My wife just picked up a new pair of running shoes from Big Peach Running Co recently, and she commented how the salespeople there are always so helpful and never put pressure to buy. Without really thinking, I said “Yep, it’s because they have such a good return policy.“
After taking a few minutes to think through it, it seems to stand up.
Back in the 90’s I worked at Electronics Boutique, a video game store now under the GameStop brand. At the time, they had an amazingly good return policy where you could get a full refund on any game within 10 days for any reason.
Don’t like the game? Return it.
Loved the game but you already beat it? Return it.
It was awesome!
Of course, people eventually abused the system and it was changed, but for the years that it was in place it was amazing for everyone.
For us in sales, it took the pressure off. We could suggest a game and let them know about the return policy, and our perceived level of trust went up 10x. Returns are kind of a pain to process, so why would we sell them garbage knowing we’d have to clean it up later?
For the customer, it made buying easier. They could try a game, see if they liked it, and then return if they didn’t. There was no pressure to choose the perfect game, and no feeling let down if it turned out to be a dud.
Create clear honesty when it’s hard to prove
In both cases, the stores are able to increase their perceived level of honesty with just a few words, because it’s easy to hold them to it.
It’s important to work to build honesty in the long-run, but a generous return policy is usually the sign of a company you can trust.
Bonus: Why the Electronics Boutique return policy really went away
You can say “just ban the people that abuse it”, and we did, but people figured out a perfect way to beat the system that was impossible to stop.
Say you owned “Mortal Kombat” for a year and got tired of it. You could get a new game, for free, with just a few simple steps.
- Go to Electronics Boutique and buy a new copy of Mortal Kombat, still in the shrink wrap.
- Go to Best Buy and exchange the “new” unopened game (“I got it as a gift”) for the other new game that you really want.
- Go to Electronics Boutique with your year-old Mortal Kombat and your receipt from a few days ago and get a full refund on your “new” purchase.
- Untrackable, unstoppable.
It was brilliant for all of the wrong reasons. I hate when people ruin good things like that.