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Bill Smith Inc., with eight stores in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, plans to set up multiple personal computer stations at its stores for use April 16. Employees will walk customers through the reservation process required for a rebate, said Chris Riching, executive vice president.
Buying an eligible appliance, and reserving a rebate are just the first two steps. Consumers are responsible for competing the rebate claim form, and for sending the claim to the right address in a mailing postmarked no later than May 9.
It's more paperwork for consumers than the automotive form of cash-for-clunkers. the rewards, though, could be sweet. Based on median appliance costs to consumers, Gov. Charlie Crist's Energy Office rebate winners could score as much as $290 for a refrigerator purchase or as little as $65 for a new room air conditioner.
People opting to turn in the old, less-efficient appliance for recycling will earn a $75 bonus.
Long term, participants save money on power bills. on average, refrigerators manufactured before 1993 cost about $50 more per year to operate than new Energy Star-qualified models, while refrigerators manufactured before 1980 can cost about $150 more per year, according to the Energy Star Web site.
Not all the details are ironed out. a Web site specifically for Florida rebate information and reservations probably won't go online until Wednesday or Thursday. the governor's energy office Tuesday didn't have an address for the site.
Retailers could be challenged in delivering the appliances in time for customers to get the serial numbers and do the final paperwork earning them the government rebate, Hendershott said.
Hendershott thinks the state program, although "well-intended," raises consumer hopes too high.
"Retailers like us will get a little bit of a boost for a short period of time," he said. "But there will be unhappy people."
Some states already have launched their cash-kitchen clunkers programs. Florida has learned from their experiences, said Brenda Buchan, with Crist's energy office. States with relatively big rebates such as Florida's saw the money fly out the door.
"Iowa launched its rebate program at 8 a.m.; it was over by 3:45 p.m.," Buchan said.
Florida has set a closing rebate reservation date April 25; rebate forms to be completed must be postmarked by that May 9 deadline.
However, Buchan expects rebate-generating purchases could be over in a day. Retailers in states with the bigger rebates, "called it five times bigger than Black Friday."