Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging

Microsoft says returns okay on opened Surface RT product packaging

Summary: Microsoft has reached out to ZDNet and assured us that if you buy a Surface RT and return it in good condition within the time allotted, the return will be accepted.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

The other day, Ed Bott and I were discussing the Surface RT. I was working on my former RT user article. He was helping me to understand the error messages RT gives when trying to install desktop applications.

See Also: Three days in the life of a once and former Microsoft Surface RT user

Ed suggested I go out and buy a Surface RT device, and if I didn't like it, I could return it. I declined, telling him I'd just found Microsoft's policy, which says that once opened, the product couldn't be returned. I quoted that policy in my article, and then expressed my concern about it. I also wrote:

I strongly advise Microsoft to play fair and let their stores know that they should allow consumers to return these devices, whether opened or not.

Microsoft reaches out

I've very happy to report that a Microsoft spokesperson reached out to me today and has assured me that returns (subject to time limitations) will be accepted in the Microsoft retail stores and the online store, should you buy a Surface RT and want to return it.

This is excellent news. That said, I am concerned that the wording is still confusing, and that some over-zealous store managers might not honor the return, but I've been assured that Microsoft's policy is to allow returns, as long as you return the device in good condition within the 14- or 30-day window allowed.

I've also been assured that, if an in-store representative doesn't honor the return, you can contact the company and they'll make it right.

The details

Here are the two return policies:

  • If you buy in a brick-and-mortar Microsoft Store, you have 14 days to return the device: return policy.
  • If you buy from, you have 30 days to return the device: return policy.

Here's a picture of the return placard displayed in the stores:


There is still some potential for misinterpretation

Unfortunately, I think the word "opened" as it is used in the stated policies can be subject to misinterpretation. Here's why.

In the published return policies, both the Hardware category, as well as the Boxed Microsoft Software category use the same "provided the item has not been opened" phrase. In software, we know that "opened" means an open box with the shrink wrap removed. We have all been denied a software return because the box has been opened.

The terminology used for hardware purchases is identical to the terminology used for a boxed software purchase, so a typical consumer (and quite probably a sales manager) could easily interpret it the same way -- which might result in a consumer denied a return for opening the box packaging for a Surface RT purchase.

The assurance

Before I was willing to write this article, I asked for assurance that -- in the unlikely event you buy a product, bring it back in time, and are denied a refund -- you will have some recourse. I was promised by the Microsoft spokesperson that if you do run into a snag, you can get help getting the refund.

Let me be clear here, though. Don't come crying to me if you bought your product 15 days ago or 31 days ago and want special treatment. I think a 14- or 30-day returrn policy is perfectly fair, so if you want to try these things out, go ahead. But make sure you get back to the store on time if you want a refund. Also, take care of it and return it in good condition. Don't go giving it to Jason Perlow's wife, for example (gosh, that never gets old).

Can you feel safe?

Short answer: yes.

I do think Microsoft should change its terminology to make it absolutely clear that "the item has not been opened" actually means "you can open the packaging, but please don't pry the case open and play with the shiny parts on the circuit board".

That said, I've always found Microsoft people to be quite honorable in their dealings. I've occasionally had difficulty getting Microsoft to commit to doing something I wanted, but whenever anyone at the company has made a promise, they've always come through. If they say they'll accept returns if you simply try the device and find it won't do what you need, I'm sure that you can trust them.

Don't come crying to me for every little thing, but if you do run into a serious problem, let me know and I'll pass your concern on to the appropriate company representative.


Topics: Windows, Microsoft


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Returns

    They will have a mountain of returns on surface tabs. Junk even for a toy.
    • So Tired of These Kinds of Comments

      "Junk even for a toy." You have no idea what you are talking about, so go back down to mommy's basement and play with your iOS/Android device of choice...

      My apologies to everyone else for feeding the troll...
  • Why would I return?

