Many consumers’ perception of money-back guarantees is misleading.
Some shoppers do not bother to read the policy in full (or at all) and simply rely on the title and the unfounded belief that they can return a product they are not satisfied with and get a full refund under all circumstances.
When reality indicates otherwise, they often feel cheated, misled, and betrayed.
Understandably, nobody likes to be in such a position.
Just to be clear, many companies work ethically and present short, transparent, and clear money-back guarantees on their websites, with no fine print at all.
In other cases, policies may include many asterisks, restrictions, limitations, exclusions, or intentional loopholes that are buried deep within the text and may contain complex legal language.
Confused? Here’s What You Can Do
Just like preventive medicine is a great way to take care of yourself and minimize the threat of potential illness, knowing how to read guarantees with a critical eye is a great way to minimize your future potential to suffer from “buyer’s remorse”.
It’s the best way to avoid unfortunate scenarios where you’re not happy with a product you ordered but can’t get a refund, since you’re not eligible to one according to the specified terms.
We compiled a few issues that will help you analyze the guarantee, better decipher common phrases, identify potential red flags, and increase your awareness of possible pitfalls.
As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details”, so paying close attention to the following points can help you avoid unnecessary headaches down the road.
Ready? Let’s start!
#1 Guarantee’s Period
In most cases, money-back guarantees are not open ended; instead, they are given for a specific period of time.
Make sure the text clearly states how long the MBG is valid for: 30 days? 60 days? An entire year?
#2 When Does the Day Count Start?
Let’s say you ordered a product that comes with a 30-day refund option.
When does the 30-day period actually start—on the delivery day, shipping day, order placement day, or perhaps there’s another method the vendor uses to calculate the beginning of this timeframe?
Make sure you know when the MBG period begins.
#3 Type of Refund
Make sure you have a clear understanding regarding what type of refund you’re expected to receive in case you are not satisfied.
Some websites offer full refunds that include everything you’ve paid without any deductions, penalties, or other surprise fees. Others offer “almost” full or partial refunds.
For example, most companies return 100% of what you paid minus shipping and handling fees.
Some charge restocking fees for returned merchandize, and certain websites will issue refunds as store credit rather than back on to the original form of payment you used for the transaction (credit card, PayPal, etc.).
As you can see, a refund is a simple idea, but it may come in many forms.
#4 Returned Product Condition
From a consumer standpoint, the purpose of a money-back guarantee is to provide an opportunity to try a product or service risk-free.
If they are satisfied, great. They keep the product. If not, they can return it and get their money back.
However, in some cases, companies will only offer refunds for unopened or unused products, which contradicts the very essence of what such a guarantee should offer.
In addition, some vendors will only issue refunds for products that are returned in their original packaging or some other condition that makes returning a product more difficult.
#5 Eligibility and Coverage
The fact that a MBG exists does not necessarily mean that it applies to all customers, all the time, or for all orders.
Some merchants limit the guarantee’s coverage to first-time shoppers only, to the first item in a given order, to items that were purchased only from their official website (and not from other retailers or distributors), or to U.S. customers only, which means international orders are excluded from the policy.
Money-back guarantees can be unconditional or conditional.
An unconditional guarantee generally means that if for any reason (or no reason at all) you are not satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a refund.
Conversely, a conditional MBG means you need to meet certain terms, conditions, or requirements in order to be eligible for a refund.
Needless to say, from the customer’s perspective, a true unconditional guarantee is the preferred option.
#7 Misleading or Vague Text
In some cases, you may encounter guarantees with missing information, confusing text, or vague language.
For example, a company may promise that you can return products you are not satisfied with and receive “a refund or an exchange”.
But, wait a second, who decides whether you get your money back or are just given an option to exchange the product?
It’s not clear, which leaves the matter to the sole discretion of the company.
#8 Does Something Feel Wrong?
Does something in the guarantee’s text feel weird or make you feel uncomfortable?
Some money back guarantees may include unreasonable terms, overly strict product or service usage conditions, a difficult and lengthy product return process, or too much fine print.
If that’s the case, don’t buy; simply walk away.