How to make partial refund checks less confusing


Several weeks ago, I returned a few holiday gifts and asked the retailer to exchange them for different products. The company was a little behind the times with their return process, so I had to enclose a letter explaining what I was returning and which products I wanted them to send me in exchange. However, instead of getting a package with the new products, I got a $20 check in the mail. The products were worth considerably more than that, so I had no choice but to call the company and ask what happened.

As it turns out, they sent me separate mailings, one with the new items and one with the check. The check just happened to arrive first, leading to my confusion. Granted, not every exchange will involve a partial refund, but I’m sure a fair number of them do. In these cases, there are several ways to make things clearer to the customer.

Since the customer is probably expecting to receive the products they asked for instead of a piece of paper, you need to explain what’s going on. In particular, if you’re sending a partial refund check as part of an exchange, make sure the check stub or memo field allows the check to tell a story on its own. For instance, you might print the following on the stub: “Your new items are on the way, and this check covers the remaining credit balance.” Or even better, just put the check in the same package as the new items.

Sure, this seems like common sense. But if my experience is any indication, companies that send out mysterious refund checks probably waste a lot of money answering questions about them. By taking away the mystery and confusion from the return process, you’ll spend less time and money handling those transactions, and customers will be a lot happier with the process.