How NOT To Deal With Refund Requests (Hint: Don’t Be Like eFax)

No business owner enjoys issuing refunds. But, it is a part of business. And sometimes, NOT issuing it will result in making somebody annoyed. Somebody with a big blog and thousands of readers. A guy who talks. Wonder who I'm talking about here. ;)

OK, I admit it upfront…

This post is a little bit of a rant against eFax.com. However, I thought I could use it as a business lesson on how NOT to handle refund requests.

No business owner enjoys issuing refunds. But, it is a part of business. And sometimes, NOT issuing it will result in making somebody annoyed. Somebody with a big blog and thousands of readers. A guy who talks. Wonder who I’m talking about here. ūüėČ

First, the story…

So, I had an account with a company called MaxEmail for an old internet fax number. This was from years ago, back when fax was still used somewhat. And I meant to cancel it, but it was only costing me $14/year so it was rather low priority.

Suddenly, I am rebilled out of nowhere by eFax.com for a total of $84 for an annual subscription. Say what? I never even had an eFax account.

Now, as a business owner myself, I don’t like it when people dispute a charge without contacting us first. I mean, we’re cool. We’re not going to give you the run-around. So, I practice what I preach and I reply back to the invoice. That email goes to their billing department.

A person from eFax (Bridget) replied to me and says:

Please note that cancellation requests must be processed 24/7 by calling (323) 817-3205.  You may also visit us online at www.efax.com/cancel (Monday РFriday, 6am-6pm Pacific Time) and an online representative will assist with your cancellation request.

So, a person in the billing department can’t just handle this. They block me and want me to jump through hoops. Mistake #1 (but, we’ll get to that below).

My next step is to dispute the charge, seeing as my polite request to deal with a charge I never even signed up for was denied. I dispute the charge with Amex. Days later, I hear back from Amex saying my dispute was denied. They attached a document showing what the charge was. I don’t know what the heck happened here, but I’m guessing that I disputed by saying I didn’t recognize the charge. They reply back saying what it is and overturned my request.

Damn.

So, grudgingly, I conclude I have to jump through the eFax hoops. So, I get in touch with their support department. I talked to some person named “jmallory” over live chat.

Here’s how that went down…

The “Support” Chat That¬†Is Just Amazingly Ridiculous…

This chat session was both frustrating and yet… puzzling at the same time for the sheer stupidity of this guy:

jmallory: Hi, my name is jmallory. How may I help you?
David Risley: I was billed an $84 renewal and I never even signed up for a paid account in the first place. I want it canceled and refunded, please. Was told to come here.
jmallory: We apologize for the incovnenience.
jmallory: inconvenience*
jmallory: Could you please provide me your fax number and 4-digit PIN/last 4 digits of the Credit card on file for verification?
David Risley: Card, I think, is XXXX
David Risley: let me find the phone #
David Risley: XXXXXXXXXXX
jmallory: Thank you for providing the information.
jmallory: As per our records, you had an account with Maxemail and it has been migrated to eFax.
jmallory: The name on the account is David Risley.
David Risley: yes, that’s me. Even the MaxEmail account I don’t want since I never use Fax anymore. But, I had no idea eFax had purchased it and raised the rate to $84.
David Risley: I was paying about $14/year before
David Risley: with maxemail
jmallory: As per our records, you are applicable for a refund of $4.80 which is the usage balance in the event of immediate cancellation.
David Risley: No, I was billed $84 for the next year and I don’t want it. I want the whole thing refunded.
jmallory: I am sorry, as I mentioned you are only applicable for a refund of $4.80.
David Risley: explain that one
David Risley: You just charged me for the NEXT year, and I’m cancelling now.
David Risley: like 2 weeks into it
jmallory: David, kindly check paragraph 17B of our Customers Agreement at http://www.efax.com/customer-agreement#17. The paragraph clearly mentions that the activation fee, the monthly or the annual fee are non refundable. However, as a courtesy towards our customer we are issuing you this refund of $4.80, which is your unused paid usage balance.
David Risley: you guys just increased my rate without notification by $70/year and you’re throwing TOS at me?
jmallory: I understand your concern however, we can only help you with a refund of $4.80.
David Risley: Some amazing customer service you got here. This is how a dying industry works. Fax.
David Risley: Process the refund of whatever, and cancel this thing. I don’t want it.
David Risley: Ridiculous.
jmallory: Okay, I will go ahead and cancel your account.
jmallory: You will be refunded an amount of $4.80 anytime within 3-15 working days.
jmallory: Is there anything else I may assist you with?

I mean, you just gotta marvel at that last line. He called this “assisting” me. Funny.

First, I finally got an answer to why I’m even dealing with them. Apparently, eFax purchased MaxEmail. I didn’t know that. Nobody told me. Trust me, I searched my email.

But, this person was quoting back “paragraph 17B” of their “customer agreement” and it “clearly mentions” no refunds. But, their offer of $4.80. That’s a “courtesy”. Gee, thanks.

Mind you, I never agreed to this customer agreement in the first place because I never signed up for an eFax account.

From my perspective, I got billed by these people out of thin air.

I guess while I’m waiting my “3-15 working days” for my happy meal money back, I will use that remaining $80 as my fee to write this glowing review of a post for them.

Side Note: When this person came back with the line about the customer agreement, it came back pretty fast. Which means, it was a canned response. Which means… they’ve done this before.

How To Deal With Refunds Properly

First of all, it should go without saying that you should never bill people out of thin air like eFax did. You communicate.

For instance, I got an email from Helpscout telling me they would be increasing my price in October. The CEO was clear and upfront about it. But, not only that, explained to me the reasoning for it. It was a GREAT email. And I honestly don’t mind that I’ll be paying a little more because I like¬†Helpscout and they’re being cool with me. Unlike eFax.

But, when the refund request happens, think about this…

Is it worth it for you to have a really pissed off person out there badmouthing your business?

Probably not.

So, here’s some rules for all business owners:

  • Be human and give a crap. eFax’s first mistake was not giving a crap. I get that it is a big company, but the place is obviously so systematized on “canned responses” with big walls around departments that emailing the billing department can’t deal with my account. Imagine… the billing department can’t deal with my billing.
  • Don’t make it hard for people to cancel. If you run a recurring revenue business, don’t make people jump through hoops to cancel.
  • Don’t wrongfully bill people. That goes without saying.
  • When people ask for a refund, give it to them. Especially if the thing being billed for hasn’t been delivered.

I get if it is a service business and the service has been done, then no refunds. Makes sense and the customer would likely expect it. But, eFax billed me for the coming year and I cancelled right upfront. They’re clearly not going to deliver anything to me, yet they’re taking my money.

Basically, over $80 and staff at eFax who can’t take responsibility for anything, eFax has now earned this blog post which will stay online forever as well as a Facebook post.

Thank you, eFax, for the blog material.

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