Odds of being able to charge back a defective item?
June 4, 2011 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I ordered a laptop part online that turned out to be defective. I am leaving town in less than a week and would really like a working part beforehand. The merchant probably won't get me a replacement in time or give me a full refund. I'm going to communicate with them again Monday morning, but I'd like to know how good of a BATNA a chargeback would be.

I've never attempted a chargeback before. Is it worth it over about $25 (not at all a hardship for me)? What are my odds of prevailing?

After reading what the Internet has to say, the relevant facts in my mind are

- Both the merchant and I are in the United States.

- I requested an RMA number and shipped back the defective item today. The merchant did not adequately disclose the fact that I would have to pay shipping costs in this case (~$10).

- The merchant did adequately disclose the restocking fee that would apply in case of a refund.

- I don't think I will ever want to do business with this merchant again.

Irrelevant facts: I'm angry and frustrated that this merchant's sleazy policies seem to be standard among resellers of computer parts. Since this wasn't my fault, I feel entitled to a full refund, though I would listen to arguments that the merchant owes me only a relatively quick replacement and a refund of (1) return shipping cost and (2) the difference between expedited and regular shipping.
posted by questionable accounting to Shopping (9 answers total)
There are all sorts of costs associated with doing business. Taking credit cards, for one. Every credit card transaction we process costs us money. Shipping costs money. Heck, every invoice, RMA, credit memo, and packing slip I generate costs money in terms of my time.

It's possible, but there's no apparent evidence, that the seller deliberately sold you a defective part. He may be a scumbag selling trash, but I buy a lot of electronic parts directly from Samsung, Panasonic, Kyocera... and a fair number of them are defective or damaged in some way, and I'm buying direct from the manufacturer. It's not necessarily his fault that you got a bad part. He should offer a full refund or replacement upon receipt of the defective part, but why should he be expected to pay your return shipping cost for something that likely wasn't his fault in the first place?

A chargeback is not a weapon to be used to get your way. It's not as if the merchant is refusing to work with you, you're just now put into the position of not getting the part you wanted by the time you wanted, and seem to be wanting to vent your frustrations. If the merchant refused to even work with you on the return, sure, I would pursue a chargeback.

I understand that getting a bad part is not what you had in mind, but why make it out like the merchant, who very likely sold you what he thought was a perfectly good part, should go through whatever hoops you feel are appropriate, possibly even to the point of winding up making nothing or even losing money on the sale, all because you feel inconvenienced by random chance?
posted by xedrik at 9:41 PM on June 4, 2011

Was the part clearly defective as soon as it arrived? I'm no huge expert, but it seems to be in such a case, you should not have to pay a restocking fee, and it does not seem super-cool for you dto have to pay the shipping. Even if, as xedrick suggests, the merchant acted in good faith and did not mean to ship you a defective part, it would seem to be that the costs associated with that mistake are the merchant's responsibility to bear, not yours.

How important is it to you to have the part before you leave town? Could you get it from another source before you go? This might affect how you approach this.
posted by ManInSuit at 9:57 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with ManInSuit. Even if the seller had good intentions, it's his responsibility to at least bear the restocking fee. It's not as if you ordered the product and then just changed your mind. It was defective and you should not be penalized for that.

You paid a specific amount of money for a functioning item and didn't receive it. You should not have to pay more money to get something you should have gotten the first time around.

Maybe it sucks for the seller, but those are some of the expected risks of running a business.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 10:08 PM on June 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

As a small business owner, I know that enough charge backs and I lose my merchant account and will have great difficulty getting a new one else where once one has been closed on me in such a fashion. I would be extremely upset that a client did not even bother asking for a refund and skipped straight to charge back.

I also find paying for shipping annoying when something breaks (just spent $13 to FedEx back a defective Gigabyte motherboard), but if you bought something from a local store (e.g., target, lowes, best buy, etc.) and it was broke, wouldn't you be responsible for whatever costs were incurred to bring the product back to them (e.g., gas, bus fare, time, etc.)? They don't magically come pick it up from whenever you live. Why should the internet be any different?
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:35 AM on June 5, 2011

Was the part clearly defective as soon as it arrived?


Why should the internet be any different?

