Overstock Accepts Returned Sony Reader But Charges $93.41 For Missing USB Cable

If you ever wondered why Sony eBook readers cost so much, it’s apparently because of the included mini USB cable—at least according to Overstock.com. When reader Matt forgot to include the cable when returning his $147 Sony Reader Touch Edition, Overstock smacked him with a $93.41 charge.

Matt writes:

Dear Consumerist,

I am simply exasperated at Overstock.com’s return policy.

I recently purchased a Sony Reader “Touch Edition” digital ebook reader from overstock.com.

I received the order in a timely manner, however, due to the excessive glare on the Sony screen I was unable to keep the item, as it constantly gave me headaches. I requested an RMA on the item and shipped it back to overstock.com less than 48 hrs later.

In repackaging the unit, I inadvertently forgot to include the USB cable (a standard mini USB cable the likes of which many cell-phones and other small electronics devices use, it was not a “special” cable, by any means).

This morning, I was completely dumbfounded when I saw the following email sitting in my inbox:

    Hello Matthew,

    We received your return for the Sony PRS-600BC Black Touch Edition Digital Reader (Refurbished). A credit in the amount of $44.88 was issued on 08/04/2010. This credit will post to your account according to the time frame established by your financial institution.

    A breakdown of your refund is shown below:

    Item price: $147.99

    Refund Deductions:
    Original Discount: -$4.28
    Return Label Cost: -$5.42
    Not Restockable: Box Opened / Missing Accessories: -$93.41

    Total Refund Issued: $44.88

    Since you used a pre-paid return shipping label to return the item, the cost of the label has been withheld from your refund.

    For questions regarding our return policy or for additional assistance, please click here to visit our online Help Center.

    Thank you for shopping with Overstock.com.

    Sincerely,

    Customer Care Returns
    Overstock.com

That’s right, on a $147.99 item, I received a $44.88 refund because of a missing cable!

Never was I given the option to return the missing accessory, nor was I given an option to refuse the partial refund and receive my item back. I’m a reasonable person, I wouldn’t expect to get a full refund for an item I returned that was missing an accessory, however, nor would I expect them to deduct a full 2/3 of the purchase price because of it. I feel as if they’ve reached into my pocket and stolen $100 from me! Can they do this? I plan to complain to the Utah Better Business Bureau, as I see on their profile there, nearly 1/3 of all complaints have to do with their return policy.

Aside from this action, what would you and/or the consumerist reader community recommend?

Help!

Matt sent us an update after following through with his complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

Overstock.com called me early this morning, and, without quarrel, offered me an additional $80 on my refund, thus bringing the original $93 offset to $13 and change, an amount I could live with. I can’t help but wonder whether it was overstock’s consciencious return policy in responding to my online query yesterday, or as a result of my BBB complaint I also filed yesterday. The agent left a message on my machine, with instructions to call a number and ask for him by name, it makes me wonder if this is standard procedure or if the BBB lit a fire under them. Either way, I consider my matter resolved.

Comments

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  1. Jason says:

    They probably had to go to Best Buy or The Shack and purchase a new USB cable and paid $93 and are just passing on the costs to you.

  2. DigitalShawn says:

    Was it a Monster brand cable?

  3. Bodger says:

    Do you think that I can get the exclusive contract to supply mini-USB cables to Overstock? By their accounting I’ve got at least $1k worth of them in my computer junk closet right now and I’m sure that I can come up with any number they might need in any color and length. And, to show my generosity, I’ll let Overstock have them for only $75 each as a limited time offer.

  4. canaguy says:

    YIKES
    I buy various (usb) cables at a local supplier for an average $4 each….

  5. bhr says:

    Well.. I kinda wish you hadn’t gone to the BBB before giving them a chance to correct it so we know what happened.

    • TasteyCat says:

      Apparently the process for resolving an issue with a business is to go to the BBB and Consumerist… then contact the company and give them a chance to work with you. This is being an abusive consumer for no good reason, and wasting everybody’s time in the process. If they don’t work with you, by all means escalate the matter, but don’t just assume they’re going to be difficult.

