A little rant

rantBy hitting control-option-command+8 in Mac OS-X, you can invert your screen colors (make them go negative). I’m sure there’s a reason why someone would want to do that, but I’m most certainly not that person. Nevertheless, the other day, I opened up my laptop only to find my colors have been inverted. Somehow, my two year old had hit this improbable key combination and plunged me into bizarro negative world. It took me a little internet sleuthing to get back to normal.

After another flurry of precise key presses, the same two year old bought me a subscription to Guitar Hero on my cell phone. Best three dollars I never spent. I have no idea how he did it, but there it was.

I relate these stories in preface to a rant about Microsoft’s ridiculous Xbox Live Arcade refund policies. (Hint: they don’t have one)

Up front I am going to admit that this was my fault. It was me that left the controller out in the open with the 360 on. While I was up at the computer I get an email from Xbox Live, thanking me for my Games on Demand purchase of GTA IV. Sure enough, in the space of no more than THREE FREAKING MINUTES, my two year old had navigated to the XBox Live Marketplace, located Games on Demand, selected GTA IV (at least the kid’s got taste) and purchased it. My heart sunk as I see the “no refunds” disclaimer in the XBL email. Great.

So against my better judgement, I give Xbox/Microsoft a call. All I was looking for a little understanding and maybe a little compassion and maybe to get the purchase wiped off my credit card. I explained the unlikely sequence of events that had got me to this point (I mean come on! I own the game. Why would I buy it again?) and asked for the refund. I made my way through about four levels of “you can speak to my manager” before I was met with utter silence on the other end of the line when I declare, “I find it hard to believe that a company as large as Microsoft has no way to remove a purchase from an account. At all. That is mind boggling.” “You have to dispute the charge with your credit card company, sir. There is nothing else I can do,” she finally replies.

Yeah, so we had to dispute the charge with our credit card company.

I am still flabbergasted that Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, did not build in any mechanism to deal with this type of issue. It’s nigh unexecusable. I wonder sometimes why I stick around.


  1. Anyone who has kids and actually pays attention to them knows how likely they are to do the “improbable”. Having survived through the infancy of two boys that were far too curious for my own good the number of times they accomplished something that simply should not happen by accident was practically a weekly event.

    The flipside is if you’re not a parent or not a very involved one these tales seem unbelievable, almost contrived. I think among parents we swap these stories like badges of honor since they rarely occur without some cost to us in the end.

    I think the answer for why Microsoft has no refund policy is very simple, it’s a business decision. A very cold one done with simple math. Just by picking up the phone you probably nullified whatever profit they stood to gain by your purchase and refudning your money would have cost them more then the amount they were refunding. Since digital distribution is not going to have any need for defective returns, I’m sure Microsoft felt they could take the customer service hit rather than create an actual efficient refund mechanism. This is also why I am not eager to embrace digital distribution. Consumers are at the mercy of the distributor. People don’t understand the power that is inherent with being able to walk into a store and confront a real human being face-to-face.

    Granted, it’s a much simpler affair if you’re returning something that is clearly broken as well. Yet I have had the embarrassing incident where I accidentally purchased a book I had already read and decided to take the hit to my dignity to return it. People make mistakes, which is all part of a good retailers process.

    Unfortunately, there is nowhere else to go. Microsoft has dominated their particular space again. I would probably be a lot less stingy with my dollars around them if it weren’t for that fact that I fully understand every penny I give them is never ever ever coming back. You are a more patient or resolute man then I am. I would never bother calling Microsoft as the inevitable outcome would not be worth whatever moral victory I might gain.

    • I totally agree that it was a cold business decision, and I recognize they set up their store and their policies to be efficient.

      I guess I just find it hard to believe that there isn’t a mechanism to resolve simple misunderstandings like this. A simple gesture could have gone a long way. And yes, I was definitely in it for a moral victory.

      Which I guess I achieved, because my credit card upheld my contention and issued me a refund. But a whole lot of headache could have been avoided.

      I won’t be calling Microsoft in the future.

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