Return Policy aka Fiasco Cover-up

return policyI “love” return policy, used it several times for various electronics, that were either advertised falsely, or just didn’t satisfy my needs or expectations. Buying online, but even from a store can often be tricky and/or a straight way to disappointment. In most cases return policies work effectively, you get your money back, or a different product – both based on your decision (most of the time). Return Policy as a concept was instated as a customer satisfaction strategy, or so they say, and apparently that’s what everyone thinks it is. I on the other hand, am far from convinced.

Let’s rewind history a little bit. 20-30 years ago if you bought a TV, you got warranty, and basically that was all the assurance the manufacturer gave you for the product you bought. And you know what? That was fine. You bought a Samsung or Siemens TV and you had a really good piece of machinery in your home for maybe a decade or two. You were satisfied and no wonder why: you had quality product, you had nothing to complain about. However that changed in time. Now, maybe 3 out of 10 people have trouble with their Samsung Galaxy, 5 out of 10 people would not buy a Simenes laptop, or any other Siemens product for that matter. Everything is so mass-produced and technologies are changed so often, that quality is not an important matter any more. So, let’s cover all this up with return policies. Sure, nevermind the fact that we manufacture more than we need or use, and more often than it is sane or necessary. Nevermind the fact that an iPhone becomes obsolete in just 2 years because the new version is out. Nevermind stupidity, we have return policy! Yeah, right… sure you do. You have return policy so you’ll feel safe buying, but every product you end up purchasing will become obsolete so soon, that you’ll end up buying another one in an unbelievably short time. Remember grandpa? He had a phone he used for 20 years or maybe even more. Now, ask yourself how many times have you changed your phone during the last decade or so? Let me think… umm… maybe 5 or 10 times? Maybe even more? You did the same thing with your PC or Mac. This is my 5th machine since 2001 for crying out loud! Oh, and I’m on the brink of needing another one, because this one just doesn’t keep up with all the technological updates any more. Can I return it now? After using it for over 4 years? Noooo… you have to realize it’s a crappy product right from the beginning. Otherwise… well, you’ll have to buy a new one, one that you hope is better than the old (I mean the one you bought last year) one. Covering up their own failure to develop lasting technologies and products… because it’s more profitable to make people buy every 2-3 years the same but improved version of a product, than doing a really good job once every 10 to 15 years.

But this is not the whole picture… What about digital goods? Now, that’s an even bigger bust. Digital goods have no return policy. They say they do, but it’s bullshit! Let’s see what Wal-Mart (just an example, it’s all the same everywhere) has to say about this:

  • Books: Must be returned unused and unmarked.
  • CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, audiotapes, videotapes and video games: Must be returned unopened. If the item is defective, it can be returned within 90 days with a receipt and the original packaging. Defective items may be exchanged for the same title.
  • Video on Demand: Cannot be returned. All sales are final and all charges from those sales are nonrefundable, except as otherwise stated in the Vudu Inc., Terms of Service.
  • Video Games Hardware: Must be returned within 15 days of receipt.
  • Pre-Owned (Refurbished) Video Game Software: Defective items can be returned within 90 days with a receipt and the original packaging. Defective items may be exchanged for a different title if the same title is not available.

The above quote translates into a big-ass “NO!” You buy digital goods, you die with them in your arms. Nobody wants them back! What that in turn means is they can sell you any crap they want, once you bought it, you will not get your money back, no matter how much you hate the product you spent your money on. Remember the tons of movies you bought and didn’t like? Yeah, there is no return policy for those. Why? Because you opened them! It’s a really good strategy. For the movie industry I mean. All they really have to make is a great trailer, and a smashing cover-art. It’s that simple. You’ll buy the movie (most of the time) based solely on that information. After that, if the movie turns out to be a huge disappointment, nobody cares. I mean why should they? After all, that’s their income right there! Ok, you did not buy the movie, you went to the cinema. That’s even worse. You can only watch it once, they force you to watch commercials at the beginning as well (you thought paying for a movie would eliminate that), and you sure as hell won’t get a refund if you happened to hate the movie.

The situation with music and software is a tiny bit better. There is YouTube, so you can listen to the entire song (most of the time, after you watched a 20 second ad – I hate that), trial version exists for probably 98% of the software out there, but we also remember Windows 98, Windows 2000 (horrible versions), then Vista that made lots of people hate the day they bought the disc, and there’s all the music albums you own for just that one or two great songs you like so much, but hoped the entire album would be at least as good. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case; it is never the case. So, bottom line? I say return policies are the result of quantity oriented production, manufacturer’s disrespect for the customer, and when it comes to digital goods, they cease to exist or be effective. With that in mind, let’s look for some more legally attainable free stuff. 😀


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