Appliance program burns through rebate money
The state's cash for appliances program doled out its maximum amount of rebate reservations today in around two hours, and stopped accepting wait-list applications less than an hour later.
The money ran out after the rebate program opened to a huge response this morning, overwhelming the state website set up to handle the crush of consumers seeking bargains. Many customers were unable to get through by phone and the MassSave.com website delivered error messages to some seeking to claim a rebate reservation. An update on the state's website advised users to access the rebate registration form directly at https://www.maswap1.com, but even that link was sluggish.
"The system is struggling to accommodate all of the people interested in this," said Robert Keough, assistant secretary in the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
State officials has said the website set up specifically for the rebate program, www.MassSave.com/residential, would be able to handle 5,000 visitors at once.
The state is distributing $6 million in federal stimulus money under the program, which gives qualifying customers rebates of between $50 and $250 for energy efficient dishwashers, refrigerators, clothes washer, and freezers.
Retailers report a brisk business today, but say they expect bigger crowds this evening, when more customers have rebates in hand.
"We had three people waiting at the door when we opened, and it's been steady ever since," said Tara Patton, store manager of Sears in Cambridge.Sears stores opened at 6 a.m. today for a special Earth Day sale.
But frustration was growing this morning among people trying to get th rebates, which are issued on a first come, first served basis. "I have a 21-year-old clothes washer," said Susan McDonough of Lynnfield, who tried unsuccessfully to get through by phone and on two computers. "I'm a perfect candidate. I feel like I'm trying to vote for American Idol."
Amy Haberland, 52, of Arlington, wants to spend "as little as possible" on a new dishwasher and refrigerator, but like many other people she has been unable to get a rebate coupon. Repeated attempts to get on the website failed, she said, and after many calls to the phone line set up by the state, Haberland said, she got a message that said the line was closed.
"I'm not going to buy anything until I know I'm going to get the rebate," she said.