I’d Like to Return This Product

22 April 2019 | 33 Comments

A few times over the last few months, I’ve had customers tell me upon receiving a product purchased from our webstore that they want to return it. I haven’t quite known how to reply to such requests.

Keep in mind that–with a few rare exceptions–based on how we currently operate, when a customer preorders or orders from Stonemaier Games, they receive it within a week or two. This isn’t the case of backing something on Kickstarter and deciding 9 months later when you receive it that the final product is drastically different than as advertised or that your personal budget has significantly changed (see this article for the reasoning behind our money-back guarantee from our days on Kickstarter).

Also, we sell board games. This isn’t Zappos, where the ability to try on the shoes is critically important to solidifying your purchase. A comparison could be made to actually playing the game and deciding if it’s a good fit, but the return requests we’ve received always happen while the game is still in shrink.

There have only been a handful of these requests, and I suspect for most of them that they simply found a better price elsewhere. Nothing wrong with that, though I also don’t necessarily think price comparison is my responsibility.

However, despite all that, it has still felt a little weird to tell customers, “No, you can’t return your completely new, in-shrink game to us.” My goal is serve and respect our customers, and I feel like I’m falling short in regards to these occasional return requests.

So I spoke with our primary fulfillment center a few days ago, and we decided on a procedure. Here’s how it’ll work:

  1. If you have a game that was purchased on our webstore and is still in shrinkwrap, it is eligible to be returned to Stonemaier Games. We reserve the right to deny the request based on the circumstances (i.e., if the game was purchased a long time ago).
  2. You are responsible for returning the game to our fulfillment center (i.e., you pay for shipping) in the same conditioned you received it. We will provide a special identifying code to write on the box so the fulfillment center knows how to process it.
  3. When we receive the game, we will issue a refund equal to the original payment via Shopify (to the person who placed the order).

Related to this topic are games that arrive damaged or with missing components. For those, all a customer needs to do is fill out our replacement parts form and we’ll send them the damaged/missing component.

What do you think? If you sell products online, do you have a return policy, and how does it work. If you buy products online from publishers, what are your hopes and expectations in terms of their return policies?

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33 Comments on “I’d Like to Return This Product

  1. This seems fair to me. Even Amazon requires you to pay return shipping on a non-defective product you change your mind about. The fact that you aren’t also charging a “restocking fee” makes you good guys in my book.

  2. As long as you have a stated return policy then there are no issues. I think this is a fair policy and most online retailers have something similar. Not having a restocking fee on top of that is also good.

    1. Jamie, It’s always a good read when I go to your website. Thank you so much for the blog posts you write. It all takes time and I just want to say thanks and wish you well as you hammer out any refinements you may make to your return policy.

      Corey, Just looked over your return policy and I’ll have to say – You have an excellent wit. A little humor, if it is received well, can really help with customer relations.

      Don – Black Harbor Games

  3. Would this work under UK Consumer Contracts Regulations?

    Your right to cancel an order for goods made at a distance starts from the moment you place your order and ends 14 days from the day you receive your goods

    The trader has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place.

    You must cover the cost for returning unwanted goods, unless the retailer says it will cover these costs.

    If your goods are faulty, you shouldn’t have to pay to return the goods.

    1. Thanks for your question, Kenneth. I wasn’t aware of that policy, but my policy seems to follow it, given this clause: “You [the consumer] must cover the cost for returning unwanted goods.”

      1. I think asking simply why they are returning the product is fine.

        If they know they are able to return the product, then asking “May I ask why you are returning this item?” Is fairly passive and not accusatory and I doubt you’d get a lot of kick back.

        Until it feels like you are trying to talk them out of it, I dont think you’d run into issues. You’d probably be surprised what you hear sometimes.

        I know you treat people with respect and genuinely care about providing a great customer experience. The more data you have the easier that becomes.

        You cant make everyone happy but I bet you most people would respond decently if worded properly.

          1. What Mike said! Something like, “We want you to be satisfied with your purchase…” or create the best purchasing experience possible.

            Also, you mentioned people purchasing the game for cheaper elsewhere. Is there a reason why they might want to purchase the game for slightly more from you? Sometimes people are willing to pay more if they understand the reason costs are higher. Say, if by purchasing from you, it might help your business, resulting in more games produced or more excellent content on your blogs. Not saying you should try to guilt someone into paying more, but at least explain why there might be a cost difference and allowing them to make the decision whether to buy the product from you or elsewhere (you may already do this–just brainstorming!)

          2. Cassie: That’s an interesting point. If people buy from us, they are indeed helping Stonemaier Games, and they’re guaranteeing they get the real product in a timely manner. At the same time, retail channels are really important to us too, so I understand if a customer buys our products elsewhere. Retailers and distributors expect us to sell at full MSRP on our website, hence why our prices are higher.

          3. Definitely a balancing act! But, fundamentally, it’s the consumer’s choice :) Thanks for responding! I started reading your kickstarter book, so…making my first attempt at reading blogs (this is actually my first blog comment ever, so thanks for making it a good experience!). I’ve always been more of a book person, but always room to grow and adapt :)

      1. Exactly, as customers from your e-store, you have already their information, so the form could be chosen from their account , like
        My cart
        My Purchases
        My Returns
        My Stonemeier Wallet etc

        Clicking on the 3rd option, a form with minimum info needed because all other is already there. By signing in, I would have known the company stores my details.
        The 4th option is a bonus :) ( instant refund there instead of Shopify)

        1. Harry: I think I’m still missing something. :) If someone e-mails me asking to return their game, I already have all of that information, and the only other information that needs to be exchanged is for me to tell the customer how to return the game.

