How many times have you bought a theme that would look perfect for your next project only to discover it’s not the right fit? I have gone through this experience multiple times but the companies I dealt with didn’t have refund policies. Instead, I had to learn a $60-70 lesson with no recourse. Unfortunately, the only way to know if a commercial theme or plugin will work for a specific use case is to buy it.
Steven Gliebe creator of Churchthemes.com has published an excellent post that asks WordPress plugin and theme companies to offer refunds. As a customer, Steve describes exactly how I’d want to be treated by a company issuing a refund. Despite themes and plugins being digital products, Steve argues that companies should still offer them.
My view is that since themes and plugins are non-tangible, they are actually easier to refund. There is no dealing with damage, missing parts, repackaging, etc. All the seller needs to do is give the customer their money back and cease to provide support/updates. We offer a 45 day refund period at churchthemes.com because it really is useful to try a theme to see if it is the right solution.
Within the comments of his post, Bill Robbins makes an excellent point explaining why some WordPress theme companies still don’t offer refunds.
I believe the common “no refunds” policy came into being because so many people were already robbing theme and plugin companies through chargebacks in the early days of commercial WordPress products. Since people were already willing to lie and issue a chargeback which left the user with the theme and the company with an extra fee for their work, many shops felt that making this process easier would be a bad decision. That had a lot to do with this being a standard that was frequently adopted.
On the topic of chargebacks and fear of losing money, I asked three of the largest commercial theme companies to give me their percentage of refunds within the past 3-6 months and how many chargebacks they’ve processed. One of these companies doesn’t offer refunds but after reading Steve’s article, they plan on revisiting their policy in the near future.
From July-December 2013, StudioPress issued:
- chargeback 0.07%
- complete 95.73%
- comp 1.50%
- refund 2.70%
However, within the past six months, StudioPress has seen very few chargebacks thanks in large part to their tightened security measures they put in place last Summer. Prior to those security measures, the company still saw less than 1% of their total sales dedicated to chargebacks. StudioPress has a team that watches transactions every day and if they notice a fraudulent charge, they usually catch it in time before the cardholder does, preventing the chargeback from occurring.
Jessica Commins, Executive Vice President of Operations of Copyblogger Media, told me sales continue to go up while the refund rate has decreased. This means customers are satisfied with their purchases.
We firmly believe that offering everyone a 30-day guarantee is the best policy, because we are committed to our customers’ happiness. We’ve seen firsthand that happy customers lead to more happy customers, and while that’s not why we do what we do, it’s proof that doing the right thing for the right reasons can lead to sustainable rewards.
The data I obtained from WooThemes is not strictly tied to their themes but the company as a whole. Mark Forrester co-founder of WooThemes says the average refund rate across the board is about 4.8%. Forrester also told me:
Based on conversations the company has had with customers requiring refunds, it’s always a very positive interaction and more often than not the customer has assured us they will be back again because of the great customer service they experienced.
Considering how many products WooThemes has and how long they’ve been in business, I think 4.8% is a low number. It’s definitely in line with StudioPress and Churchthemes.
iThemes is one of the earliest WordPress commercial theme businesses. I was surprised to find out they don’t offer refunds.
Because of the nature of our themes and plugins—which are digitally delivered and non-tangible goods—we cannot offer refunds or chargebacks for purchases. Please read our FAQs and Terms of Service carefully before purchasing your theme or plugin. And as always, you can email questions or contact us in advance.
When I asked Cory Miller why the company doesn’t offer refunds, he told me:
Probably like a lot of people, in the early days we were worried more about people simply buying then asking for a refund and the cost and hassle associated with that. I’ve found though after all the years of being a GPL software company that most people want to pay you for your hard work and support. They want to give you money in exchange for the value you offer and aren’t trying to work around the system. The ones who seek to work around the system have never been our customers.
I should note though that although not formal, if a product doesn’t work for a customer though, we do and have offered refunds on a case by case basis.
Having said that, we would be open to revising our refund policy for this and a number of other reasons and will likely be working through that in the next iteration of what we do.
The reasons Bill Robbins laid out in his comment are some of the same reasons why iThemes never offered a refund policy. As Steve mentioned in his post, “if you don’t have a strong refund policy and your competitor does, you’re at a disadvantage.”
Refunds Make Cents
If you’re selling goods whether they are tangible or non-tangible, refunds or money back guarantees give consumers confidence. Without them, there is more risk associated with a purchase. If you plan to offer refunds, Steven Gliebe has a great five step process. I would be thrilled if I were treated in this manner when requesting my money back.
- Be as courteous as if it was a pre-sales inquiry
- Don’t try to change their mind and don’t ask pesky questions
- Initiate their refund immediately and tell them when to expect the funds
- Thank them for giving you a try and apologize if there was any inconvenience
- Ask them if they have any questions
Considering how many readers of WPTavern purchase products from commercial WordPress theme and plugin businesses, what has your experience been like getting refunds from those companies? From a customer’s perspective, if there was one piece of advice you could give these companies, what would be?
I think most theme/plugin authors will give refunds if there is a legitimate reason, despite what the policy states. We are all reasonable people, we aren’t trying to be jerks, but some customers try to take advantage of that. A no refund policy is more to weed out the bad customers than to deny refunds across the board.