Get One ‘Free’ Refund From Every Online Store

Get One ‘Free’ Refund From Every Online Store

Most online retailers are keen to keep their customers happy. Unfortunately, postal services are not known for their reliability and sometimes stuff goes missing during transit. When you put these two facts together, it’s usually not that difficult to score a refund by claiming a shipped product never arrived on your doorstep. The way you use this knowledge is up to you.

Now, I want to stress that this is just a general observation, and should not be taken as advice. Deliberately lying to online merchants for the purpose of receiving a refund is considered online fraud. It just happens to be extremely difficult to prove and usually isn’t worth the merchant’s time or effort — especially if they’re based overseas.

For smaller-ticket items like DVDs and books, most online retailers are willing to wear the cost to keep the customer on side. Some will deposit a refund into your bank account while others will offer to resend the same item. Which can then be sold on eBay.

A dishonest person could potentially claim multiple refunds from different retailers (first ensuring they’re not affiliated with each other, of course.) Usually, the worst-case scenario is that your claim will be politely rejected.

Again, we’re not saying anyone should do this. Online retailers have families to feed, y’know. Don’t be a fraudster. No, really.

This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.


  • What is the point of this article?

    Here’s how to commit online fraud. But don’t do it. But you could do it and not get caught. But really, don’t do it.

  • I’m pretty bothered by this article. Why else would you write it other than to encourage online fraud? Doesn’t matter how much you try to disown the advice.

    • Here’s the problems as I see them:

      1. No where on the front page does it say “It’s Evil Week!” or even explain what that is
      2. There is no primer at the start of the article that the article is part of Evil Week
      3. The article is almost entirely indistinguishable from all the other genuine articles
      4. This is a random week in November (it’s not Halloween week, it’s not April fools, it’s just a random week so there’s no reason for readers to suspect this is anything but genuine)
      5. The disclaimer after the article is in a faint font which naturally (and intentionally, I’d wager) makes it easy to miss
      6. A single post that it’s Evil Week is only enough for the dedicated people who read every single post on the site. Visitors like myself (who check every few days and don’t read everything) have a good chance of thinking this is legitimate. Maybe include it in the header or banner?

      It’s all good to have an article that’s tongue in cheek, but you need to ensure your audience is primed for it. If Obama came on TV with sirens blaring telling everyone that nukes had been launched and it was 20 minutes to doomsday, it wouldn’t matter that he was joking. If he’s appearing on Key and Peele and says the same thing though, it would be fine because of the contextual differences. LifeHacker isn’t known for posting joke articles. Maybe a little more of the *nudge nudge, wink wink* when making these sorts of jokes is appropriate. Previous Evil Week articles tended to be very explicit in this fact.

      Finally, take a look at your previous articles. Which of these five articles stands out as different from the rest?

      – Too cowardly to dump your partner? This site will do it for $10
      – Want to get out of dinner plans? This app will make it look like you’re booked out
      – How to commit online fraud against both small and large businesses
      – How to fart and get away with it
      – How to sabotage your relationship and get them to break up with you instead

      • Thanks for your feedback deathduck. Evil Week is an annual Lifehacker tradition that is now in its seventh year. The tone varies from piece to piece: the only connection is that they all adhere to the ‘dark side’ of hacking.

        You are right about the faintness of the blurb though — we’ve made the font larger so readers can see it better.

      • Every year, Lifehacker gets critisized for not openly declaring that the articles are for ‘Evil week’. Every year, nothing changes. So they certainly are taking our feedback on board.

  • I too voice similar concerns to @deathduck and everyone else that already has. This article clearly states “Deliberately lying to online merchants for the purpose of receiving a refund is considered online fraud.”

    Yet… you have even entitled the article “Get One ‘Free’ Refund From Every Online Store”.

    I put my vote in also that this article really needs to be pulled. There is no legitimate basis to the article in the form it is written. Modify the tone and then potentially it could be a keeper, however with the wording, the fact that it has been posted as part of ‘Evil Week’ etc. Overall it really just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Love your work generally speaking, but not a fan at all in this case.

  • I can’t be the only one who hates all this evil week crap, right? There’s only so far you can push this ‘tongue in cheek’ stuff…

  • reminds me of the article about boiling lobsters then they are still alive. moral compass of this website is way off

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