Rigid Return Policies are Stupid

I offer a flexible, 110% refund on all my products. That’s right: I’ll pay you to leave for any reason within a reasonable amount of time with my Unlimited WordPress Support & Maintenance product, my Platinum WordPress Hosting product, and my WordPress Design, Refresh, & Launch product. I stand behind my products. I stand behind you.

So it irked me this morning when I requested a refund of the WP Rocket WordPress plugin and received this reply:

Hi Toby,

Please understand that we’re not going to refund in this case, because your purchase was longer than 14 days ago from the day you posted your refund request. Last two purchases were made 20 days prior to this request.

Our refund policy clearly states:
“Refunds may only be issued within 14 days of the purchase date.”
(Source: https://wp-rocket.me/refund-policy/)

We understand you’d probably like for us to take our own policy a little flexible here, but we never do that. If we did, we would have to apply the same flexibility for other customers to treat everyone fairly. Soon we would end up refunding everybody always. That’s not a sustainable way of staying business when you think about it.

We hope this makes sense even if it is not what you would like to hear from us.

We’re happy to provide support and address any issues or concerns you may have about WP Rocket.

With kind regards,
… from WP Rocket

This company is effectively saying that they stand behind their product for up to 14 days. If you are dissatisfied after that and want a refund for any reason, you’re screwed.

“Fair” Is Different Than “Equal”

In The Jordan Rules, Phil Jackson is quoted as saying that everyone on his teams get treated “fairly” but not “equally”. This is smart business. He treated Michael Jordan differently than he treated Steve Kerr. Both were treated fairly but not equally. And everyone understood this to be fair business practice. Jordan gets extended every luxury, every flexibility he desires. Kerr better show up to practice on time or he risks getting cut. Fair, not equal.

WP Rocket treats all customer refunds equally, not fairly. When I asked for a refund on some (not all of my WP Rocket purchases) a mere 6 days late, I was treated the same as someone who requested a refund 1 year late. 6 days late requesting a refund could be due to all sorts of strange occurrences. 1 year late, and you can almost always assume it was negligence.

I requested a refund on only 2 of 4 WP Rocket purchases I made this year.

I purchased some parts from Adafruit a year ago using a coupon that expired at midnight. My actual purchase went through at 1am (1 hour late). They also initially took a hard line and said, “No”. But upon reflection, they emailed back and refunded me the value of the coupon. That’s fairness.

Not WP Rocket. They are totally inflexible and treat everyone equally.

Inflexibility Creates Pissed Off People, Not Raving Fans

I say, “No” and “That’s not included” to my customers regularly. There’s nothing wrong with a reasonable “no”. People appreciate a reasoned “no”. So do I!

Conversely, an unreasonable “no” creates pissed off customers.

I’m not here to tell WP Rocket how to run their business. Maybe this rigid refund policy makes sense to the penny-pinchers at the top and makes their bottom line more sustainable. But it also has the effect of turning off this WordPress developer. This refund policy makes me question the sustainability of the business as a whole. (If their business needs my

If WP Rocket was the only game in town, it might make business sense for them to have a rigid return policy – but they’re not the only game in town. It’s not a Mac vs. PC thing – there are LOTS of free and paid plugins to optimize your website. My hosting provider doesn’t even allow WP Rocket on its servers (which is why I requested the refund in the first place). I’ve got lots of options, and WP Rocket ain’t one.

The Stupidity of, “Well You Checked the Box and Agreed to the Terms…”

The thing about terms of service is that they are only as good as the quality of the communication.

My dad refused to do sub-contracted work for lawyers, because, “They can sue you for FREE!” he would emphatically-declare. (FWIW, lawyers are some of my best customers, and I have a natural affinity to them.)

In Don’t Let Your Business Run You, Allan Branch talks about a time he was sued even though he was totally in the right, had signed contracts, terms of service clearly-stated, etc. etc. etc. He was in a great position to defend himself. After a lengthy & expensive court battle, Branch ended up paying through the nose to settle with this jerk who sued him, clearly-illustrating that even with an iron-clad contract in place, ill-intentioned people can make your life a living hell if they want to. Businesses are better off being a little more human, being a little more flexible, and a little more compassionate towards other humans.

Back to our tale of WP Rocket. I replied stating simply:

“Fair or not, it still hurts.”

My reply to WP Rocket

To which WP Rocket Replied:

Hey Toby,

> Fair or not, It still hurts

I get this is frustrating for you. However, it’s a policy you agreed with when you purchased WP Rocket. 

We didn’t hide anything from you or in any way tricked you into buying WP Rocket.

WP Rocket support

This reply lacks empathy. It lacks understanding. It lacks humanity. Are you a robot monolith, or are you a company run by fallible humans (like mine)?

When trying to win a point, it can be easy to ignore the humanity on the other side of the table. And businesses that ignore humanity do so at their own peril. My biggest business and personal failures have ALL stemmed from communication failures, not product failures.

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for WPTavern.com.