Warning – Big Lots $70 S2DT deal may not be such a deal

On Tuesday I posted about what seemed to be a great deal – buy an 80-hour S2DT from Big Lots for $70, and redeem the $150 rebate to make $80. This same apparent deal has been posted around the net on a number of blogs and forums.

Well, Wednesday night TiVoPony posted this at TiVoCommunity.com:

To be very clear…these boxes thru Big Lots do NOT qualify for rebates.


That’s it. No explanation as to why.

There is nothing in the Big Lots sale description to indicate that these are refurbished units. I see nothing in the rebate terms that would disqualify these units. The only thing I can think might be the issue is:(6) Valid only for new, TiVo Series2 Digital Video Recorders purchased from an authorized TiVo retailer or through our website (www.tivo.com). Not valid for pre-owned, second party, demo, or display DVRs. But, again, there is nothing to indicate these units are pre-owned, people who have purchased them report that they appear to be brand-new units with nothing at all to indicate they’re not fresh from the factory. Is Big Lots somehow not an authorized TiVo retailer? And, if so, how is a consumer supposed to know that? TiVo doesn’t seem to publish a list of authorized retailers, and it isn’t like these were purchased off the back of a truck or from someone on eBay. This is a national retailer and the deal is on their website and apparently in some print fliers.

There is nothing in the terms of the rebate that specifies a minimum price that must be paid to get the rebate, which I’ve seen on other rebates in the past. On top of this, people have reported that they have had no problems pre-qualifying for the rebate online.

So, if these units are indeed ineligible for the rebate, and I really have no reason to doubt TiVoPony, it seems like a pretty crappy thing for TiVo to do. Yes, it would be an incredible deal – but such deals are not unheard of. There have been other sale and rebate combos that earn the consumer money on TiVo gear in the past, and on numerous other products. So there was no reason to think this was anything other than a very good deal for the consumer. A one line post buried in a discussion board should not be the only way for the consumer to learn that a product is ineligible for a rebate. Especially when everything else – especially the rebate form and even the pre-qualification web form – would indicate otherwise.

I admit a web forum is a step above the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard, which is itself in a dark basement that is lacking stairs. But just barely.

If you purchased one of these units expecting to get the rebate, and you’re denied – raise hell. Demand a clear explanation as to exactly what disqualifies these units. And if it is something you couldn’t be expected to reasonably know – fight. I love TiVo, really, but this just seems like bullshit. A rational person reading the rebate form and buying the product at retail would naturally expect it to be eligible. I certainly would – so did Troy, Alex, Jen, numerous posters on TiVoCommunity.com, readers of these forums and blogs, and certainly just people who walked in to Big Lots and found the deal unexpectedly. You buy the box, go home and check the TiVo site, and find the rebate and think you just had a run of good luck.

Whether or not it is the case, it seems like someone at TiVo had an “Oh shit” moment after realizing there was this clearance at Big Lots and the rebate was still in effect, and there was nothing to indicate the units weren’t eligible. Even so, TiVo should’ve done more than just have TiVoPony post a one-liner about it – like a real explanation.

I’m sorry TiVo, this just won’t fly. Suck it up and honor the rebates. I doubt it will be that many in any case, only those who read about the combo online or who were fortunate enough to find the rebate after buying the box, or to have just known about it beforehand, will be redeeming it. It isn’t as if there is a mention of the rebate on the box or in the store. Refusing the rebates is bad customer relations, and I would hope people raise hell over any denied rebates on these boxes. Write it off as marketing and maintaining customer good will. Sure, since it may not be that many you might thing “Well, we’ll just piss off a few customers”. But you know as well as I that negative word of mouth spreads a lot faster than positive, and people who are upset will tell a lot more people about how they got screwed by TiVo than happy customers tell people how great TiVo is.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Vince

    I sense a big PR backlash from this one which should technically target Big Lots, which should mention the units aren’t eligible, but won’t since the ‘blogosphere’ (ick) will target TiVo. I’m guessing the “second party” provision is what’s keeping these units from being rebate candidates. Depending on the volume of these units maybe TiVo will make good on the rebates anyway.

    Big points for the Hitchhiker’s Guide homage…

  • http://www.tivoblog.com Alex

    This is crazy!

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    If TiVo wants to limit the validity of a rebate then they need to be clear. If they’re going to claim ‘authorized retailer’ – then they need a prominent list of authorized retailers. I would never have suspected Big Lots wasn’t an authorized retailer.

    And if they weren’t going to honor rebates on these units, then they should’ve made a much more public announcement than a one-liner with no explanation buried in TiVoCommunity forums. How about using their blogger base? Would it have been too much work to drop a line to myself, Alex, Zatz, et al? We could’ve spread the word in minutes.

    Worst of all, why is their pre-authorization page telling people their eligible?

    No matter how you look at it, TiVo didn’t handle this well.

