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Saturday, 8 April 2017

No Refunds on Digital Products - Does it Need to be Said?

MyTie Makeover Mini Bag by eSheep Designs
I don't want it because it has too many pages??
This past January, I received an email from a customer with an unusual request. She stated that she had facilitated a purchase of my MyTie Makeover Mini Bag pattern for a family member, but when the individual in question opened the PDF, she discovered that it was "more than 50 pages to print [and] she said she did not want to keep the pattern. She is an experienced sewer, but was confused and overwhelmed by the pattern, plus doesn't really have the funds to print that many pages. Can she get a refund?"

What would your response be?

My first gut instinct was to defend my position, which is that there are NO refunds on digital products!

However, I aim to be fair minded at all times and to see all sides of a situation, so I stopped to consider what my best response would be... preferably without exclamation marks and capital letters. ;-)

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While clearly of the belief that there are no refunds on digital products, did my Craftsy sales page actually indicate that? No. Which leads me to the title of this post: is it common knowledge that no refunds are given on digital products? Hard to say. I thought so, but maybe it's something that needs to be spelled out clearly. Perhaps if you are swimming in similar waters, you might want to make it explicit.

So while I pondered the wording of my official reply, I put it on my "to do" list to add the following to each of my paid patterns:

Due to the nature of digital products, all PDF pattern sales are final.

Next, I considered the issue of the size of the PDF.

I'll freely admit that complaints about PDF size/length/bulk always make me groan out loud... really loud. Because I come from a background where most of us learned to avoid printing out stuff. It constantly amazes me that people feel the need to go with the paper format when it's totally unnecessary. (If you're someone who likes to print everything on a regular basis, can you please shed some light on the matter for me?)

The MyTie pattern is my lengthiest pattern at 59 pages. In some ways, it couldn't be avoided, being that it covered three different ways of making the bag. However — and unfortunately — my Craftsy listing did not make mention of this humongous length. (Absolutely a mistake on my part, since most of my other patterns did make mention of total page length.)

Again, as I pondered my response, I went in and added PDF length information to all of my paid patterns.

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In an unusual move, I shared the email with my other half. He was of the opinion that "oh for heaven's sake, it's a six dollar pattern" and "how can you ask for a refund based on being unable to pay for the cost of printing it out"? To be totally honest, those same words — more or less — had passed through my mind also.

In even more of an unusual move, my other half actually spoke about the situation to one of his buddies. This friend was also of the opinion that the complaint was not worthy of a refund and said that I was being nice for even considering it further.

The thing is, this is the new world of online commerce. Who knows what might motivate an individual to make life worse for you if you don't take the high road (to follow the advice of the former FLOTUS)? I'm such small potatoes, but I still wouldn't want a customer bad-mouthing me for being rigid.

Given that I didn't have my own safeguards and explicit notices in place, I wanted to be at least a little bit conciliatory.

That said, I wasn't about to refund the whole thing without a valid reason. I've had buyer's remorse about a pattern myself, but that situation was totally different. Even then, however, I knew that there was no point in asking for a refund.

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So what was my ultimate response? After stating my belief that it's common for digital products to be non-refundable due to their nature, I covered the remainder of the bases with the following:

Let me first say that PDFs such as these are not meant to be printed in their entirety. Particularly if your [---] is an experienced sewer, she should not need to print every page describing every detail. After reading through the instructions, all she truly needs to print are the pattern templates at the back of the document (a total of 3 pages if she wants to make each of the three designs).

Has she truly read through the pattern or was it just a case of "oh, it's too many pages for me to look at"? Or is the problem that she does not have a device on which to read it?

If you feel strongly about needing some sort of restitution, I would be prepared to offer a credit of $2.50 USD towards your (the purchaser's) PayPal account as a goodwill gesture. Let me know ASAP if that's what you require and if so, please allow up to ten business days for the transaction to appear.

Hubby and I went out for a walk around the neighbourhood after I sent the response. We talked further about it and wondered if I would have a reply by the time we came back.

I didn't... and still haven't.

What is your opinion on the matter?


  1. I would have thought it was common knowledge that there are no refunds on PDF patterns. I've had people ask how they can print my tutorials. In the past, I have put PDFs onto my iPad and then sat that next to me while sewing. In recent times, however, I leave the pattern open on the computer and just hop over and have a look at any steps I need to. Sometimes I'll just jot down a few notes and that's all I need. Never, ever would I print out the instructions. I agree with your other half, and I think your solution was very generous of you.

