The Last Word on CyberRebate?

Maybe I came down a little hard on the CyberRebate victims. But then again, maybe not.

First, let me say that I certainly wasn’t making fun of the people who lost money. In fact, I was trying to put the mistakes made into the larger e-commerce context, to show that we all have fallen victim to the same degree of wishful thinking at some point along the way, and to urge everyone to step back and see the bigger picture.

At the same time, the amount of venom aimed at me via this site’s Open Forums and Letters to the Editor only serves to underscore my main point: In their search for someone to blame, for anyone to blame, CyberRebate’s customers continue to overlook themselves.

Nothing is risk free. And when someone tells you you’re going to get something for nothing, after you pay 10 times the face value, the level of critical judgment should shoot through the stratosphere.

Still, in light of all the comments, I did, as one poster suggested, “reconsider” my position on this issue.

Stating the Obvious

A few facts to get straight: First, I had no prior knowledge that CyberRebate was poised to leave so many victims high and dry. I had come across their program a while back, and thought it was interesting but nothing more. In fact, I’ll bet many more people know the CyberRebate name now than did before this debacle.

Second, I am all for the customers getting the money due to them. And I fully support a vigorous investigation into charges, as “Blast” argued on the message board, that CyberRebate “failed to inform its customers of any risk, and … has therefore committed fraud.”

Risk Free?

I also know how frustrating bankruptcy proceedings can be. Unsecured creditors go to the back of the line, while banks and anyone with a lien on the company’s assets gets first crack at what’s left.

There is, of course, risk with every seller-buyer relationship. Even if it’s not stated, it’s implied. And there is extra risk when that relationship is taking place on the Internet, in this wobbly funding environment.

I know this first hand — and I do mean first hand. A company that I worked for recently filed for bankruptcy, taking about US$2,000 of my money with it. There is little hope of seeing that cash and for a week or so, I was very angry indeed. I wanted to lash out. If there had been a message board for this purpose, I would have flamed the company 10 ways to Sunday.

The Blame Game

Like the CyberRebate victims, I needed someone to blame. But a step back reminded me that I recognized the risk of working for a pure-play dot-com in an uncertain funding environment. (Yes, this even though I had assured myself and others, in this same space, that the dot-com bubble would never burst, an assertion I believed at the time.)

That company I worked for had laid off workers just before Christmas last year, so there was clear evidence that its future wasn’t coming up all roses. More to the point, there hasn’t been a day since January that one dot-com or another didn’t lay off workers or close up shop for good.

I knew this, at least deep in my gut. At first, the layoffs and shakeouts could be compartmentalized, but over time, they clearly became a trend that’s difficult to avoid with anything but outright denial. So some of the blame for my loss lies with me. I’m a big boy and knew the risks.

And so likewise, didn’t there have to be some tinge of fear each time people paid CyberRebate prices? With dot-com disasters abounding, a site that essentially gave items away should have been a red flag waving in the breeze!

Fraud and Justice

This question of fraud is still up in the air, of course. Making the charge stick is no easy matter. If CyberRebate’s executives knew the business model was a sham, that’s one thing. But if they simply couldn’t convince marketing partners to re-up on agreements, or couldn’t get funding to bridge the gap, well then, the same charge of fraud could be made against any dot-com. They all wait until the last minute to pull the plug and most leave someone — if not lots of people — holding the bag.

Others have argued that they were blindsided in part because of the endorsements that CyberRebate and similar sites get from the likes of Yahoo! But these endorsements aren’t cast-in-stone guarantees. Far from it. If they were, Amazon investments like Kozmo and Pets.com would still be around today.

A message board poster by the name of Tonie asked the question that still needs an answer: “But ultimately who should pay? The consumer that got scammed or the credit card company that floated the loan so that the consumer could attempt to make money for nothing? The rules that protect credit card users do not extend to business ventures. So who should pay?”

