I did. And this quarter, the check was more special than usual for two reasons: one is that it’s the largest cashback check I’ve ever received from Ebates ($422.09). The other is that it’s the first check I’ve gotten from Ebates since I visited them in December and saw the Big Fat Check Printer for myself, up close and personal.
Want to see the Big Fat Check Printer for yourself? Continue reading!
In December, I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time. Golden Gate Bridge? Fisherman’s Wharf? Chinatown? Sure, there’s that…but what I was really excited about was the chance to visit a couple of my favorite rewards programs that just so happen to be located there, too!
Ebates was one of those programs (more on the other program in another post). I joined Ebates in early 2001. It was one of the first rewards programs that I joined, and according to its founder, Alessandro Isolani, it was the first cash back shopping website on the internet. So, to be at Ebates headquarters, where it all started, was something of a humbling experience for a Rewards Geek like me.
Let’s begin at the beginning: 333 Bryant Street in San Francisco. A few blocks removed from the higher-traffic area of downtown San Francisco, in a nice but nondescript office building, is the headquarters of the website that pioneered online cash back shopping.
My gracious hostess for my visit to Ebates was Rebecca Faulkner, whose official title is “Marketing Content Editor” but you may know her better as the official Ebates Shopping Blog blogger. She showed me around the office — a large, open expanse of three-quarter height cubicles that was, for the most part, empty. I had arrived just after lunchtime and much of the staff had gone together to honor an employee going on maternity leave. Rebecca showed me her cube and introduced me to Lise Nguyen, Ebates’ Marketing Coordinator (in charge of, among other things, Ebates’ Refer-a-Friend Program), and then we went to the conference room to chat. Here’s me, Rebecca, and Lise:
Both ladies were very friendly and enthusiastic about Ebates as well as CompareRewards. We talked at length about a lot of things. Both ladies shop exclusively through Ebates when they shop online. They’ve been known to suggest new merchants themselves when there was somewhere they were shopping that Ebates didn’t reward for. They use online coupons, and although it’s time-consuming, Ebates works hard to be sure that at least the top 100 merchants have valid coupons up on the site. Lise said they experiment some with new member referral promotions and that the “refer a friend and you both get $10″ promo is a popular one. I said that I liked it myself.
Soon after, we were joined by Alessandro Isolani, the founder of Ebates and its CEO.
Alessandro is every bit as much the Rewards Geek that I am. We chatted about old rewards programs from way-back-when and about how Ebates and the concept of “we’ll pay you cash back for shopping with us” was such a novel one when he first started out. We talked about the Moe Money Maker reminder tool and the fact that, although Ebates doesn’t promote it actively anymore, I still felt it needed to be discontinued (I hate those reminder tools). We talked about my shopping comparison chart — Ebates has used it to see what their competition is offering, but Alessandro stressed that he didn’t feel Ebates needed to be the very top rewarder for every single merchant, even though they frequently are. He feels that the fact that Ebates pays in cash as opposed to gift cards, bonds, or merchandise, is a huge selling point. Also, he feels that the number of years Ebates has been around and has been reliably mailing out its quarterly Big Fat Checks (or, in recent years, their payments by PayPal) speaks for itself.
Which brings me back to my Big Fat Check. This is what the Big Fat Printer looks like:
It gets fired up once a quarter, about 6 weeks after the previous quarter ends. Ebates hires temps to come in and help get the checks printed, envelopes stuffed, and mail mailed. It’s a huge job, as you can imagine.
The folks at Ebates are really nice, down-to-earth, hard-working people. They can relate to what we online shoppers want because they’re online shoppers themselves. I thought it was cool that they took time out of their busy days to visit with me, their first (they tell me) member to stop by just to say hi. Alessandro even took the time to give me sight-seeing suggestions and directions, and all three made a point of giving me their business cards, with their direct phone numbers and email addresses, before I left (nope, not giving ‘em out, sorry!).
Alessandro, Rebecca, Lise — thank you very much for giving me (and my readers!) an inside look at Ebates!
And if you’re not a member and you’d like to get in on that “refer a friend and you both get $10″ action I mentioned above, please join with my link here!