This post covers some methods to deal with chargebacks – when a customer disputes their charge for their hair or product.
In some cases, a chargeback is actually fraud, whether it is a stolen credit card or PayPal account login. What I’d like to talk about now is a misuse of chargebacks: when a member is grumpy or lying about payment fraud just to get their money back.
What are chargebacks and disputes?
A chargeback or payment dispute is when a customer denies the payment. Even if you offer a refund policy, there will be some number of customers that decide to simply call their bank and initiate a dispute. This could be because of (actual) fraud, dissatisfaction with their purchase or they are just a despicable person who got their goods and doesn't want to pay for it.
Your merchant account or payment gateway will let you know that someone is disputing a payment. You will then have a window of time to respond to the dispute and “make your case” for why the chargeback is not valid. If the chargeback is not ruled in your favor, the value of the disputed transaction, as well as a merchant or gateway-imposed “fee”, will be deducted from your account.
So, how (and when) should you respond to a dispute?
First, locate the user’s membership account and disputed order. My first step when dealing with a chargeback is to locate the user’s membership information and get some background.
Search for the disputed order using the gateway’s “transaction ID”, or the “Invoice ID” on the order.
Now, be an investigator.
In some cases, a membership site is a “virtual product”. This makes disputing a chargeback a bit more difficult—how do you prove you delivered what they have purchased? However, with an actual physical product like hair, you will have shipping documentation to prove the product was shipped. Make sure the Address on the Card and Shipping Address are the same or request a photocopy of the Drivers License and Credit Card.
Was it actual fraud?
If your investigating makes you 99% sure it was a stolen payment method used for purchase, just accept the dispute. It stinks. You’ll pay a fee. But it was actual fraud, and you don’t really have any recourse for this case.
It isn’t fraud – I want to fight this dispute! If your investigating leads you to believe this person just wants their money back, you should respond to the dispute and make a case for why it isn’t a fraudulent purchase.
Before I begin the process of fighting a dispute, I always email the member directly. I’ll ask them to withdraw the dispute and communicate that I will refund their money. Most often I get no reply. But occasionally, I’ll get a weird reply like “I just didn’t have enough money so I said this was fraud.” Luckily, you can use this in fighting your dispute, so even if they don’t withdraw their dispute, you’ve gotten some more ammunition to win your case.
Responding to a Dispute
The method to respond to a dispute varies by the gateway, but in general, you will be asked to write a statement and provide supporting documents about the purchase. In the case of a physical good, they will ask for proof of shipment (and you may even have proof of delivery depending on the shipment method).
Then, take screenshots and create PDFs of EVERYTHING
The supporting documents I generally include are:
A PDF “print” of the user record in the WordPress dashboard.
A copy of the membership confirmation email I receive as admin when they made purchase
Copies of any direct communication they made with me.
Copies of any proof of participation on my site (comments, forum replies, contact form submissions, etc.)
A copy of the email marketing service’s details about their email opens.
A copy of your refund policy, if offered, that would show they had another method to get their money back.
Now you wait.
After submitting your evidence, the payment gateway or merchant will communicate with the user’s bank to make your case. This can take anywhere from a week to two months.
I hope the dispute is sided in your favor!
In most cases, the seller will lose the dispute.
The person filing the dispute has far more protections in place than you. And in most cases, they are being defended by a credit card company fully motivated to make them happy. Even when your payment gateway does their part in presenting your evidence, more often than not the seller will lose the dispute, pay the fee, and have the funds returned to the buyer.
There is some comfort in knowing that you did your best to provide honest information about the charge and to defend yourself from this type of abuse. I’m sorry you didn’t win.