebate claim process easier by providing a ready list of product-relevant articles and services you've read, visited, or used, from which you can select the ones that helped you make your purchase.
To add an Rmark to a article or service that's on the Web, look for and click an Rmark button on one of the article's pages (it may look like ). The standard dynamic Rmark button will ask you to rate the helpfulness of the material. Highly-rated sources are displayed at the top of Rmark lists during rebate claims, so rating material makes it easier to select the sources that helped you with your purchase.
To save you from having to find and click Rmark buttona, you can often also rate and Rmark an article or forum post by giving two quick clicks or touches somewhere on the article's text. If the second click is directly above the first, the article will be rated "very-helpful". A click to the side of the first triggers a "helpful" rating, while a click directly below the first triggers a "not-helpful" rating. An image will pop-up to show that the Rmark has been made, coloured to indicate the rating. You can click this image to view your new Rmark.
Another convenient option is to enable auto-Rmarking, which causes online material to be Rmarked as soon as you access it. You can then rate this material in the usual ways.
Once online material has been Rmarked, the colour of the Rmark button will indicate the rating you've given it (light-blue for auto-Rmarked material). Clicking the Rmark button will now allow you to view the details your Rmark, to view the editiorial policies of the creator of the material in question, and to change your rating.
If a source of purchasing advice you wish to Rmark is not on the Web, or doesn't have an Rmark button, you can manually add an Rmark by clicking on the button on your Rmarks page, and filling the form. If the source has an Rcode, say printed at the end of an article in a newspaper or magazine, or on a business card, that is all you need to enter.
Websites, retailers, and services that have helped you may also insert Rmarks directly into your Rbate Consumer Account if you've given them your email address and permission to do so.
Rmarks are not currently able to be either publicly shared or community-tagged. However popular Rmarks are sometimes added to Rbate's buying help search engine, if they're not already included. To send an Rmark to a friend, provide them with the Rmark's Rcode, URL, or publication reference.
What is an Rcode?
Rbate assigns each registered source of purchasing help (a medium, service, or person) a unique alpha-numeric Rcode identifier. You will only explicitly see Rcodes at the end of clip.as or grab.as links, that appear on printed material and in certain online contexts. Visiting these links will Rmark the corresponding Help Source.
Why am I asked to answer some survey questions as part of my rebate claim?
Part of the process for claiming a cash rebate for a purchase involves answering a number of survey questions. Most of these are written by the maker of the product you have purchased. They are paying you to provide feedback on both their product and the purchasing experience, so it's only fair that you answer accurately. (Surveyers usually offer either nothing for your time, or only offer a small chance of winning a prize.)
Some survey questions from the product's maker may ask for identifying information, similar to those often asked on product warranty cards. Rbate only provides survey answers to the product's maker, and Rbate requires that if the maker wants to share this information with third-parties they indicate this on the survey.
On some claims some additional questions will be asked by makers of products similar to the one you have bought. You are paid individually for these answers, increasing your rebate. Rbate does not allow such questions to ask for identifying information.
Into what types of account can I have my rebate paid? Why do some payment options reduce my rebate?
Currently cash rebates are only paid by electronic transfer, and only to these types of account:
Some combinations of payment type, rebate denomination currency, and rebate payment currency may incur payment fees, reducing your rebate. This is done to prevent cross-subsidisation of more expensive payment methods. These fees are displayed when you select your payment method.
Rebate recipients who are registered for Australian Goods and Services Tax are always paid in Australian dollars, and only after Rbate receives a Tax Invoice for 110% of the Australian Dollar rebate amount. Any necessary currency conversion is performed using the daily reference rates of the European Central Bank, plus a 2.5% risk spread.
Why should I register with Rbate?
If you register with Rbate as a Consumer you can:
What is browser-based registration?
When you register for a Rbate Consumer account, either through the registration page, or after clicking the button on a webpage, you have the option of leaving the email address and password fields blank. If you do this, your Rbate consumer account will be linked to the browser you are using, rather than an email address.
You will be able to use the Rbate Rmark system, but will not be able to receive search alerts nor keep an Rblog. Your Rmarks will not be available from another browser, and will be lost if your Rbate cookie is deleted. You can convert a browser-based account to an email-based account by re-registering with Rbate.
How can I delete my Rbate account?Ensure you are logged-in, then click the "DELETE MY RBATE ACCOUNT" button on the Profile page.
Why use Rbate search rather than a general-purpose search engine?
Rbate's purchasing help search engine:
What is the "Policy" link seen on Rmarks and buying help search results?
A medium or service that provides purchasing assistance and is registered with Rbate can not only earn income from donations and deferred fees that are deducted from purchaser rebates, they are eligible to receive bonus payments from product makers in recognition of the help they've given to purchasers of these makers' products. Due to the potential and perceived conflict of interest that this entails, Rbate allows those providing this purchasing assistance (Helpers) to choose whether they wish to receive these payments, and what they wish to know about the payments being offered.
Helpers normally get to scan a list of products for which bonuses are offered, and can see the value of these bonuses. But they can instead choose to either hide the values, hide the products (seeing only product categories), or hide the bonus offers altogether if they feel that particular knowledge could affect, or be perceived to affect, their work.
If a Helper feels that the availability of different bonus amounts for different products could affect their work, they can also choose to always be paid the lowest bonus offered among all products in the same category and availability region. They can also choose to receive no bonus payments at all.
The policies window of a help source lists these choices made by the Helper who created the source, followed by an optional statement in which the Helper can explain their choices and other policies and declarations, both for their business as a whole, as well as in relation the help source in question.
Well-regarded Helpers are likely to be trusted to use bonus information and payments responsibly, for example by not using bonus offers to precisely drive editorial content, or by restricting bonus information to those who do not create content but who only suggest or assign topics and coverage.
Such Helpers have usually been trusted not to allow advertising to control content, even though the potential conflict of interest is greater, given the common need to sell advertising space directly to product makers, and the increasing need to make advertising messages more powerful by more strongly coupling them to content. Bonus payments are only made when the purchaser states that they found the material or service helpful, either being favourable to that product, or less favourable to a competing product. The source need not specifically mention the product in question.
So use the choices and statements in policy windows, along with the Helper's reputation, to decide whether a Helper is likely working in your interest.
How can I be notified when new products or purchasing help become available?
Ensure you have a Rbate account, with a registered email address (not a browser-based account). Then, after performing a search on Rbate's product or buying help search engines, click the "Notifiy me" button at the top of the search results, after selecting whether you want to be notified via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
To remove a notification, either perform the same search and click the "Stop notifiying me" button, or click the halt notification link in any notification email you receive for this search.