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Half Of Cash For Appliances Money Gone By Noon

Federal Rebate Program Started At 8 a.m. Friday

Reporter by Susan Carlson

CHICAGO (CBS) - Half the available money set aside for the Cash for Appliances program was gone just four hours after the program started in Illinois.

A news release from Gov. Pat Quinn's office said about $3 million of the available $6.2 million for the program, were gone as of noon Friday. The program began at 8 a.m.

Retailers sold at least $20 million in new energy-efficient appliances in the first four hours of the program, the release said.

Once all the money set aside for the Cash for Appliances program is gone, the program ends.

Earlier, the rush to get in on the savings inspired some customers to get up early this morning and wait in long lines, hoping for a bargain.

"I'm number 36," said Carol Kuntz, while waiting her turn for a crack at the appliance sale at Sears on State Street.

Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, customers there were handed numbers guaranteeing them a spot to shop later. The serious ones arrived early and they came prepared.

"I was actually here last night, did a preliminary," Kuntz said. "I bought a dryer and I'm back to buy the washer, and get the rebate from Illinois. It works out well for everyone."

Customer George Francis was there for the same reason.

"Just the opportunity to get an extra 15 percent off, and we're looking to redo our kitchen so we're in the market for all the different appliances," he said.

Energy saving refrigerators, washers and dryers labeled with Energy Star are marked down 15 percent.

Rather than customers having to fill out federal rebate forms and send them in, stores in Illinois are bearing the burden.

Prices are slashed up to $400 and retailers will get reimbursed later.

On top of that, Sears, the nation's largest appliance retailer, is offering an additional 30 percent off right now. That's got customers whipping out their checkbooks at a high speed setting.

"Definitely for the sale. I'm here for the sale," said customer Anthony Vula.

From the start, there has been concern about when the limited rebate money would evaporate.

"We checked at the store last night and they said they thought everything would be gone by noon. So we knew we had to get here early," said Francis.

Other retailers estimated the rebate money would last at least through the weekend, but with 670 stores in Illinois competing for money from the same pot, it's anyone's guess when the doors will close on the program.

Other stores selling the discount energy saving appliances include Home Depot, Best Buy and Lowe's, which is kicking in an extra 10 percent off.

ABT Electronics opened its doors at 7 a.m. Friday, two hours earlier than normal.

And in addition to putting all their sale people on the clock, they even called in vendors from Whirlpool and GE to help with the expected swarms of shoppers.

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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