Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is our government involved in bait and switch?

While President Barack Obama, speaking to students about alternative energy recently, talked about incentives for large companies to up their game on energy efficiency.

Every year billions of dollars--our tax dollars--in incentives are given to companies that pay little or no taxes of their own, in an effort to boost their businesses.

It is an ever-increasing practice business and government uses, at our expense. The benefit of tax incentives is often times touted as a benefit to consumers, but often times it isn't. Any perk for consumers is minuscule compared with the monetary gains businesses and politicians enjoy by the practice.

I can't help but wonder, what about the little guy? We should be so fortunate...

Recently, my husband and I were promised an Energy Star Appliance Rebate--$225 for the purchase of an energy-efficient washing machine. We spent a little more than we wanted to, but were lured in by the promise of the government-promised rebate.

I have begun to believe that all rebates are a scam. I can't recall the last time one actually paid as advertised.

Despite this being a government rebate, this one didn't deliver either. I thought a government rebate might be different. It wasn't!

Like the billion-dollar grants given big business, this rebate was an incentive to cut household energy costs. It was offered by the Obama administration and distributed by the states, and as we learned, sub-contracted to an outfit in another state.

We purchased our GE front-loading washer and matching dryer. We had been using a 30-year old pair--also a GE. We were very happy with the performance of the brand. Our machines were old, but still functional. They did not need to be replaced and we did consider waiting. But our decision was swayed when we learned the ones we wanted were on sale and there was a rebate being offered. We did something we haven't done since we retired; we purchased the appliances with a credit card. The decision to use a credit card was a difficult one.

Several months later, when we didn't receive the rebate, my husband contacted the Michigan company charged with handling the rebates for the State of Arkansas. He was told that we didn't qualify because we didn't write the serial number of the old washer on the application form and we didn't include the sales receipt. Also, it would do no good to reapply because the money had all been spent. Out of luck, was the way he put it.

My husband, who filled out the paperwork distinctly recalls the form said the old serial number wasn't necessary. The sales receipt was stapled to the form.

Is our government now involved in bait and switch?