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Who

Diageo, distributor of various name brands of liquor, including Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, and Bailey's.

CMS Rebate Center, a fulfillment house, also known as Consolidated Media Services and described as an Inmar Company.

The Offer

Diageo promised a $15 rebate for purchasing two bottles of selected Diageo brands of liquor along with a 12-pack of beer. There was a combined minimum purchase of $15.

The Rejection

I received a notice that my rebate was disqualified. The explanation was "Product was not within valid price range".

The Explanation, Version 1

I called up the CMS Rebate Center to ask how it was that there was a requirement for one of the products to be within a specific price range. The explanation I received was that the minimum price of the 12-pack of beer was $15. They were very quick to explain that there was an asterisk referring to a footnote indicating the minimum $15 purchase requirement, and since the asterisk followed the word "beer", that the minimum $15 purchase specifically applied to the beer purchase, rather than the combined purchase.

The Explanation, Version 2

Not satisfied with the explanation from CMS, I called Diageo about the rebate. I faxed my submission to them, and shortly thereafter, received a phone call. This time, I got a different explanation: I had purchased a brand of beer not made by Diageo. Never mind that the offer did not restrict the brand of beer.

Summary

First, we have one explanation from CMS, in which they attempted to convince consumers that they would have had to spend $15 on a 12-pack of beer to be eligible for the rebate, based on the placement of an asterisk.

Second, we have Diageo's own personnel making up their own story, really just looking for yet another excuse to dishonor the rebate.

Resolution

A second call to CMS resulted in an explanation that there was some confusion about what the actual rebate terms were, and the submission was subsequently deemed to be valid. So I'll be getting my rebate, but I have no idea what happened to those consumers who didn't bother to object to the disqualification.

It's a standard practice for manufacturers offering rebates to select fulfillment houses based on their skill at rejecting rebates, presumably for valid reasons. This is not only conspiracy to commit fraud, it's a breach of the implied covenant of fair dealing, which is a part of every contract, and constitutes a promise not to use shifty means to avoid obligations.

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