There recently has been a highly contentious thread on BGG on Return Policies for Online Game Stores. I am not going to discuss the other store’s policies, though we thought we’d clarify our own thoughts on the matter and bring up a question that has been on our mind.
For those of you who haven’t read our Return Policy; it’s out of the norm it seems for the online game store industry. I’ve rewritten it slightly to clarify some points that were clear in my mind but wasn’t so in the policy itself.
It seems that online game stores either provide returns 14 days from time of order (i.e. the count starts the moment you order) or when an order is received (after shipping). The vast majority who do pre-orders do returns from 14 days from time of order; due to the potential concern it seems about returns for ‘older’ items held on the order.
I can actually see the reasoning behind that; but we’ve yet to have a customer ‘take advantage’ of our return policy in that way so far. If anything has ‘cost’ us; it’s our willingness to take returns for opened products. So far at least, we’re happy with our return policy as is and we’ll be keeping it as it is.
So let’s discuss pre-orders. We like pre-orders; in fact, we go out of our way to encourage customers to make pre-orders by providing more points for pre-orders and creating a new section for them. We’re in the process of putting together a blog list of pre-order release dates as well since it’s one of the major requests.
Why do we like pre-orders?
- Indication of customer interest
Actually; that’s it. Knowing what games are of interest to our customers helps us not order too many ‘dead’ games; which makes a big difference really.
There’s some talk of game stores ‘getting’ the capital beforehand – but we don’t charge orders till we ship them generally. We allow for the possibility for this; but we generally don’t take advantage of it.
Which does bring us to a potential problem. We currently take pre-orders, do not charge the orders till they ship, and then take returns on these orders up until 14 days after receipt. There are two issues here:
- products ‘on-hold’; uncharged for months (in some cases like Catacombs, nearly a year!) that might actually be returned
- inconsistent policies – due to the way PayPal functions, we can’t ‘hold’ an authorisation for very long and must charge the card immediately. So some customers get charged and others don’t.
Which leads us to something we’ve been considering for a while – switching to charging all orders immediately to make it more consistent.
Why haven’t we?
- potential customer dissatisfaction; though some indications are there that customers don’t even realise our policies of not charging or care
- additional charges for cancelled orders and the need to refund customers
Of course, we could do it the way other online game stores do it; consider a sale final after 14 days of the order. On the other hand, that brings its own host of issues including a counter-intuitive returns policy. So what do you all think?