Ask Mr. Modem: Three reasons why companies love offering rebates

Posted Thursday, Feb. 06, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Mr. Modem’s sites of the week


Classical NPR

If classical music is your thing, this is a site you will want to get Bach to frequently. There are lots of features on the main page, plus you can listen to and view live audio and video streams. Be sure to check out the First Listen option (at the bottom) for new recordings, as well as Articles and its Interviews sub-section at the bottom of the screen.


Lexical Word Finder

The Lexical Word Finder provides word-finding help for a variety of games, including Scrabble, Lexulous, WordWise, Super Scrabble, Words With Friends, Wordsmith, Literati and Wordfeud. After selecting a game, type in the tiles you have, then click Search and it will find the highest scoring word for the letters you have. Cheating? No, of course not. Well, kind of. OK, yes, it is definitely cheating.


The Virtual Cave

A fascinating site devoted to the scientific intricacies of cave exploration. It’s divided into four sections — Lava Tubes, Sea Caves, Erosional Caves and Solution Caves — and virtual spelunkers can browse through photos and cave descriptions. The site also features a state-by-state guide to caves that are open for public exploration.

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Why do companies offer rebates instead of just selling a product at a lower price? I hate clipping bar codes and snail-mailing coupons in only to have to wait for six weeks for a five-dollar rebate. It drives me crazy. Thanks. Mr. M.

There are three primary reasons companies offer rebates: First, the time between the purchase and the rebate is typically several weeks, a period within which your money is in the company’s possession. This may seem insignificant, but to a company that sells millions of widgets, that’s a huge amount of money.

Second, what better way to obtain your personal data for subsequent contact or to sell to others than by offering you money (in the form of a rebate) for your information?

Third, companies know that most people are busy or lazy (or both) and won’t cut out a bar code or send in paperwork to obtain a rebate. Knowing this allows a company to attract purchasers by advertising an item at low price, but selling it at a higher price because the purchaser never applies for the rebate. What a deal!

I was reading some instructions that told me to click something in the “active window.” What is an active window?

When you open a program, that program’s window is said to be active, meaning that anything you do with your mouse or keyboard at that point will occur within that window. If you have more than one window open, how can you tell which is the active window? Excellent question! The window that looks bright, colorful, not gray and dull, is the one that’s active. It’s also usually the one that’s on top of other windows and most easily accessible. If you click the Title bar of any open window, that window will become the Active window and its Title bar will appear in bright blue or another color.

I use an optical mouse instead of my laptop’s touchpad. How can I turn off the touchpad so I can just use my external mouse?

Anyone who connects a mouse to a laptop knows how annoying it can be when you accidentally brush against the touchpad and your mouse goes careening around the screen. To disable the touchpad, go to the Control Panel and look for your mouse settings, which are typically found under Devices and Printers, sometimes under Hardware and Sound. It varies, depending on the version of Windows.

Once you locate your mouse, right-click to open its Properties dialog box. Within its settings, click to select the option to “Disable when external USB mouse is plugged in” — though the wording may vary. Click OK after making your selection.

Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

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