Last Word

I’ll give the last word to a poster named David, one of my staunchest defenders. His words are as fitting for me, given my past comments and experiences, as for the CyberRebate folks:

“The Internet hasn’t changed anything, just how we get the same old products we’ve always wanted,” David wrote. “Did you actually believe money grew on the Internet?”

Maybe we did at one time, David. Whether we still do is another matter altogether.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


16 Comments

  • Is there any chance we can get back (at least SOME) of our rebates from CyberRebate? I heard about some lawsuit against credit card companies; I paid using Discover.

    Any news and latest updates is appreciated. You may email me directly via “[email protected]”.

    Thanks.

    • I learned a long time ago that when I buy something with a rebate to buy it only if it is a reasonable price before the rebate because the rebate does not always come through.

      I didn’t buy from CyberRebate.com because the prices were too high, the 100% rebate seemed to good to be true and the time to receive the rebate was too long (over the 60 days limit for disputing CC charge).

      You wrote a good article originally and the followup article is fair also.

      Thank you,

      Lisa

      • How can you say you did not enter into a venture with this company? The deal did not make sense on its face and you jumped in anyway. Dance with the devil and get burned, all the time claiming your innocence. Go get ’em Faust!

        • Yes, INVESTORS get paid to let their money be tied up for a period of time with the promise of a higher return. Are you speaking for the consumers? Is that what they thought of themselves as? Investors loaning money to a corporation? Interesting… the investors I know have contracts, deeds, binding agreements, attorneys, payment schedules, etc. Seems there’s a lot of unwise ‘investors’ out there….

          • To LoriA702.

            Give me a break. How could you believe that this deal had legs. Use of your money for a couple of months would never give you a return of the magnitude suggested in this deal unless it was illegal or very high risk. Have you ever heard of a game that uses three cups and a pea? Nows there’s an idea. I’ll let you know when I have set up my web site.

          • What you are not understanding is that this was not an “investment” and nothing like the stock market. As I stated in another post, this was not any type of “business venture.”

            Find out the REAL facts about the situation so that you know what you are talking about before you post such messages.

          • Did you get the items you purchased? Help me understand the situation better. Were there products bought and not delivered? I’d agree that you should either have your money refunded or receive the product you ordered. If you’re arguing that you bought products and didn’t intend to ‘make money/come out ahead’ through this model, then surely all you want is the product you ordered and paid a fair price for. Is this correct? Help me obtain the facts.

          • THIS is definitely a scam. The CEO and owners are laughing all the way to their offshore banks.

          • Is there any legal recourse available to those of us who got RIPPED & DEFRAUDED by Cyberrebate? There’s got to be a class action suit developing for this. Anyone know?

          • Cyberrebate is definitely a fraud. Didn’t you guys notice a business phenomenon just before they filed? It is called a pyramid scheme. For those who don’t know what it is, let me give you an example. I borrow $100 from you promising I will give it back with interest. After gaining your trust, you let me borrow $1000. After a while, you let me borrow $1000000, knowing I will give it back. But no, I jump ship and run off with the money.

            Cyberrebate did the same thing. Just before they filed for bankruptcy, their prices doubled or tripled, hoping to make a last-ditch effort to rack up as much cash as possible before they jump ship. I noticed this and stopped before they filed. For those who lost A LOT, I hope you learn a strict lesson….nothing is free.

  • Cyberrebate changed their policy in March of 2001

    to allow unlimited purchases, instead of just one.

    This change allowed them to gulp more money before

    the bankruptcy of May 2001.

    If the bankruptcy court finds Cyberrebate in fraud

    then maybe more creditors will have a better chance, to get more of their money returned.

  • They accepted and processed my order for $3978.28 on 11th May 2001 (at the time of purchase the site said the rebate forms will be available on the site after 5 days) fully well knowing that they were going bankrupt in 5 days (i.e. on 16th May 2001). I recieved a box on 17th May 2001. When I visited the site to get my rebate forms, there was a page saying they have filed for bankruptcy. They promised me rebates forms that they didn’t supply. I did not get my rebate forms on the day they were supposed to be there. The rebate form and the merchandise are a part of the purchase agreement. How can they violate it and get away?

