Hi! Here is an example refund letter:

Hello Customer Service,

I am a customer of [The Business].

I had a bad experience with [specific product] and this caused [specific headache].

Can you please refund the purchase price?

Thank you,

[Your Name]

The script above is simple, but includes the four essential elements of an effective refund request. I’ve used this script to request refunds from a variety of businesses. The rest of this article includes more information about how to ask for refunds, specific examples of how I’ve successfully received refunds, and how to customize the letter for your own needs.

Here we go…

The Top Google Answers for “How to Ask for a Refund”

If you Google “how to ask for a refund” the results are pretty terrible.

As of January 19, 2017 these are the top ten results:

  1. wikiHow has a 15 step guide, plus pictures of a lady writing her new novel, “Give Me a Refund or Face the Legal Consequences.” You don’t need to write a letter that long, and you don’t have to get legal.
  2. reddit being reddit. The advice isn’t bad, it’s just super vague, “don’t be a dick because then customer service won’t want to help you.”
  3. This SEO site that cares more about appearing on the first page of Google than it does about helping you. The examples are okay, but we can do better.
  4. Steam’s refund page, which is specifically for requesting refunds for computer games on Steam.
  5. Paypal’s cancel payment feature, which is useful but not super relevant.
  6. This FeeX thing, which appears to be a useful service but the post itself is all fluff.
  7. This token Quora answer, which has reasonably good tips but no full script you can use.
  8. A language learning page, where they translate “I want a refund” to Japanese.
  9. This guy, who is pondering how to REPLY to a refund question.
  10. And this 30 minute podcast, which is seriously a 30 minute podcast about asking for a refund.

Asking for a refund is an important life skill, and it’s surprising how many people don’t know how to ask effectively. Getting your money back is actually really easy. I’m going to share more word for word scripts below, and a detailed breakdown so you can customize the scripts for your own needs. You can copy these scripts for your own refund requests.

But first a little about WHY you should ask for a refund.

Why You Should Ask For a Refund

Businesses exist to earn profit for their owners, and corporations actually have a legal obligation to pursue that profit.

On the shareholder end, dividends and buyouts are dope. But as a consumer, it’s all your money going into their pockets. I believe you have a moral obligation to protect your money. That obligation doesn’t mean you need to horde your pennies, and it doesn’t mean you need to be stingy with others. The moral obligation means that if you can maximize your earnings and avoid wasting money then you should be in a great position to push humanity forward, which IMO is what we should all be working on.

In Canada and the US and many other countries a contract is basically “a meeting of the minds”, which is represented most clearly by offer and acceptance.

You: “I offer you $85 for this wooly cardigan.”

Store Clerk: “Why that would be just fine, I accept your offer. Here is your wooly cardigan.”

Every time you purchase a product or service you are making a contract like this. It doesn’t matter if you are a visionary billionaire trying to purchase second-hand rockets from Russia, or if you are me buying Rainbow Light Fish Oil Capsules on Amazon; a contract exists.

Your part of fulfilling the contract is easy, you give the business money or a promise to pay the money within a specified amount of time.

In return, the business gives you a product or service that meets the agreed specifications.

To the extent the product or service you receive falls short of those agreed specs, you deserve a refund. And many businesses are HAPPY to return your money; their reputation matters more than your $10.

So, How Do You Actually Ask For a Refund?

Here are three specific examples of how to ask for a refund.

Example #1: How to Get a Refund From Chipotle

I love Chipotle. I wish Chipotle would open more locations in Canada and China so that I could eat Chipotle every day, instead of just every day that I’m in the US.

Chipotle is awesome because you can get big portions of reasonably good quality food, fast and pretty affordable. Even with the limited options, your meal feels very customized. “I’ll take a bowl for here, with brown rice, both beans, sustainable pork, veggies, mild, medium, cheese, guac, and any lettuce you can fit on top.”

But Chipotle’s fast, customized service, combined with how busy they usually were pre-e coli scare, means that sometimes they blow it. I’ve had burnt Chipotle, undercooked Chipotle and unfriendly Chipotle. I ask for a refund every time.

TBH, the first time I asked for a refund from Chipotle it was kind of a douchey email, and if I received it I would be like, this guy is a Rule #1. But mechanically it worked; Chipotle sent me a gift card for a free burrito.

The second time, they sent me two free burritos.

The third time? Four free burritos.

I call this Exponential Burrito Growth Theory. Though full disclosure: the second time I requested a refund, Chipotle actually denied it. So of four requests, three were granted, with a total of seven burritos.

The infamous 4x burrito refund from Chipotle; AKA the "Golden Ticket"
The infamous 4x burrito refund from Chipotle; AKA the “Golden Ticket”

Here is an actual refund request I sent to Chipotle:

Hi Chipotle,

I’m a big fan of your restaurant — I eat there a few times per week.

But tonight’s experience was really disappointing. I introduced three friends as first time customers, and the food wasn’t good. The rice was really undercooked, the veggies were burnt, the meat & guac portions were very small (kind of sprinkled on instead of the normal portion). Your staff were friendly but they seemed very new and not well trained yet.

I’d like for you to refund my bowl ($12 pork w/ guac). My friends don’t know how good it usually is (one of them didn’t finish), so it would be nice if you sent coupons for free bowls so they can try again.

