So it’s really starting now. Sears, Kroger and others are vying for the rebate checks the government will issue consumers next month as part of a $168 billion economic stimulus plan to get the economy back on track.The Kroger plan would allow customers to exchange their rebate checks for gift cards valued higher than the government-issued money. A $300 check would turn into a $330 gift card, $600 would bring in $660 and $1,200 gets the shopper $1,320.Meanwhile, Sears’ offer to consumers is to add 10% in the form of a gift card to any rebate check brought to a Sears or Kmart cash register.Frankly, we’re surprised that we haven’t seen more of this promotional activity from retailers. Will we see more? And will it work to get customers into stores or will most people instead spend their rebates on debt and other bills? Also, can Sears afford to give people deals right now?

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