The Results of Our Money-Back Guarantee for Tuscany and the Treasure Chest

16 March 2015 | 14 Comments

3D BoxAt Stonemaier Games, we offer exactly one Kickstarter exclusive for backers: If you pledge to receive one of our games or products on Kickstarter, starting from the moment you make the pledge and extending until 1 month after you receive your reward, you can return it to us for a full pledge refund for any reason.

It’s one of our tentpole ideas that began with Viticulture and has continued through our current project, Between Two Cities.

You can read my Kickstarter Lesson about this concept here. To summarize, it’s about trust. It’s one of the ways we say to backers, “Trust us with your hard-earned money many months in advance to make something awesome for you.”

The money-back guarantee isn’t necessarily right for other creators, though I’ve been a little surprised that it hasn’t caught on more. I’ve only seen it on a few projects. So I like to share data from my projects in case it encourages other creators to try the same method.

Here are the results of the money-back guarantee for all of our projects, including the new additions to the list, Tuscany and the Treasure Chest. The number is how many backers returned their reward for a full refund:

To put that in perspective, the total number of backer copies of all of those products is 21,000.

These totals don’t count a few backers (about 10 total between all projects) who asked for a refund before we sent their rewards. Usually it was a matter of finances or in decision, along with 1 or 2 cases where people didn’t like the way I was managing the project.

As for the copies of Tuscany and the Treasure Chest that were returned, why did these backers return their games? Here are the reasons for Tuscany (I don’t ask for reasons, but people usually provide them without me asking):

  • Backer didn’t like the way I handled the misprint stickers for Tuscany
  • Backer’s wife watched a video about the game before opening it and decided she didn’t want to play it
  • Backer played Viticulture once and didn’t like it

Here are the reasons for the Treasure Chest:

  • Both backers thought the bricks were too purple (they’re maroon, but as we all now know, some people see a gold and white dress while others see blue and black!)

An important aspect of note about our money-back policy is where the backers need to send the rewards if they want the refund. Originally they had to send them back to me, which is a problem for international backers. So I found a group of amazing helpers around the world who can receive the games and use them for replacement parts.

But for all of these projects, backers still had to pay for return shipping. While that makes business sense, it also has never quite felt right to me.

So for Between Two Cities and future projects, we’re adapting the Zappos model: We’ll not only provide a full pledge refund–we’ll also pay for return shipping. That gives us a strong incentive to find a nearby address to which the backer can send their reward, whether it’s a replacement part helper, a local convention, a reviewer, or an ambassador who has gone above and beyond to help us.

We’ll see how it works out! I look forward to sharing that data with you later in the year.

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14 Comments on “The Results of Our Money-Back Guarantee for Tuscany and the Treasure Chest

  1. I’m interested in offering a money back guarantee for my game, but I always assume the worst and am worried about the fact that such a guarantee is a legally binding agreement with necessary terms and conditions to protect both parties. I know that very few people took you up on your offer, but it only takes one difficult person to cause problems without legal coverage and the result can be problematic financially and in relation to reputation. So can you advise us on how you set up the terms and conditions for your guarantee? As a legally binding agreement did you seek specific advice before setting up your own terms and conditions? I know you’ve had the games lawyer guest post on here several times, does he offer such advice.

  2. This is awesome data. We were talking about offering a Money Back Guarantee for our Kickstarter, but are a bit more worried because it is a legacy game. If someone plays the first mission and then sends it back, we have a significant amount of components (by cost) to replace.

    What do you do with your returned copies? Do you sell them as used, use them for replacement parts, etc..?

    1. Anthony: If someone plays the first game of a legacy game, I think there’s almost a 0% chance that they’re going to return it. If they do, then you have an almost-complete set of replacement parts to use–that’s what we do with our return copies.

  3. I really think you’ve done a great job with this Jamey, and am impressed with your constant dedication to improvement. Including return shipping with your money back guarantee is just another example of how willing you are to stand behind your products AND do right by people. A+

  4. Stonemaier Games has possibly the best Customer Service philosophy of any boardgame company I know. Quality products, quality service….

  5. Great piece once again Jamey. I’ve spotted a small typo (I think), in the line “These totals don’t count a few backers (about 10 total between all projects) who asked for a refund before we went their rewards.” I think went should be sent right.

    Don’t want to nit-pick, but I thought you might want to know.

  6. How did you respond to those backers that wanted a refund before the rewards were sent out? It’s a tricky situation, because it doesn’t really fit the criteria of your money-back guarantee.

    1. @Samwai: I treat it the exact same way. I typically bring it up in several project updates, as I’d much rather people cancel before I ship the game to them than after I ship the game.

  7. This is great to read! I’ve been curious about the results of this after hearing it first on Richard Bliss’ podcast. I’m thinking about pitching the same tactic to the publishing company I’m helping start up right now. I think it’s important to build that trust as soon as we hit the ground. Thanks again!

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