          I think you might be saying that consumers might like a form instead of a direct e-mail, but from what I can tell, the vast majority of customers are likely to simply reply to their order confirmation from Shopify, which sends an e-mail directly to me.

  4. I guess I’m a little puzzled as to how this idea of someone wanting to return a game hadn’t come up before (Kickstarter orders notwithstanding). True, while most stores (FLGS) won’t take back an opened board game, I know many stores that will refund the purchase for a new, in-shrink returned game. And every online retailer that I place an order from has some kind of return policy on the website, including instructions on how to request a return & refund. If you have a procedure in which to replace an item that was damaged during shipping, having a procedure in place for a requested return & refund isn’t far off in my mind.

    The websites where I feel confident in asking for a return are the ones that want to know the reason for the return (always good to ask), a clear policy indicating what the return process is, and a contact point (phone number or email address) in case someone has any questions.

    Also, be aware of the state statutes . . . some states have a law in which you MUST give the purchaser a refund if they request one within a certain amount of time. There is no such law on the books in Missouri, but that may not adhere to online purchases across state lines.

  5. Oh wow! What luxury you have. With Amazon as my distro, customers return games on a whim, and I lose a sale, reguardless of product quality. Worse, Amazon decides if the game is in sale-able condition, which so far seems random. I’ve even had customers say they got an obviously opened, played, then returned game sent to them as new. And who does Amazon blame when it happens? Me – demanding I not sell used games as new. Other times Amazon will ship games back to me as unsale-able and they’re perfectly new. Enjoy your privileged position – I envy it!

    1. Precisely, I sell on Amazon and these issues are pretty routine and essentially cost of doing business. 5-10% return is not uncommon in other industries so consider yourself fortunate. Having return policy is a must but a lot companies these days don’t die on that hill. Too much time is wasted trying to save a sale but in turn you get a bad review, trouble with your ecom platform or some social media flak. Don’t make it easy on the customers to scam but also empower the customer service team to be flexible.

  6. While I’ve always got a bit of buyer’s remorse in me (fun times upbringing making me rethink every luxury purchase), there is only one thing I might worry about, and that is only because it’s starting to affect purchasers on Amazon: counterfeit games.

    I’ve seen at least three or four reports on a small games group that I follow stating they’ve received counterfeit games from Amazon, and I worry a bit that accepting returns that are shrink wrapped does not necessarily mean that the people who are returning them are returning the product you sent them.

    In our local area, we’ve actually had a rash of Best Buy stores that have received returned, in-shrink, iPads. Upon opening the boxes, they’ve had either heavy books in them, or even knock-off tablets, to the extent that Best Buy is starting to refuse to take any iPad returns. I keep wondering if it’s just a matter of time before games start getting the same treatment.

    I don’t know if any of these issues have started showing up in company-direct stores, yet. I’m wondering if perhaps adding some sort of asset control (stickers that are very easily seen as damaged, or something maybe foiled into the shrink wrap?) could be found as a cost-effective solution to ensure that what you get back is actually an unopened product.

    Either way, I am once again impressed with your obvious concern for your customers, and the depth of thought that goes into every business decision you make.

  7. Jamey,

    The policy sounds fair to me; and is essentially the exact sort of return policy I have for my small online shop. The only modifier I include is that customers who would like to return in-shrink-wrap games need to reach out to me within 30 days from purchase. I figure that’s a reasonable amount of time for someone to decide they really didn’t want the game.

    Mind you, I’ve only been up and running at full-speed for about 4 months… and haven’t had a return yet (smile)… but hopefully people think that’s at least a reasonable timeline… I welcome thoughts, of course!

    Here’s my return policy (about half way down the terms and conditions page):

    https://www.upstartboardgamer.com/terms-and-conditions/

    My best, as always,

    Drew

  8. I think your policy is fair, but ultimately I believe the most important aspect is just have a written policy period. As long as people have access to that policy in advance (whatever the policy is, within reason), they should be making an informed decision and should have no unwelcome surprises later.

  9. You might not be aware that there is a typo in this article. I am not complaining, but you strike me as a guy who would want to know. A word, probably “game,” is missing: “A comparison could be made to actually playing the and deciding if it’s a good fit”

  10. Appreciate the thought on 30 days, Jamey! I was trying to strike balance between being fair and reasonable and not having to think about returns a year after a sale was made…. Hopefully the 30 days will work out. thank you for all the great info sharing, communication, and kindness… your efforts are appreciated! My best, Drew

  11. Reading your blogs, watching your videos and your book; quickly gives one an impression of you and your company as….fairness, candor and integrity, quality games.
    30 Days is the universal standard for returns for electronics, hardware and most retail.
    I not surprised that you have a lower than industry rate of returns, because you so effective in outreach and a fantastic communicator and very highly rated products.

    I’m also amazed you have a return in this fashion and while your concerns are very noble; you can’t please 100% of your customers no matter your best efforts, intentions and policy.
    Without repeating what others before have stated,
    Ditto, ditto, ditto.

    A very small few customers will try to take advantage and I believe the 30 day timetable upon delivery of the game is fair policy. (Unopened, undamaged etc..)

    Besides, this individual should realize your games
    are and will be collectible and will likely have resale value in years to come.
    Vbest,
    Fritz

  12. Last year sometime I ordered a game from Amazon and it arrived damaged, I returned it, Amazon gave me a full refund, I reordered the game, it too came damaged the exact same way the first one was. This time they sent me a new copy and I sent back the damaged one. (I don’t mind a damaged box but damaged parts or the board is a no go). Here’s the thing, about returned things, you probably should have 200% guarantee because anything that is paid out on your behalf is going to be a tax write-off. The only caveats I’d make would be no unopened item can be returned and no more than one of the same item can be returned by the same customer/address, (excluding exchanges) ever.

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