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I'm developing a WordPress theme and am planning to sell it myself. I was thinking of having a 14- or 30-day refund policy for customers, but my concern is that people can essentially get the theme for free, if they: 1) buy it, 2) download the files, and then 3) request a refund. Then they would have both the theme and their money back.

I've been looking into software refund policies and noticed there are a few different schools of thoughts on providing customer refunds:

School of Thought #1 - Provide refunds. If your software is good quality, not many people will request a refund.

My response: But in my case, even if users think the theme is high quality, they can still request a refund and also keep the theme. I have also put a lot of work into the development and testing of the theme, so it is quality work.

School of Thought #2 - Provide refunds, but some customers will abuse the refund process, so have an activation code and only provide refunds to people who have not activated the software.

My response: This sounds like a good idea, but there isn't an activation mechanism for themes in WordPress, so I don't know how I could implement it.

School of Thought #3 - No refunds.

My response: This seems really inflexible. I'm not against refunding customer payments for good reason, but I don't want to give away my work, either.

Have you heard of any other good options in setting up a refund policy?

closed as off topic by JeffO, Kilian Foth, thorsten müller, Martijn Pieters, user40980 Apr 17 '13 at 14:06

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    School of Thought #4: If someone asks for a refund, give it to them. Check back later to see if their blog is using their theme. If so, send them a strongly-worded email telling them to knock it off. – Mason Wheeler Apr 10 '13 at 23:43
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    You might find it more use to join wordpress.stackexchange.com instead, if you're going to be developing themes. Wordpress isn't really on-topic here. – pdr Apr 11 '13 at 0:41
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    If you decide to do refunds, require a signed statement that the user has uninstalled the software and removed it from their computer(s). – Jan Doggen Apr 11 '13 at 7:20
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    @pdr, this particular question seems on topic to me. It is a general business concern that can apply to many types of software. – user82096 Apr 11 '13 at 7:25
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    @dan1111: Being a general business concern, it applies to many more things than just software. – Blrfl Apr 11 '13 at 16:40
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Have a read of Joel On Software's blog post about 7 steps to customer service.

In particular, Step 7 is apropos to your concerns.

They run with a 90 day policy for requesting refunds, and per the article, it's cost them 2%. Joel Spolsky also creates a correlation between the customers feeling empowered in the transaction; being nice to customer service reps; and no real abuse of their refund system.

The entire article is well worth reading, and I think you'll pick up some gems as you build your business.

  • @chowwy - yw; and there's nothing within what Spolsky says that would prevent you from checking up on former clients some time in the future as Mason Wheeler suggested. – user53019 Apr 12 '13 at 2:35
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A good place to start is to check what others are doing. Here are refund policies from two popular WordPress theme sites:

If you have purchased an item and it does not work as described or is faulty, please contact support and tell them which file you purchased and exactly what the problem has been with the item. The item will be investigated, and if it is found to be faulty or not working as described it will be fixed or a refund will be offered.

And

All sales are final. Since we offer non-tangible products which are delivered via digital download, we do not issue refunds after a purchase is made. If there is a problem with one of our themes or if you experience any difficulty with its download, we will fix the problem.

It seems the consensus is, refunds are not given (except possibly for a faulty product). This makes sense because, as you noted, there is nothing to stop someone from getting a refund and still using your product. They could even make slight changes to your theme and claim it is their own creation.

Also, will you be selling your theme through an established theme site? If so, the refund policy will likely be set by the site anyway (both of the above policies are at a site level).

  • Much appreciated, @dan1111. I've upvoted your answer. – chowwy Apr 12 '13 at 2:01

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