My address is: ####

Thank you,
Michael

And here is Chipotle’s reply…

Michael,

I’m really sorry the food was such a let down when you brought some friends to experience the deliciousness of Chipotle! I’ll get in touch with our #### Chipotle team about this, and I’d be more than happy to invite all of you back with a meal-for-four card (to be used in one visit). Since you’ve already provided your address, I’ll get that in the mail for you.

Sincerely,
Zach

Customer Service Coordinator
Chipotle Mexican Grill

FYI, when Chipotle sends you a gift card it’s actually for a full meal, so you can load it up with guac, nachos, etc. and it’s still covered. That means the 4x meal card was worth like $64.27. That was enough to feed me, two friends, and the lady in front of us in line.

Why do you get your refund? Because it’s an easy tool for customer service to keep people happy and because the four step ask format works. Notice the email has a logical flow, which is basically this:

  • I establish credibility, “I’m an existing customer”;
  • I explain the problem, “the food today was level 0 burrito”;
  • I explain why it matters, “my friends were trying Chipotle for the first time”; and
  • Make a clear ask, “please send all the free burritos to this address.”

Alright, onward to a popcorny example: movie theatres.

Example #2: How to Get a Refund From a Movie Theatre

Going to a movie should be a very standardized experience: there is no rice to undercook and no sustainable pork to under-serve. In fact, movies theatres really just have to get two things right:

  • Show the movie that you bought a ticket for, even if it’s terrible; and
  • Provide a reasonably acceptable environment for you to watch it in (clean, quiet, etc.).

The last time I asked a movie theatre for a refund, it was because even though Godzilla was good, the guys in front of me talked through the entire thing. I don’t have the original refund request, but it was something like this.

Hi Movie Theatre,

I’m a regular customer; I come to your theatre five or six times per year.

Last night I had a bad experience. The movie, Godzilla, was good, but the three guys sitting in front of me talked through the whole thing. It was hard to focus on the movie.

Would you be willing to send me two free passes to try again?

My address is ####.

Thank you,

Michael

And here is the movie theatre’s reply:

Greetings,

Thank you for your recent note regarding your visit to #### to see Godzilla in AVX last week.

I am sorry to hear that your viewing was disturbed by a fellow guest. If anything like this were to happen again, please feel free to let a cast member or manager the day of and we can work to rectify the situation immediately.

If you would provide me with your mailing address I would be happy to send 2 courtesy passes to your attention.

Thanks,

Chris

Chris is right, I should be less of a passive bystander in my own life.

Godzilla getting a refund from a Toblerone
Godzilla getting a refund from a Toblerone

This email followed a similar format as the Chipotle one, so I’ve included it here for two reasons. First, because having a few specific examples to draw from may help you craft your own messaging; and two, because you may not believe companies are willing to provide refunds.

One more example.

Example #3: How to Get a Refund From Your Phone Company [Advanced Mode]

This section could also be called, “how to get a refund from your bank or credit card company.” Both of these institutions are notorious for adding fees that make you sad, and a great way to get happy again is to have them reverse the $4 charge on your account.

Unfortunately, here is how most of these conversations go:

You: “Hi, ummm, I don’t recognize this $78 charge on my account. Can you help me figure it out?”

Customer Service: “Sure, I see here that you made a three hour call to your uncle Louie while you were hiking through the mountains in Kyrgyzstan, so these are roaming charges.”

You: “Oh, but I didn’t know there would be roaming charges. Is there anything you can do?”

Customer Service: “No.”

You: 🙁

And then you grumble about terrible customer service at big phone monopolies. The truth is, you didn’t get a refund because you didn’t ask. The next time you call your phone company, bank, credit card company or really any scenario where you didn’t read your service agreement and still want a refund; all you have to do is replace “is there anything you can do?” with “can I have a refund”? And watch what happens. Those five magic words can melt fees away.

Now for a few more rules…

The Rules: Asking for a Refund

Just because you can ask for a refund, doesn’t mean you should. And even if you should, you still have to play within reasonable parameters.

Here is what I recommend…

  1. You need to have a legit reason to ask for a refund. You’ve just learned ninja-magic advanced persuasion tactics for asking for a refund and this should never be abused. Follow the Spider-Man Rule.
  2. You need to ask clearly. If you send a 37 page document, customer service won’t know exactly what you want. Instead, ask for exactly what you want and do it in a concise way.
  3. You need to ask in a reasonable amount of time. A nightmare in customer service is, “I bought this six months ago and now it doesn’t work.“ It’s your own fault for buying into planned obsolescence.

Bonus Tip: It’s okay, and sometimes necessary, to ask for a refund more than once.

Themeforest.net has bad customer service, or at least the two times I have engaged with them. The first time was because I bought a blog theme and the blog titles didn’t display at all; at the time I didn’t know how to fix this on my own. Themeforest refused to provide a refund. The second time, the code I bought was for the payment processor on the $25 Fight Against Child Slavery. I wanted a popup subscription form, which the plugin appeared to have but actually didn’t. On the first request for refund, Themeforest gave me credit but refused to give cash. On the second request for a cash refund, they refused to give it. On the third request, they gave the cash refund. Note that I think Themeforest’s product is good and that they have a unique challenge; their product is code which means people could easily take advantage by asking for a refund and then just using the code anyway; but still, IMO better to have great customer service than to maximize your margins.

And if all else fails, complain on Twitter.

Get My Newsletter

I write about marketing, productivity, personal finance and charity.