Why This MICHELIN® Tire Promo is Essentially a Scam

UPDATE ON 9/25/17
Looks like either their original email to me was boilerplate or this post, social media shaming, and other efforts got them to remove the obstacles for rebate payment:

In August I purchased four MICHELIN® brand tires for my 2013 Toyota Prius Persona. This is a car my air-traveling wife hardly drove and has only 18,XXX miles on the odometer. As such, its tires are ones I could have easily driven for another 10,000 or more miles but, since I’ll be driving it to California in the next few months and will be putting on a lot of miles once I’m there, I wanted new tires.

Fortunately there was a $70 rebate on the 60,000-mile rated MICHELIN tires and service for which I spent nearly $800 on (see the screenshot about the rebate). Though I absolutely detest rebates, mainly since companies make it very hard to comply with all the instructions in the hope they’ll fulfill as few rebates as possible, I am quite meticulous on how I apply for them to ensure I’m complying with instructions and thought this would be seamless and easy. After all, MICHELIN is a major company and is (I thought) above the plaid-sportcoat-like behaviors of other companies who try to block and make rebate redemption difficult enough that the vast majority of consumers find it more bother than its worth and stop pursuing the rebate as soon as push-back by the “fulfillment centers” occurs.

That said, readers of this blog know I *deeply hate* rebates, unless they’re the “taken at the checkout” kind which gives a discount immediately. Consumers hating-rebates-backlash is the primary reason why Best Buy began eliminating rebates entirely in 2005 since most are as close to scams as these companies can away with and not be stopped by the Federal Trade Commission or Congress.

In my view rebates like this one are scams since they prey on the likelihood that only 21.1% of total sales or 67.6% of incremental sales from people successfully submit information to receive the rebate or they mail in the original receipt and then get a letter saying something like, “We never received your receipt. Please send another” knowing that the consumer likely doesn’t have a copy, can’t get one, or deems it not worthy of the effort.

See more on my posts A Nikon example of why I *hate* rebates and Nikon fills rebate….but how? or read The Great Rebate Runaround in Bloomberg BusinessWeek which said this back in 2005 of rebate redemption amounts:

In November 2005, BusinessWeek estimated a return rate of 60 percent. Some estimates have been as low as 2%. For example, nearly half of the 100,000 new TiVo subscribers in 2005 did not redeem their $100 rebates, allowing the company to keep $5,000,000 in additional profit.

It’s that throwing obstacles in the way of getting one’s legitimate rebate which is why I believe this MICHELIN® tire promotion rebate is essentially a scam since I complied with 100% of the instructions for submission and never, ever should have received a follow-up email requesting “…a little more information.”

But it’s not just me. Many others have viewed rebates as a “scam” and this crap by manufacturers goes back a long time as this 2003 Slate article on The Great Rebate Scam illustrates.

So what obstacles and barriers did MICHELIN toss in my way and why do I think this is an obvious effort to place a roadblock in the way of me claiming a legitimate rebate in the hope I’ll back-off and not pursue it?

As mentioned above, I meticulously provided the documentation requested initially when I submitted for the Michelin rebate on the Tire Fulfillment Center website as instructed. Though I wasn’t all that surprised, the Michelin “Tire Fulfillment Center” sent me an email late yesterday (over a month after I submitted on their website, I might add) asking for exactly the same information which I submitted on their website:

WTF? After submitting the rebate information in August on their website and uploading the receipt you see below — which again, already is, “…legible copy of your receipt…” and is, “…showing the name and address of the dealer where your tire purchase was made, the name of the person who purchased the tires, the tire brand, model, & size, and quantity of tires purchased” — they have the audacity to ask for it again (key information has been blacked-out for this blog post).

So this morning I created a PDF with a cover letter, a copy of their email, another copy of the receipt showing all of the information they asked for, and emailed it to them as requested.

To ensure they received it I also faxed it to them and a return receipt from our online faxing service was sent to me about an hour ago.

Gee…should I also do the third option of snail-mailing it to them? While they could claim that they never received the email or the fax machine was out of paper and someone inadvertenly unplugged the machine wiping its memory with my fax in it, I could print it out and send it certified mail so I’d obtain a signature of the person who received it too.

See why I think this is a scam and why I will never, ever buy another MICHELIN tire again for any of the cars we own?

Instead, I’m writing this post and will be posting it on my Facebook page and tweeting it. Then I’ll send it to the Federal Trade Commission and Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. Then I’ll post it to MICHELIN’s Facebook page so maybe, just maybe, they’ll stop delaying and erecting barriers to a promotion that should be done in good faith.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.


  1. Alan Geeves says:

    In New Zealand they often do cash backs which are much the same thing. These are often filled out by the retailer and all you have to do is put it in the mail. Still 30% never get claimed. Out Commerce Commission is looking at them very closely. I always look for a deal without cashbacks even if it means a different brand. You could of got Pirellis or Coopers or BFGs etc for much the same price and mileage guarantee

  2. While I am starting to agree with the standpoint that these rebates are as close to a scam as a legitimate company can get away with as I had a similar issue with a motor oil company, I am curious on if you ever did actually get your rebate. In your description, you provided a detailed explanation of what was asked for, what you supplied and the various forms of submittal you followed. With all that in mind, did you get the rebate? This could be a good conclusion to your story and I am very curious to know.

  3. Steve Borsch says:

    Funny you should ask. I did get it, the $70 Visa card. The kicker? I used $35 of it and the rest didn’t work. I was so fed up I didn’t bother to pursue it!

  4. Alan Geeves says:

    There are 3 reasons for companies to offer cash backs. None of them are good for the consumer.
    1 Collect extra money from customer which they can invest and collect interest on until they have to give it back. Remember if the customer buys on terms then they are paying interest on this cash back.
    2 The hope the customer wont claim either because they cant or dont bother. The hurdles thrown in the way encourage both things
    3 Make their product seem cheaper than it really is. Everyone knows a $400 item with $99 cash back is cheaper than a $300 identical item. Or is it?
    Maybe Im to cynical in my old age

  5. Daniel Mohn says:

    I bought four Michelin tires for my Lincoln MKX and applied for the $70 rebate. I received the awards card, spent the better part of an afternoon trying to activate it both online and by phone. I was finally assured by phone that the card was activated. Tried to use it to buy dinner last night only to be told that the card was invalid. Is Michelin scamming us into buying their tires?

  6. Michelin is doing it to me also,
    • Ineligible purchase date – to be eligible, purchase must be made between March 23 and May 20, 2018.

    My invoice is for May 5 2018

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