Conditional Gifts

If you are going to give your customers something – whether it is a thank you gift, a welcome gift, an anniversary gift or whatever other reason a business would give something to its customers – do it wholeheartedly and with as few conditions possible.

I understand that businesses must place some conditions on some offers, but things get ridiculous. Obviously, you don’t want your customers to save up their coupons, rebates and special offers until they never have to pay you at all. But sometimes it is just plain annoying.

We heat our home with propane, and last year I got mad at the company we rented our tank from and told them to come get it. I figured we could buy a tank of our own and pay less anyway. Well, it turns out, propane tanks are neither easily obtainable nor cheap, so we ended up using the little 20 pound tanks most normal people use for their grills all winter.

This means we had to visit Ace Hardware to get our tank refilled every two or three days. Ace has a rebate-card program.  You know the type – most grocery stores have something similar – you spend x dollars, get x points on your card and at some nebulous point in the future you get a discount or rebate. I think Ace was offering $5 off for every 1000 points and you got points each time you bought something.

Since we were spending about $12 each time we got the propane tank filled, we figured this would be great, and that we’d save at least $20-30 over the winter.

It wasn’t so easy.

Turns out, you have to have the card to get the points, then they MAIL you a different card to use to get your rebate and there is an expiration date on the rebate card. So now we had to remember to take our card to get points, our card to get the rebate and the propane tank to get filled when we went to Ace.

We used exactly ONE of the rebate cards last winter – out of five or six they sent. At least one time, I even put the rebate card in the car so I couldn’t forget it, but then forgot that it was in the car until after it expired.


It would have been so much simpler for Ace to automatically give me the rebate when they scanned my card and the appropriate number of points had been reached. I would be a much happier customer and would not be writing this post griping about their tightfisted rebate program.

When companies offer discounts and rebates and then attach all sorts of conditions and hoops to claiming them, it just leaves people feeling duped. I was so happy to think I might save twenty bucks, but so let down that it appears to be outside the realm of my abilities.

Keep your customers happy: make good offers, and make them so easy to claim that even your dumbest (or most disorganized) customer could do it.

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