Stores, state get ready for surge of energy rebates

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – One minute after midnight tonight, Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City in Tupelo will open for business.
That’s eight hours and 59 minutes earlier than usual, but the appliance and electronics retailer hopes to get an early start cashing in on a state appliance rebate program that starts Thursday.
The State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program gives consumers rebates ranging from $50 to $750, depending on the appliance. The rebate is good only for new Energy Star-qualified models.
“I don’t foresee a lot of people coming in at midnight, but there is a lot of interest in the rebates,” said Robert Hughes, store manager for the Tupelo Cowboy Maloney’s.
Company stores across the state also will open at 12:01 a.m.
Like similar programs administered across the country, SEEARP is a first-come, first-serve rebate program. Customers won’t get the rebate right away. Instead, they’ll have to call to reserve a rebate and they’ll have 14 days to mail in a receipt in order to claim it.
The rebate will be sent as a prepaid Visa card.
“MDA sees this as an opportunity to benefit Mississippi consumers and help spur economic activity for our retailers,” said Karen Bishop of the Mississippi Development Authority, which is administering the program.
MDA is partnering with many of the state’s utility companies and more than 250 retailers to encourage Mississippians to take advantage of the one-time program.
“Some of our retail partners are well-known and others are smaller, local stores,” Bishop said. “Both our retail and utility partners are promoting the program statewide and helping ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.”
State officials expect the program to run a little smoother than other states’ programs. In Texas two weeks ago, phone lines were jammed and the program’s website crashed as $23 million in rebates were reserved within hours. Iowa and Minnesota also had similar website and phone problems.
But Bishop said Mississippi’s program will be administered differently, with 100 people at the rebate call center and the website ready to handle the expected volume of hits on Thursday.
“The problems in some other states have been due to their requirement that funds be reserved prior to appliance purchase,” she said, “which mean that consumers have been trying to get on the web or call the customer service line to reserve the funds really quickly and all at the same time. Our program requires that consumers purchase first, which should give us a much more staggered reservation of funds and a smoother launch.”
Bishop also said that consumers should know that not all appliances qualify for the rebate. People who buy ineligible appliances won’t get a rebate.
Also, the rebates are good only for Mississippi residents who buy from Mississippi retailers.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.