Other online retailers I've done business with are different, and this one didn't make it clear up front that they are an exception. Moreover, the shipping cost is significantly more going than coming.

Clearly chargebacks are a fraught topic, and I'd like to refocus the discussion on the tactical aspects so that when I call the merchant on Monday I know what distribution of outcomes lies behind Door #2.
posted by questionable accounting at 5:18 AM on June 5, 2011

Other online retailers I've done business with are different, and this one didn't make it clear up front that they are an exception.

Did you carefully read their return policy before you bought? I always do; it gives you a very good indication of what kind of company you'll be dealing with if the transaction isn't perfectly smooth.

I think good policy would be for them to provide you with a working product at no extra charge to you (i.e., no restock fee), but if their return policy said otherwise when you purchased the item (i.e., you pay to ship it to them), you agreed to an entirely different arrangement. It sucks, but that's why you read these things beforehand. Often times, places whose products are significantly cheaper than alternatives are cutting corners in places like customer service or friendly return policies.

You best plan of action is to calmly explain your predicament, offer to pay for the expedited shipping if they waive the restock fee and refund the return shipping fee. You get your part on time and only pay the difference in expedited shipping. That seems like a fair agreement that satisfies both parties.
posted by dflemingecon at 5:45 AM on June 5, 2011

I do e-commerce. Chargebacks are hard to defend against if you're doing card-not-present transactions. I could do a paragraph on the ins and outs, but I can tell you this -- once you pull the trigger on a chargeback, the burden of proof will be on the merchant to demonstrate that you received what you paid for. For this reason, it's always a good threat. I'll get more into the advice as to what to do after I pontificate a second about return policies.

I only require customers to pay return shipping if the item is unwanted. I can't imagine charging return shipping, much less a restocking fee, for a customer to return something DEFECTIVE.

BUT I'm not in the business of selling electronics at ultra-low margins. My wild guess ('cause this is what I do sometimes) is you googled the part # and went with the lowest price you could find from a vendor who did not actually seem to be operating in a back alley? Nothing wrong with that, but it does somewhat make their rather bare-bones return policy more understandable. However, the restocking fee is unconscionable. Restocking fees are to reimburse and protect against people changing their mind.

Now, here's how I would play it, depending on how reputable you think this vendor is:

If this part is critical to your trip, I'd order an expedited replacement from a nationally known company. No, you don't have a right to get expedited shipping because the first one was faulty. That's getting into the area of incidental damages. "I have no pictures of my London vacation because this SD card flaked out, so SanDisk owes me the cost of my vacation!" Sorry, no.

What I would be pushing for from this company you ordered the first part from is a full return/refund on the first part you ordered. I'd argue that point more so than the shipping, because you can probably ship it fairly cheap (get a return receipt or tracking of some kind!) and because a defective return is not in the same category as restocking because you didn't like it or need it. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with ASKING for shipping. You ordered something and it was defective, so in a perfect world you shouldn't pay a dime. I'm asking you to pick your battles.

If they get pissy about refunding the product itself in full, and/or if they agree but then don't process the credit promptly (within 3-4 business days of the ARRIVAL of your return is a fair time-frame for you to see the money back in your account), I'd wheel out the chargeback gun. Odds are good that you'll win, but I would be troubled about the ethics of doing a chargeback without giving them a chance to deal with you just because you're being inconvenienced, mainly due to the timeframe of your trip.

TL;DR You don't really have much of a right to be upset that a low-bid oriented industry does not give red carpet service. If I had a trip staring me in the face where I needed my laptop and therefore needed a replacement part, I'd be buying said part from a nationally-known company, preferably in person at a store
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:11 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

For the record: this company is nationally known and has a reputation for good customer service (relative to their peers?). My comparison shopping consisted of checking the discount over OEM, which I will now use instead. I'll see if I can get back the restocking fee, but I doubt I'll charge back; too little money and too much uncertainty.
posted by questionable accounting at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2011

The merchant paying the return shipment would be good business, but arguable both ways. Restocking fee? Bogus. One doesn't restock defective parts unless he intends to resell them as good.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2011

« Older Movie ID Filter: Colored Bodies?   |   Barbaric Yawp Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.