What’s the Right Way To Ask For Your Money Back?

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When you spend your hard-earned money on a product or service, you assume it will meet your expectations. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

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Sometimes products and services don’t deliver, so you need to ask for your money back. You hope to go about this as politely as possible, because as a mature person, being unnecessarily rude isn’t your thing.

Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, recently found herself in this situation. She ordered a product online, and upon arrival, it did not meet her expectations.

“Before getting too worked up about it, I called the customer service line,” she said. “After a long wait — 35 minutes — I spoke with a human who was sweet as pie. They emailed me a pre-paid return label while I was on the phone and explained the steps for a refund.”

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After returning the item, the full amount was refunded to her credit card.

She said this example illustrates the first step of properly handling a return — assuming positive intent.

“Contact the business with the presumption that they are not trying to cheat you,” she said. “Stay calm. Have all of the dates, order [number and] confirmation [number] ready.”

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Next, she said you should go into the conversation knowing what resolution would please you — i.e., a refund, gift card or a replacement product.

“Having an idea of what you want to happen will make speaking [and/or] negotiating with the business easier,” she said.

When it’s time to talk to someone from the company, Smith said it’s important to take notes.

“Whether speaking, emailing or live-text chatting with the business, jot down what they are saying and the name of the person,” she said. “You may need this later.”

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It’s possible the person you speak with will not be of much help.

“If your first point of contact does not resolve the issue, ask for the manager,” Smith said. Nicely — don’t be a “Karen.”

Sometimes even talking to a manager isn’t helpful. If this is the case, Smith recommended turning the tables on them and asking questions.

For example, she said you might ask “What do I need to do for a refund? If I was your cousin, what would you recommend?”

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She said staying calm and being inquisitive can often lead to resolutions.

If, after trying to work with the business, you still haven’t reached a proper resolution, Smith said it’s time to bring in reinforcements.

“From posting on social media to contacting your local investigative reporter, to reporting to the Better Business Bureau — or health department — to speaking with an attorney, you have options to draw attention to the matter,” she said. “Don’t forget to contact your credit card company, [because] occasionally they can be useful in dispute resolutions.”

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See: Is It Ever OK To Ask For Cash as a Gift?

She said this is where those notes you took earlier might prove helpful.

Ultimately, you should never hesitate to request a refund if you’re not satisfied with a purchase. However, it’s important to go about this in a polite manner.

In most cases, the employee you’ll be speaking with is not personally responsible for your dissatisfaction with the product or service. Even if they are — or don’t reciprocate your kindness — remaining cool and collected is always the best option.

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Last updated: July 14, 2021

About the Author

Laura Woods is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She specializes in a variety of topics, including marketing, personal finance, entertainment and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on dozens of sites, including HuffPost, CNBC, Business Insider, Nasdaq, MSN, Yahoo, Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneur and POPSUGAR. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Robert Morris University.

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