The wreck is in the mail

OK, I blew it on the Acuvue contact lens $30 rebate offer. But the good folks at National All Brands rebate did send me back my 12 contact lens box tops. And let me tell you, there is nothing that fires my jets more than opening a big envelope from El Paso, Texas, that I’m not expecting and finding inside it a dozen mangled box tops.
Just for the record, I am the one who mangled the box tops, not the rebate minions. You’ll sooner find a tasteful skirt on Paris Hilton than you will sharp scissors in my office.
In any case, never have so many people wasted so much time for so little money.
As far as I can tell, the big winner — and I use that term very loosely — was the United States Postal Service. They haven’t lucked out like this since their lawyers used a cease and desist letter to convince the rock band, the Postal Service, to promote good old-fashioned mail and perform at a conference of USPS executives in exchange for the use of the name.
Just for the record, some of the members of the band, the Postal Service, are also in the band, Death Cab for Cutie. It’s a myth, however, that Postal Service changed its name to Death Cab for Cutie because USPS attorneys demanded that. You can bet that if a group of lawyers got together in a room and tried to come up with a name for a rock band, it sure wouldn’t be Death Cab for Cutie.
So far the U.S. Postal service has made $5.29 — $3.64 from me when I mailed the box tops to the rebate center, including the cardboard mailer, and $1.65 from National All Brands when they sent them back. Then, of course, there is all the labor … and there was a lot on my end.
It all began in early February, when I opened my new, six-month supply of contact lenses and there was a rebate form. I would get $30 if I sent in the 12 box tops, a copy of my eye exam invoice, and the receipt for the lenses. Now $30 doesn’t go as far as it used to: To wit, it represents about two-thirds of a tank of gas for my car, or a Diet Coke, mac and cheese, and some completely inedible coleslaw at the restaurant at the Delta terminal at JFK. I don’t mean to malign the coleslaw, but I was so hungry when I ordered it I was practically delirious. And still I couldn’t finish it. First of all, it was hot like sauerkraut instead of cold like coleslaw; second, it was made with enough vinegar to clean a skyscraper’s worth of windows.
But $30 for box tops? I’m in. So, I cut apart all 12 boxes, put the contact lenses in 12 carefully labeled sandwich bags, photocopied the receipt for the lenses and my eye exam, bought a mailer at the post office, and sent the package to Texas. Altogether, the process took about an hour.
The problem? I didn’t read the fine print — though, in all fairness, it was simply because I was inept, not because I couldn’t read the tiny letters with my new contact lenses. It seems that I was supposed to have purchased my new lenses within 90 days of my eye exam. Nope. I wasn’t even close. And so the good folks at National All Brands invited me to resubmit my corrected order — which I would be happy to do, except for the fact that I haven’t mastered the art of going back in time so I could purchase those 12 boxes of lenses within 90 days of my eye exam. Details, I know.
Still, it was a pleasant surprise to get those mangled box tops back. It wasn’t quite the same as $30. But it’s always nice to get mail.
(This column originally appeared inthe Burlington Free Press on April 6, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “The wreck is in the mail

  1. neil says:

    I got caught in a similar discount price scam plied by retail store Walgreens.
    You know how shelves on which items are stocked have a price tag affixed? Well at Walgreens when the price is really good, there is small print that says you can have that price but only if you file for the rebate.
    The item in my case, liquid Drano, is marked with a good discount price but when you get to the checkout counter, you don’t get that price, you get full price (which is not marked on the price tag) and a chance to mail-in the paperwork for your discount. Um, no more Walgreens for me.

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