      • matt314159 says:

        “but don’t just assume they’re going to be difficult.”
        …unless you’ve read plenty of other people’s accounts of how the company deals with that particular situation, and reasonably know what to expect.

        • TasteyCat says:

          If they made him jump through hoops… then escalate it. Contacting the company directly should be a first step, not an afterthought.

  6. Hotscot says:

    The BBB don’t do anything on your behalf. They have no regulatory power at all.
    They simply record your complaint in order to create an aggregated score which they display on their website.
    In some cases this could influence a company but it’s generally ignored.

    • sonneillon says:

      They let the company know of the complaint and sometimes they arbitrate if the company is willing or has a BBB certification. Even though they have no official power, they are still useful.

  7. eelmonger says:

    The deduction wasn’t all for the missing cable. Some of it was for return shipping and some kind of discount, but the majority of it was mostly because the OP opened the box so now they can’t resell it as new. It explicitly states in Overstock’s return policy (https://help.overstock.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/6/related/1/sno/0) that “If you return an item that has been opened or shows signs of wear, we will issue a partial refund minus both original shipping charge and return shipping fees.” The description of the partial refund doesn’t seem to refer to this policy, but the sentence I quoted clearly states if you open the box you might not get all your money back.

    • chucklesjh says:

      It says it was Refurbished anyway, so it was technically already “open box”.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      Agreed. It’s got nothing to do with the cable and everything to do with their policy of only giving you a percentage of your money depending on the condition of the item. It’s reasonable–they could refuse it completely since it is unsellable in it’s current condition. Yes, the cable could be replaced, but this is a corp and not a thrift store. That’s not how they operate.

      • BBBB says:

        Not that I think Overstock.com is wonderful, they are correct in that the item is now unsalable without additional work/cost. Unless they can repackage it so the next buyer cannot tell it was a return, then they lost their cost of the item – the $93.41 is probably their cost so in their view, they break even. Why should they lose money on the return.

        As for the argument that the cable is inexpensive – to restore the item to a resalable condition they would have to get the exact same cable from Sony or they would be cheating the next buyer by not providing the original accessories. Try looking at Sony’s prices for accessories and then add the labor cost of placing a special order for the cable. I once tried to get a replacement power supply/cable for a device and found Sony’s price was around $80.00, my local electronic supply house had an equivalent one for about $10, and my local e-cycler let me search the pile for free (most people would have been charged a few bucks, but he knows me.)

        • matt314159 says:

          My point is that they shouldn’t have accepted my item at all, and shipped it back at my expense. Otherwise they end up with the reader AND $93 above and beyond shipping expenses each way, which I gladly paid. I don’t see how you can think that’s an equitable settlement, or any kind of a “break-even” point. The whole discussion is kind of moot anyway, since they did fix things, and that right quickly. that’s why I was surprised they actually ran the story.

        • mrscoach says:

          You have to be kidding. I looked up that cable on the SonyStyle store and found it for $19.99. Where the heck did you get $80?

          • BBBB says:

            “You have to be kidding. I looked up that cable on the SonyStyle store and found it for $19.99. Where the heck did you get $80?”

            I was talking about a different cable (one with a transformer in line). Still, at $19.99 plus shipping, plus the cost of paying someone to place the order/track the item and replacement/process paperwork to pay for it/repack the item in a resalable condition/restock it, you are looking at $50 to $100 depending on how efficient the company is at this kind of thing.

            Paying for a special order item in a company is expensive – the paperwork passes through many people for processing and approval (if it doesn’t, then you are open to easy fraud and embezzling).

      • matt314159 says:

        IMHO they *should* have refused it completely in this case. If you’re not going to accept returns on opened items, then….don’t accept returns on opened items. I then could have thrown it on craigslist for $125 and recouped most of my money that way.

    • coren says:

      While what you say is true, there was still 93 dollars taken out of the purchase after that. Unless you mean to imply that they’ll be selling this reader now for 100 or less, that’s still ridiculous

  8. Mackinstyle1 says:

    I could only wish the BBB works that fast (or at all).