  2. I have wondered if anyone would ever ask for a refund for a pdf pattern. This woman might be an experienced sewer, but she is obviously not experienced when it comesto pdf's. I never print anything out but the pattern templates. I know people who will print out stuff from the internet and they do it on one side of the paper and in color ink too!!!! Geesh what about using fewer resources!

    I even scan patterns from magazines or purchased patterns and turn them into a pdf. It doesn't take up room in my house and as I age, I find it easier to read a pdf, especially when I can enlarge the font size. Some kf those paper patterns as so hard to read because they use a tiny font size and cram the instructions on a bifold suing the center 2 pages only, because the front is the pretty photo and the back page is the material list.
    I think what you offered was more than fair. In fact I may have offered that amount as a discount but only on a purchase of another pattern.

    Even if you buy a paper pattern from a book, a magazine or a pattern in an envelope from the store, none of those are returnable. You could buy a book because you like one pattern and then scan it or make paper copies and return the book and that is why you cannot return such items. So a pdf is no different. You cannot return a pdf because you can always have it on your computer. I

    If a pattern was so horribly written that you could not follow it at all, I would contact the person and let them know and I might be bold enough to ask for a refund in that case. But she/ he might think I was just saying that to get my money back.

    I prefer pages and pages of clear instructions and that is why I do like pdf patterns better. The more clear the instructions are the better for me.

    In light of what happened Rochelle, it wouldn't hurt to say pdf patterns are not refundable.

  3. I think you handled this very well and I'm glad you wrote this post so if my daughter and I ever come up with a pattern we'll be more aware of important info to include. I'm one of the people who don't have an ipad or other smart device so usually print out most of the instructions. However, I save and recycle all the scrap paper from my day job, print on the backs, and never use color so it's not too costly.

  4. I'm a non-printer with pdfs--I just print the pattern pieces and maybe the materials' list to take to the store with me. I also don't get shook up over PDFs with high page counts. I think that should be a benefit of a PDF--more pages with more detailed instructions, as it won't require postage to mail!

    I think you were very fair and generous in this situation. I totally understand and support the policy of PDFs not being refundable. The one situation I can think of where it might be needed is if the customer's system is just not compatible, or they've tried everything they can to make it work and it won't. Such as, what if you can't get the pattern pieces to print out to scale? Once in a while, that happens, but hopefully, there would be alternatives. I think that I (as well as many) expect "electronic" to be equal with "easy and more convenient". But there is a learning curve that takes an investment of time.


  5. I will admit that I do print quite a few of my pdf's, but certainly not all of them. Most of my purchased pdf's I have printed in the past, so I could file into a binder of all purchased items. I have had a crash of my external backup in the past and am now afraid it might happen again. And this may sound really paranoid, but a few years from now, will I still have the ability to print things, or be able to read them on some type of device? What if software changes prevent me from doing so and the seller has closed their business at that point? It would be money thrown out the window. Yes, I can see the point of someone saying, well you're throwing money out the window now printing those things. I think the paranoid part is that years ago I had taken a video of my twins on their 1st birthdays eating their cakes. It was adorable as one of them kept falling asleep and his head kept bobbing down toward his cake, while his twin was reaching across the trays on their high chairs onto the sleeping twin's tray to steal big hunks of that cake since twin 1 had already pigged his cake down, (or dropped most down his front or onto the floor). I attempted to have that VCR tape transferred to a DVD years later only to find out the professional camera store I had taken it to said it was not possible. I was, and still am devastated that this adorable video was lost to me and they never got to even see how cute they were. This, I think is where my fear comes from and why I print more things that I may really need to do.

    As far as the complaint you had, you are much nicer than I would have been. I would not have refunded anything because if this person bought the pattern, I would assume that she's familiar with how to do so and not entirely new to the idea. Ten years ago my thoughts would be totally different, but now it's a fairly common thing no matter what you buy online there are no refunds for any digital content whether it is a pattern, or video game you only play online, or a movie you 'buy' online to watch and maybe got busy and couldn't watch it before the time period expired if it had a time limit. I think that is fairly universal now no matter what you purchase online that isn't delivered to your home but is digital content only.


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