A couple of recent exceptional customer experiences have left me wondering whether returns policies can ever be so good that it actually has a negative affect on your perception of a company.
Experience 1: Amazon’s returns policy
We ordered a copy of series 4 of The Wire from Amazon about 4 months ago. What with having a baby and various other DVD’s to catch up on, we finally got around to breaking the cellophane at the weekend only to discover that the box contained two disk 4′s but no disk 1!
My wife emailed Amazon and we got the following response:
Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk.
Firstly, please allow me to apologise for the issues you have experienced with this item.
I have placed a new order #xxx-xxxx-xxxx for “The Wire: Complete HBO Season 4″, and it will be dispatched as soon as possible to the same address.
To view the availability time and an estimation of the dispatch date of the replacement order, please visit Your Account on our home page
There will of course be no additional charge for the replacement order. When sending a replacement for a damaged or defective item, it is our policy to request that you must return the original item to Amazon.co.uk within 30 days. However, as the cost of returning the package is in this case prohibitively expensive, we ask that you keep the original item with our compliments. Perhaps you would like to donate it to a charity in your area if you feel it would be appropriate to do so.
I have added the bold to emphasize the bit that I found most surprising.
Experience 2: Apple’s (or Next Byte Apple’s reseller in Sydney) returns policy
A couple of weeks ago a colleague mentioned that he returned his non-functioning, 12 month old iPod to the authorised Apple reseller (Next Byte) he bought it from, and after an inspection they replaced it with a new iPod.
Would the iPod be cheaper if I wasn’t paying everyone else’s insurance?
My first reaction to the Amazon experience was that it is truly excellent customer service, but my first reaction to the Apple experience was “so that’s why my iPod costs so much!”. Is this just because one of these experiences happened to me and one happened to a colleague? Possibly.
Maybe if my new model iPod stopped working after 12 months I’d be very thankful for this policy, but if the cost of my iPod includes insuring everyone else’s iPod it makes me feel differently about the basic cost of the product. Does this make me a bad person?
I am left with the question “Would the iPod be cheaper if I wasn’t paying for the insurance on everyone else’s device?”
I suppose it comes down to whether Next Byte check whether it is mechanical failure, or a user inspired problem. I am quite happy if it is only for product mechanical failures, but if I’m insuring someone who has just dropped their iPod in the bath for the 3rd time I am slightly aggrieved.
(I am not sure whether my colleagues experience is Next Byte’s standard policy, or whether he sweet-talked them into giving him a new product, certainly they don’t seem to make much of a song and dance about this policy.)