    • BBBB says:

      BBB works great when dealing with a company that cares about image and community relations. A company that uses high pressure salesmen and the customer doesn’t have time to do research doesn’t care.

      A BBB complaint is like an executive e-mail carpet bomb – it goes to someone who can look at the complaint and has the power to do something. Company management style and policy determines what happens next [either laugh at another sucker or jump to make the customer happy].

    • coren says:

      I used it to get Amazon to issue me a credit to my seller account when they violated their own rules to refund someone who was scamming a purchase. I called a dozen times, sent countless emails- nothing worked but the BBB complaint.

  9. Ximoxion says:

    I have no idea why people shop at Overstock.com. Do people just really knee jerk react to a name like this? Just because they claim to sell overstock doesn’t mean it is cheaper. Nearly everytime I look at Overstock.com I am readily able to find it not only cheaper elsewhere, but considerably cheaper elsewhere. Like over $120 less by purchasing a patio umbrella and weight from Amazon instead.

    • baquwards says:

      I just bought a faucet from overstock for $58, amazon wanted $97 and some of their resellers wanted $120.

      I have gotten some excellent deals from overstock and their cheap shipping makes the deal even sweeter.

      I wouldn’t just assume that overstock has the best price, but they often do.

  10. matt314159 says:

    Hey, I’m the guy who wrote in about the Sony Reader. Just a couple more comments:
    1) in a sense, I am surprised consumerist still ran the article, because of the fact that overstock.com did make things right for me. But I do have a problem with the fact that they tried their shenanigans in the first place. And I also said I wasn’t sure if it was the BBB complaint that had anything to do with it or not (see below)

    2) Reading complaintsboard and others, it seems Overstock’s M.O. is to look for ways to ridiculously reduce the refund price. A common theme is that when people return clothes that did not fit, or were the wrong color, overstock returns dept claims they found “a hair” on the item, and then whacks 1/3 or more off the refund price. I also think overstock.com has someone who monitors the BBB complaints. It seemed to be a recurring theme that within just a couple days of people filing the BBB claim, Overstock jumps through hoops to fix their problem. That’s why I thought there was a *chance* it did make a difference, and why I went right for the big guns…I did *not* want a protracted, 2-week email ping-pong session. I also made sure to immediately update my complaint at the Utah BBB letting them know that overstock.com worked with me to settle the matter. But, IMHO, the very fact that they tried this in the first place, tells me they have a problem with their returns policy. If you’re going to have a restocking fee, it needs to be posted. If you’re going to reduce the refund, a rough schedule of the reductions should be posted to give the buyer an idea of what to expect.

    I read their return policy, and I actually didn’t expect the item to get a full refund, because it was open. I could have lived with a 10 or 20% restocking fee on the refurbished product, which would have resulted in a refund deduction of $15 to $30. Instead they deducted 65% off the top for the missing cable and the opened merchandise, refunded that amount, and considered the matter closed. I’m fully aware that my own screw-up caused this whole frakas, and that they’re a for-profit business, not the Salvation Army, but the way they initially handled things seemed 9 kinds of wrong.

    I do give them credit for working with me so quickly on resolving things. I daresay, I would likely buy from them again. Just so long as it’s on a product I don’t expect I might want to return. At the time I purchased the product, Overstock was indeed the best price, even taking into account used items on eBay.

    • BStu78 says:

      You didn’t return them something they could sell. You only returned some of it. It was your responsibility as the customer to ensure you returned the item in full. You got an awfully generous refund considering you returned something they could not sell but which was not defective. The fault in this case was entirely yours. Did you even try to contact Overstock and offer to resend the rest of the item you failed to return before you complained to the BBB? The company made no error. YOU did. It shouldn’t be their responsibility to fix your mistake. That’s YOUR responsibility. Instead you got someone else to fix it for you so you wouldn’t suffer any real consequence from your mistake. I don’t think this is a fair resolution at all. You deprived Overstock of an item they could sell by your inability to properly return an item. You may not get why that’s wrong, but I sure do. Maybe Overstock screws over customers on returns, but your case certainly isn’t an example.

