UPDATE: 1/9/2014: Bitpay responded to my request about this topic. They do not offer a return function yet, but are working on it. In other news, Overstock.com began accepting Bitcoin today. Their return policy, while not stated on their website, is to issue store credit in USD for all Bitcoin purchases. This differs from their return policy, which offers full refunds in certain cases.
Original Post 12/12/2013:
As far as I can tell, Coinbase makes accepting payment of merchandise from customers very easy, but returns? For businesses, processing payments to the customer for return merchandise is complicated.
Coinbase does not yet have easily customizable merchant tools for processing customer returns like they do for processing customer purchases. So, to refund a customer, merchants will have to log into their main Coinbase account and initiate a Send to the customer. This poses several risks:
1. If staff are all given the company Coinbase login info, they will be able to see all financial data related to bitcoin transactions for said business.
2. If the computer at the checkout counter is in view of customers, customers may potentially be able to see company bitcoin financial data on screen once the staff is logged in.
There is no easy way to just refund an order. You have to look up and cross reference the order with the customer’s receipt, then initiate a send, and make sure you enter the correct email address or wallet address. This is greatly subject to human error.
I thought I had found a short-term solution…Coinbase has an option to require a customer email address to be collected for all purchases. The problem? This email does not show up in the Orders page of Coinbase. So, you cannot cross reference the email address with the order. Where did the email address record go? It went in the receipt of the order which arrived in the email inbox for the account associated with Coinbase. So, now you can try to find a record of this by digging through the inbox of the linked Coinbase email address, and then you still have to log in to Coinbase and initiate a Send. As part of this process, you would have to manually enter the email address and the amount from the email. One time when I tried this, the email field arrived blank in the receipt. Not only is all of this a logistical nightmare for a busy staff, but so much human error can occur.
CoinNEO’s recommendation today: A trusted staff member will look up the data and carefully initiate a manual Send to the customer’s email address or deposit address. Also:
1. If the store is not too busy, assist the customer right away and take as much time as is needed to ensure the return is processed correctly.
2. If the store is too busy, request a receipt and the email address associated with the purchase. Process the returns later when the store is closed or not too busy. Yes, the customer may have to wait a day – but that is still far less of a wait than a debit/credit card refund, and safer for all parties.
In the future, it would be great if Coinbase could:
1. Include the email in the Orders page, and a search function for the Orders page.
2. Include a “refund” button on each order, and have the options to:
– Refund to the email address on file at purchase.
– Scan a customer’s deposit address QR of choice.
3. Develop ability to issue content-restricted staff login accounts.
Perhaps this functionality could be created using the Coinbase API’s transactions tools already, but not everyone has resources for sophisticated web development. It would be nice if it could be as easy as the customizable payment tools they already provide under Coinbase’s Merchant Tools section.
Human error is so important to mitigate as best as possible. Remember, bitcoins cannot be double-spent, cancelled, or reversed – just like cash. There are no 3rd party trusts to dispute a claim with, or third party insurance security. If it goes to the wrong email address or wallet address, there is a high likelihood that money is gone forever.
I am confident these issues will be resolved sooner or later. These merchant tools are still so new, and innovation is happening at great speed. These are the growing pains we all must endure and explore if we want to help make this a truly viable global payment option for business.
For now, returns are a meticulous, manual process, at least with Coinbase.