  • http://www.tivoblog.com Alex

    And if they weren’t going to honor rebates on these units, then they should’ve made a much more public announcement than a one-liner with no explanation buried in TiVoCommunity forums. How about using their blogger base? Would it have been too much work to drop a line to myself, Alex, Zatz, et al? We could’ve spread the word in minutes.

    This is exactly how I feel. I plan on blogging about this latter tonight.. How can I ever recommend a deal when I don’t know a rebate is going to apply. Where is the list of “authorized resellers”?

  • Brian

    Keep in mind that the folks who handle the rebates for TiVo are incredibly talented at ignoring the “raising of hell”. Just skip any thought of contesting their rejection of your rebate request through those channels, and go directly to TiVo Customer Support, and save yourself a lot of aggravation. You still might get no satisfaction, but at least you’ll get to “No” sooner and with less work than if you try to address this via the rebate handling company.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    Brian – Indeed. Go right to TiVo, the rebate contractor has nothing at stake and doesn’t care.

  • http://troyontivo.blogspot.com Troy

    I bought one of these units, fully expecting the rebate. When I had some activation/multi-service questions, I called Customer Service on Tues night. After getting those questions answered, I then asked the rep a few questions about the rebate. The rebate’s T&C say you need to send a copy of the receipt, with the Tivo model clearly identified. Unfortunately, the Big Lots receipt I got only shows “Electronics” as the item name, and also lists the SKU#. But there was also Big Lots SKU label sticker on the TiVo box, which is removable, and it has the model #. She didn’t raise any red flags to me about them not allowing the Big Lots store for this rebate, and just told me to make copies of everything, and include this box label. I then activated my Tivo online, and also did the pre-qual for my rebate. I plan to fight this hard if they try to deny it.

  • Chris

    I think, as a comprimise, Tivo should just rebate the cost of the DVR (but not exceed it)

    Of course legally, they may not be able to do it. . .i.e. if you give anything you have to give all

    70 bucks is a decent deal, so don’t be too sad!

  • Brian

    Compromise isn’t really relevant. Either the device qualifies for the rebate or not. I think the key is that bit about “authorized dealers”. The only way to be sure is to validate eligibility before making a purchase.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ megazone

    Brian – The problem is the pre-qualification website says that these units qualify. If you enter the info it says you’re OK. And I don’t see a list of ‘Authorized Retailers’ posted, so there is no easy way for a consumer to know these units wouldn’t qualify.

  • http://hdtivo.wordpress.com/ HDTiVo


    From 9/25/07 -


    While TiVo is offering a $50 S2DT80, (Get an 80-hour S2DT for $49.99) no matter what TiVo does on price, short of giving away lots of money with each box, subscription additions will not be good as long as the ridiculous subscription options remain in place. This comment extends to the hi def TiVoes. TiVo HD will sell somewhat better than S3 did, but TiVo’s growth is at an end after this year unless they change.

  • http://hdtivo.wordpress.com/ HDTiVo

    Do you believe Pony? Do you believe the website? Do you believe your rebate got mystiously lost by the rebate shylarks? Do you end up with $80 in your pocket?

    Tune in next time…

    The problem is the pre-qualification website says that these units qualify. If you enter the info it says you’re OK. And I don’t see a list of ‘Authorized Retailers’ posted, so there is no easy way for a consumer to know these units wouldn’t qualify.

  • noluck

    The Big Lots website has been updated. The graphic has a little red banner across it saying “Selling Fast!” and the description has a sentence at the end that states “Manufacturer’s rebate does not apply to this offer.”


    So I guess it’s official. Now that doesn’t mean those who bought the TiVo before these clarifications don’t have a leg to stand on when trying to claim the rebate, but people going forward (if they can even find one — I went to 3 Big Lots last week and didn’t find any) won’t have the same excuse. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to sort out who’s who.

  • http://troyontivo.blogspot.com Troy

    I did a Google search, and found the cached page from Oct 4, 2007. This URL shows the site WITHOUT the “rebate does not qualify” text. I’m making a printout of this for my records as more ammo for my fight if I get denied.

  • http://hdtivo.wordpress.com/ HDTiVo

    Why would folks run to buy this unit for $70?

    They’ll have to take out the Selling Fast! text soon.


  • http://www.novakowski.net Marc Novakowski

    This sounds like a very good deal for Canadians shopping in the US because we aren’t eligible for rebates, anyways. Not to mention the CDN dollar being on-par with USD.

  • Tivo Sucks

    Tivo sucks, they are still pulling this crap screwing over new customers by promising rebates then claiming you don’t qualify because you didn’t purchase from an authorized retailer. They don’t even publish a list of authorized retailers. Tivo you are scumbags!

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    Well, ‘TiVo Sucks’, since you reminded me of this old post I should say that I have since seen a number of people report that TiVo did honor the rebates on units purchased from Big Lots.