      • matt314159 says:

        An awful lot of caps, considering I was the first to admit I goofed up. They should not have accepted the return AT ALL. THEY never gave ME the chance to return the missing item, or refuse the refund. If I walk into wal-mart and they offer me a 35% refund on an item, I have the right to say, “hell, no!” and walk back out with my own item. In this case they’re in possession of the item, and get to call all the shots. If they’re going to charge a restocking fee, they need to put out a schedule of fees so the customer knows what to expect (ballpark) in a variety of situations. Don’t just accept the item, refund a pittance, and then call the matter closed. I did what I thought was necessary to settle the matter, based on the experiences of others that I’d read about. I didn’t want to sit here and play email ping-pong for two weeks waiting for somebody to hear me out.

        Furthermore, I’ve said more than once, I’m surprised this story ran, because it’s kind of a non-issue now that they fixed the problem. But, like I said, I think the very fact that they tried this in the first place speaks volumes about the changes that need to be made. I’d envision a refund system that shoots the user an email saying, “we’ve inspected the item, here’s the estimated refund. Accept? If you reject, you will be billed for the return shipping of your item.

        • baquwards says:

          Do you realize how many people it would take to email everyone who screwed up their return, hold the product to the side while they wait for a response from everyone who screwed up their return, and then wait for the part to show up and match it to the product that is in a warehouse somewhere? They sell to millions of people daily, this would be a logistical nightmare.

          They want to deal with each return once and be done with it.

          I assume that they are not putting a high value on this cable, but it just may be a set percentage for missing accessories.

          • matt314159 says:

            “Do you realize how many people it would take …”
            not that many, we live in the information age, it doesn’t take a person to send an email anymore. It could be a mostly automated system. It would only be a portion of all returns that go into this queue, (only the partial refunds) and, since they already have to inspect it anyway, the marginal additional burden would be small.

            • baquwards says:

              who initiates those e-mails, the robots that are inspecting the packages?

              It shouldn’t cost a company any extra money to process your return, if it does, the customer should help foot the bill. You returned a product with a missing accessory (that worked perfectly fine). They had to have someone in the warehouse “pick” the product and prepare it for shipping, then it was shipped. They had to pay someone to receive your product back, inspect it and issue the refund. Even with them keeping your $2.95 shipping charge, they are still likely getting the short end of the stick. Now they have to do something with said product, either prepare to sell it as a refurb, or send it back to the manufacturer. Now add to that having to e-mail you, hold the product until you respond to the e-mail and maybe wait for you to mail the accessory back to them. Do that a couple hundred times a day per warehouse and you have a lot of preventable expense.

              • matt314159 says:

                I disagree…it’s part of the cost of doing business.

                • baquwards says:

                  You probably would feel differenly if you were a business owner and it was others costing you money with their carelessness.

                  Too many people share your same attitude, one of entitlement, that everyone else needs to take responsibility for their mistakes. You showed that by writing consumerist and the bbb before allowing overstock a chance to make things right for you.

                • baquwards says:

                  You probably would feel differenly if you were a business owner and it was others costing you money with their carelessness.

                  Too many people share your same attitude, one of entitlement, that everyone else needs to take responsibility for their mistakes. You showed that by writing consumerist and the bbb before allowing overstock a chance to make things right for you.

        • BStu78 says:

          So that’s a no. You didn’t bother responding to the company directly before you ran to the BBB to complain.

          I have an actual problem with a company, which isn’t my fault, and I still followed the Consumerist suggestion of exhausting all of my options to resolve the problem directly with the company. You made no effort whatsoever to try to resolve a problem of your own making before you escalate outside of the company. There are countless stories here of consumers who spent enormous effort trying to resolve problems not of their making, and you made no effort whatsoever to resolve a problem of YOUR own making? Give me a break. In this own thread there are consumers with more sympathetic problems with Overstock. You were in the wrong here and you didn’t take appropriate steps to rectify the error before going nuclear in your escalation as your first action.

