Would I be a jerk to initiate a chargeback in this situation?
June 24, 2014 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Trying to return a purchase and the item is in USPS limbo: is it appropriate to initiate a chargeback?

I'm in the process of returning an item to a merchant. It was mailed back on June 12th from DC to NYC by USPS Priority Mail (delivery estimated to take 2 days). This date is well within the merchant return policy date that specifies "returns must be postmarked within 14 days of the original shipping date"

However it appears the item is in USPS limbo. Tracking indicates that delivery was attempted on Sat June 14th but because the business was closed, the item is held at the postoffice to reattempt delivery on the next business day. Problem: a redelivery attempt never happened (the tracking notice remained unchanged). I called the USPS main line on this past Saturday June 21st and they specifically rescheduled delivery for Monday (yesterday). Again, tracking did not indicate any action. I called the actual local NYC post office yesterday evening and spoke with a supervisor who 1) definitely agrees that this is an error that should not have happened and 2) says she needs to speak with the actual postal carrier today/ file an investigation.

I've also emailed last week and called yesterday (left a message since no one picked up) the merchant itself. I explained that the return is in limbo and asking them to also speak with the post office and take action to receive the return. I've received zero response from the merchant to these requests / concerns.

Question: Given this situation, is it appropriate - either now or at a later date - to initiate a merchant chargeback for the item I'm trying to return?

I kind of think it's a jerk thing to do because the fault is with USPS and not the merchant itself. On the other hand, I dislike the lack of response from the merchant especially since I'm following the appropriate return guidelines and have communicated, with documentation, that the reason for the delay isn't my inaction but USPS error. I just want my money back for the item I'm trying to return!
posted by kitkatcathy to Shopping (11 answers total)
You can do a chargeback 60 days past the date of the statement that contains the charge that you object to. Unless you took a very long time to return the item, it seems to me that you still have a lot of time to complete the return before the 60 days expires.

It seems to me that you haven't gotten any denial from the merchant (just no communication) and the post office is looking at it. At the least, you can give them a day to update the redelivery that should have happened yesterday (I often see the post office take a day to update online tracking). I'd give them some more time, since a chargeback both costs the company money/time (even if they win the chargeback).

All that said, if the 60 days is about to expire, I'd preemptively file a chargeback. It'll take the credit card company a week or two to look at it at all, which means you'd have a week or two to figure out the delivery problems.
posted by saeculorum at 10:38 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd charge it back, claiming you've not received it.

No need to get into a bunch of detail.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2014

Did you insure the package? If you did not, you decided the cost or hassle wasn't worth it, and took a chance that something might go wrong. Taking that risk means you're aware that if something does go wrong, you have to eat it. Right now, it appears that something did go wrong, but it may well turn up. The postmark has been set and isn't going to change, so at least you're okay there.

At this point, the merchant hasn't done anything wrong. What response are you thinking they should be giving you? They don't have the package and they know you know this.

Personally, I would not initiate a chargeback on a return if I declined insurance.
posted by sageleaf at 10:49 AM on June 24, 2014

The merchant is failing to contact you. Why are you being a jerk for filing a chargeback??

Send them an email with the info and links to the USPS tracking info (maybe a jpg screen shot of the tracking page. You are tacking screen shots, right??)

I would include the tracking number, the name of the postal manager you spoke with, and the post office's phone number in the email. Ask them to reply back within X days (deadline for the end of the 14 day return period, maybe?)

After that, if they did not honor the return, YES, file a chargeback!

You will have it documented that you attempted to return the item. That documentation is all you need.

Good luck!!!
posted by jbenben at 10:51 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think the amount of time that has gone by on the shipment is in a grey area, but I would try to escalate with the merchant. Their failure to respond is not cool. Definitely use the term "chargeback."

Unless there was a specific charge for package insurance on the store that you declined explicitly, I feel it's reasonable to expect the merchant to either bear the risk of the shipment or pay for insurance. In my online store programs, we make the customer whole and deal with the shipping company (or not) based on the costs associated with doing all that.

As others have said, you have significantly longer than 14 days to do a chargeback. I'd exhaust alternatives with the merchant first.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2014

I would first call the post office again today and see what's going on with the supervisor talking to their staff member. If they're taking it out to deliver it and the merchant is refusing to accept it, that's different to the post office being the ones at fault.

If the merchant is messing you about, absolutely go for the chargeback. If it's the post office who are at fault, make them sort it out first. You should hopefully find out today when you get hold of the supervisor. Don't take it out on the person whose fault it isn't.
posted by Solomon at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it would be inappropriate to do a chargeback right now. You've ordered an item, paid for it, received it, and then decided to return it. You haven't yet returned it to them.

Right now your beef is with the USPS, who you have hired to return the item, but who has so far failed to return it to the vendor. I think once you have met all the conditions for obtaining a refund (which includes actually delivering the item back to the vendor!), then if you don't get a refund within some reasonable time, you'd be in the right to do a chargeback.
posted by FishBike at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

There are some locations in Manhattan where packages are handled by a different post office than the one that the person is supposed to use. For example, I need to pick up my packages from the east 70th PO, but packages are mostly handled by the east 59th PO. So when things go wrong it can take an extra week or so to straighten it out.
Confirm with your credit card company how long you have for a chargeback, and give it at least another week or two. You don't know yet if the merchant is being a jerk, or being hospitalized.
posted by Sophont at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2014

The number of times I've had something shipped to me usps priority mail and received it while the tracking showed this for weeks is nonzero. Several of those times, the box looked like it had been shot out of cannon at a wall on mythbusters or something.

I think the merchant ignoring you is suspicious, and without hearing from them I personally would think there was just as good of an opportunity they'd received it as not. Is this a really small business, or a smallish one and an expensive item? They might be just trying to drag this out or float this for as long as possible.

I would wait until I heard something from the post office, but don't be surprised if their answer is basically "I don't know lol". I've called and asked, gotten that, then walked into the post office with my smashed up box and gone "so what's this then?". They'll never admit to losing it, just that they aren't sure where it is in their system.

If you get that kind of response from USPS, and the merchant doesn't respond in a week(and send them a message saying such right now), then yea I'd do a chargeback.
posted by emptythought at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2014

To clarify...

1. Yup the item is insured. Priority Mail covers up to $50 value.

2. No merchant is not small; it's a higher-end clothing store with its HQ in NYC.

3. According to tracking, delivery was actually ATTEMPTED; the business was closed so delivery was unsuccessful but notification was ostensibly left stating item is ready for pickup at the post office.

a. The issue with USPS is why they didn't attempt delivery again the next business day.

b. Now that I think about it, the issue with the merchant is isn't really why aren't they replying but more specifically why they haven't gone to the post office to try to retrieve the package (or informed me that they are going to do so) - especially since I specifically said in the email that the item could be at the post office awaiting pickup and gave them the tracking information for that package.

Thanks for helping me sort out my thoughts everyone. Going to send merchant another email today, this time with screenshot as well as tracking number, and a "please respond by X date" request. If no developments from USPS or further response from the merchant after another week or two, will start the chargeback process.
posted by kitkatcathy at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2014

File a claim with the post office. If they then locate the item and return it to the merchant and the merchant denies credit, you would do a chargeback, withthe post office claim as your backup that you in good faith made teh return in teh timeframe you were supposed to.

(I deal with this junk on a merchant side for a living.)
posted by WeekendJen at 7:11 AM on June 25, 2014

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