  • Part 2.

    Does Tiger Woods make every shot? Did Jordan? Did Babe Ruth hit homers all the time? With respect, did the space shuttle Challenger even make it out of our atmosphere? Losing comes with risk. Develop a taste for it or get out of the game.

    Why are there so many people with an entitlement attitude? What happened to work ethic? What happened to the belief that WE are responsible for ourselves and what we do? Learn from this and move on. Don’t get bitter. Just apply the rule above, and decide for yourself if it’s a good investment or not. When it’s not, don’t blame the people that put it together. YOU got involved of your own accord. The anger from these posts is nothing more than the feelings of stupidity so many people have to justify. I’ve had it too. But when I fail, it’s because of MY efforts coming up short, MY inability to change with the world. I have ultimate control over whether I’m successful or not. Under this CR business model, you are very dependant on a LOT of things having to happen. They didn’t, and you lost. It’s just like the stock market. The only thing you can do is play your hand the best you can or get out of the game. You can’t control what the society of THEY is going to do. Keep the good articles coming!!

  • Something for nothing equals greed. I have compassion for people that lose money through banks, S&L’s, and failed business ventures that were honest, legal, and proven. You may ask “How can you prove a new business model?” Easy. What is it based on? Services? Products? Or is money simply going to appear from nothing? Here’s a quick lesson in the art of making money: You are paid in proportion to your service to society (think what a brain surgeon would make as an elevator operator vs. saving someone’s life). You wanted products AND money back? That’s a form of ‘payment’. What service did you provide someone for that increase? Some of you may say that you were ‘loaning’ CR money. Great! Then they are in default! Simply get the loan papers and the contract they signed, take it to the courthouse, and get your hard earned money! Oh…you don’t have a contract? Didn’t your mom ever tell you to ‘get it in writing’? The fact is, you were paying for products (inferior ones, I hear). If you got them, contract satisfied. If you didn’t, I agree you ought to. Rebates are not guaranteed. Didn’t you read the fine print? I’m still waiting for $30 from Microsoft, $25 for a ScanPort Scanner, $50 from Canon….shall I go on? You have to decide what your time is worth. Sure, I’ll mail it in and give it a try. But my time is not worth chasing down $30 or $100 or even $500 over the course of 3 or 4 months. Don’t we all have better things to do? I agree in taking risks, but I also swallow the bitter pill when I lose $20K in a carwash, or $15K on lawn care companies, etc. If you’re going to risk, PLAN on losing sometimes. Part 2 next.

  • Kudos on your decision to re-evaluate your position but thumbs down on your actual analysis. You never addressed my point that it was not a question of getting something for nothing. When you are tying up money that could be invested or used for other purposes for 10-14 weeks, that is not nothing! It’s tiring to hear the same smug statement from everyone regarding CyberRebate customers, “How stupid could you be? There’s no such thing as a free lunch!” I can’t believe any CR customers really believed the company was giving away merchandise with no return; it was a business, not a charity. They knew the company must be making money off of their money before the rebate checks were sent.

    I am not a CyberRebate customer trying to get someone to pay my losses. I never bought anything from them precisely for the reason I mentioned: who wants to lose the use of their money for 14 weeks? It irritates me just waiting for my Turbotax rebate – and that was $30! (and by the way, that made my software free…should I stop buying from Intuit?)

    Give these people a little credit, will you?

  • Mr. Regan:

    The difference between your situation in losing $2000 and the Cyberrebate customers is that we were PURCHASING ITEMS… NOT investing in the company in any way. So this situation is not the same in that we did not take that risk in investing into the company.

    Also you mention a comment from “Tonia” asking why the credit card companies should “pay” for our “business venture.” Again, this was not a “business venture,” it was a purchase of items with a promise of a rebate..at no time did I agree to a “business venture” with this company.

    You again lack understanding of situation in comparing our situation with yours. You still need to do some additional research into this situation…

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