      • buckeyegoose says:

        BS, Overstock could clearly sell the item still as a open box, missing cables. Could of handled it like Best Buy does and ding 10-20% off, mark the item as open box, sold as is, missing cable and recouped 70-80% of the original price it was sold to by the OP.

        Also overstock could of sent an email saying hey we got the item back, but it was missing the cable, if you send us the cable within the next 7 days it wont effect your refund.

    • JMILLER says:

      Base don this, Overstock was supposed to devote labor hours to seeing what would YOU want to do, when YOU did not return the entire package. The fact that your reasoning behind returning it would justify withholding 50% of your money at least, then shipping, and not returning it in full, seems to me the original return was beyond fair. Your excuse is like a woman returning a dress she wore to a party and saying, it didn’t get my husband excited. The reader worked exactly as it was designed, but YOU can’t handle it. I know there is no place in the world you could try one of these out.
      I think there should be a BCB (Better Consumers Bureau) for consumers who feel entitled. TO top it off, overstock actually made it BETTER for you than is even reasonable. So you start bitching to everybody before you even discuss it with them. Good job. YOU are exactly why companies need to take such strict measures on returns and the rest of us pay, because you feel entitled.

      What pisses me off even more is having to defend Overstock, since these right wing nut jobs are the bane of the world.

      • matt314159 says:

        Are you crazy? you think they should get to keep the Reader, AND 65% of the original purchase price (and that’s NOT including the shipping both ways, which I paid). The original return ($44.00 of a $147 item) was “Beyond Fair”? Eat sand, jerk.

    • brinks says:

      I don’t understand why you’re being bashed by some of these commenters.

      You take responsibility for not putting everything back in the box. Your original refund was an unacceptable amount and in no way reflected the deduction that shoud be taken for an open box or missing cable. You did your homework and found that the BBB seems to be the best way to get anything resolved. You contacted them and, soon enough, you were offered an acceptable amount back.

      Lesson learned: make sure all the damn parts are in the box before you ship it back.

  11. mdoneil says:

    You left parts out and expected a full refund.

    Must be nice to have the world revolve around you.

    • MMD says:

      Did you even read the article?

    • Traveller says:

      Where did he say he expected a full refund? The cable runs anywhere from $2 (what I paid for one) to about $10. My expectation? My refund would be reduced by $2 to $10, not $90. I can’t speak for the OP, but I would think his expectation would be very similar to mine.

      Please tell me where such a cable costs over $90 so I can avoid shopping there?

    • DowneMixedBoi says:

      +1

      Return everything = REFUND
      Return with parts missing = Partial refund

      • Traveller says:

        He NEVER expected a full refund for leaving the cable out. The AMOUNT of the refund he took issue with, and I don’t blame him. Docking him over $90 for what amounts to a $2 cable is absolutely ridiculous.

        Obviously, there is a reading comprehension issue here.

  12. DowneMixedBoi says:

    Should have returned everything.
    Not their problem you didn’t make sure to included everything that came with the item.

    People who “forget” to include accessories when returning stuff are the reason prices don’t drop faster than they should.

    • ajlei says:

      You must not have read the article.

      • DowneMixedBoi says:

        What did I miss? He didn’t return everything that was shipped with the unit and got charged a fee. Regardless of what the fee amount was, The return policy clearly states you need to return EVERYTHING that comes with an item, Including the retail packaging.

        He forgot to send something back. They didn’t contact him to say “HEY,by the way I know your the one who wanted to return the item, but you forgot to return an accessory thats included in the package.”

        Not Overstocks responsibility to reiterate that EVERYTHING must be returned.

        He only got the problem fixed after crying.

        Did you not read it? or?

    • runswithscissors says:

      “I never forget anything therefore I blame the OP”

  13. JANSCHOLL says:

    I purchased a cd player about 10 years ago from Overstock based on the fact it was labeled NEW not a refurb. It busted in 92 days. I contacted them and they informed me it was an AS IS/Refurb purchase and therefore only a 90 day guarentee even tho I had a capture of the screen at that time when I purchased the item. Inside was the warranty card saying 1 year. Even Panasonic would not help me as Overstock does such BS to customers it was probably opened or a switch out by them. I was not offered even a return option. This company is big on scams and maybe people are waking up to them. I see they are in big time financial problems right now. Serves them right.

  14. ajlei says:

    So I guess based on some commenter’s logic, when I went into the Apple store the other day to swap out my defective iPhone headphones for some new ones, they had to remove them from another iPhone box and thus can’t sell that iPhone and I should have paid them for a second iPhone.

    http://www.overstock.com/Electronics/Mini-5-Pin-USB-Data-Cable-A-B/2079086/product.html

    Under three dollars.

    The OP already admitted he was in the wrong as far as forgetting the cable, but since most places don’t even process returns without all the parts, Overstock should have contacted him before processing the return.

  15. dprowitz says:

    Having worked sales years ago at a large electronics retailer, I can say with near certainty that they wouldn’t have been stuck with an item they couldn’t sell. Worst case, it’s sold as “open box” with missing part(s) at a discounted price, and a deal hunter picks up the missing cable for a few bucks or uses an extra cable from their junk drawer.

    If the retailer doesn’t want to deal with reselling it, it just gets sent back to their supplier as “defective.” Manufacturer checks it out, cleans it up, and sells it as a refurb through one of many outlets.

    Don’t feel too bad for overstock.com. As frustrating as returns were for me (I knew for a fact that mobile scanner sales on a race weekend would be returned the following Monday, or 6 FRS radios to the family who’s popup camper is parked outside the store…yeah, see ya when you come back from vacation), it was just part of doing business. I do have to admit though that I kinda enjoyed making some customers sweat upon the item’s return. They’d come in with box & receipt in hand and an elaborate story of how the item didn’t work right. Expecting a quick refund for their “defective” item, their jaws would practically drop when I’d open the box, pop in fresh batteries, and specifically check out their stated problem. When the item obviously worked fine, many would admit that they just wanted their money back, to which I’d explain the restocking fee & issue the refund.

    Now, before anyone starts throwing stones for seeming the “evil” salesperson deriving pleasure at the expense of consumers, I’d like to think of myself as one of the “good guys” to encounter. Much to my manager’s chagrin, I had a reputation as one who wouldn’t up sell if it didn’t benefit my customer. As a natural troubleshooter, I’d prefer to spend 10 minutes listening to a customer’s need and determine that they didn’t need to buy anything from me, that they just needed instructions to use what they already had. Didn’t help my commission rate, but I had a large group of loyal customers who knew me as someone would would honestly take care of them.

    Zinging Matt something for the missing cable was appropriate given that the item was not returned “complete,” but the original amount was a bit over the top.

  16. TimothyT says:

    They already had the opportunity to not charge $93 for a $4 cable. That’s theft in my book.

  17. Dalsnsetters says:

    I like the part where they withheld the cost of the label from his refund.

    • matt314159 says:

      I’m actually fine with that: When you initiate the returns process, you can either ship it completely at your expense, or for $5 and change, you can print out a prepaid label, and they tell you up-front that it will be taken out of the refund. So that part is totally fair. And the $4.28 deduction was because I used a $5 off $150 coupon I found online, which was then split between that and an extended warranty I bought for it (and later returned as well, without incident). But it was the $93 deduction I took issue with.

  18. bethofvt says:

    No surprise to me at all. I bought one item only from Overstock.com. I purchased a coffee maker that made single cups of coffee and had two stainless steel travel mugs with it. what I received was a dented, ratty cardboard box, sealed with silver duct tape. I was absolutely shocked by the package before opening it and it was worse when I opened it. All the parts were just thrown into the box. No instructions. I couldn’t even figure out how to put it together, so I requested a return authorization. I returned it and a month later after repeated calls and emails, was finally awarded a “store credit” to use with Overstock.com. I had told them repeatedly throughout the process that I would NEVER do business with them again and they had the nerve to send a store credit. And that is where it ended. I paid for a coffee maker and have nothing for my money. And I tell everyone I know not to do business with them.