    My surface is working GREAT!
  • They want...

    they want people to buy them even if its just to play with them and return them... so they can show high sales numbers, and try to make everyone think they are selling well.
  • Not good

    For people consider buying, thinking that they may get their "new" product already touched with somebody's greasy hands, can be a reason not to buy Surface.
  • SC007s reality distortion field

    Entire content of the blog is you can return a Surface. Luckily I live in a country where consumer protection laws allow me to do that anyway, in the very unlikely event I'd want to return the 2 Surfaces I've ordered.

    What is SC007 going to do when the popularity and huge sales of Surface are apparent to everybody?

    Change his displayname and find another barrel to push over a cliff?
    • SC007 may have something...

      I don't know Tony - I have had one for two days now, I am an MCSE and not vendor aligned (use Samsung GS3, MacBook Air, Win7 and ESXi). Mine is going back first thing tomorrow morning. They are not 'beautiful' like a Mac, but that is ok. They are just slow, buggy and their UI is really poorly thought out. It is like running an Android OS as an app on a lighter Win7 GUI, and not a ground-up redesign at all. It might be brand new coding but the UI is just awkward and counter-intuitive.

      It has singly been the most disappointing, saddening and frustrating tech purchase I have made and strongly reminiscent of Microsoft's earliest foray into smart phones.

      I would commit a few hours in a store a month after release on their NEXT version before I will be giving this any more mindspace unfortunately...
      • BS....

        I'm calling bs on this post. My Surface operates in the exact opposite way that you described. Nice try.
        • And the "la-la-la-not-listening" game continues.

          There is no such thing as "universal popularity", and yet anyone saying that they don't like Surface is called a liar.

          What is wrong with everyone?
          • I have to agree

            "What is wrong with everyone".

            There are a handful of the usual names here that for some reason known only to them, anyone who DOES NOT return a Microsoft product is somehow a shill, loser, or soemething worse.

            Their posts are fail after fail, yet they continue to post little more then a three year old would post in reference to the conversation at hand.

            Add to that group the conspierecy theorists, where it was done to fudge the numbers and you get a blog full of "What is wrong with everyone."

            I wonder where the days went when a person purchased a product without fear that some lunitic was going to publicly berate, or physically attacked someone who chose differently then they did?
            John Zern
          • Quite frankly, I disregard almost everything I read in the comments.

            It's all about trust, and there are so few IDs whom I have any respect for. It's impossible even to trust that each ID corresponds to a unique individual. Representative of the general user-base ZD-Net is NOT!
        • That is becaues you are an actual Windows 8 user

          unlike PerthPhil, who I suspect is not who, and what he claims to be.
          John Zern
          • Sorry John

            Exactly who I say I am, not a Microsoft hater at all, I just reckon it is pushed out too soon. I wouldn't rule out purchasing one down the track but they would have to do some serious work before I would add one back to my garage. I have owned every model of HP Elite Book, most smartphones (the entire iPhone lineup) and many before that before moving to SGS2 and S3.

            I don't believe in opening my mouth without being informed (really informed - like owning it and delving deep into it) - so I bought one. I travel a bunch - more than 100 days a year and my hiking experience leaves me chasing ultra-light but a Surface RT should be able to deliver everything I need on the road.

            Sadly it didn't. So the Macbook Air and a SGS3 with two extra batteries will be my travel buddies for foreseeable future.

            It's just that simple! And unlike SC007 (sorry buddy) I don't think it will fail because the Win8 Pro momentum will hold Microsoft in good stead. But I do think his views (in the short term at least) could prove accurate for all but the die hard techies.
    • Tony McSheery you played right into it...

      Count to 10 and not respond...
  • No reason to return a well designed product.

    Software has some rough edges but I convinced a friend (deep in to MS tech) to pick one up.

    The hardware is top rate. Keyboard is really nice. Software still has some rough edges with rotation and virtual keyboard issues. Actually, the virtual keyboard is done right bad.
  • Listen to you people

    You never give up, do you?

    Even after you're eating crow in the face of reports of droves of people waiting in long lines to get their Surface at the malls, even after reports of US and UK preorders selling out before market day #1...

    Now you're on to the next thing.
    "Whull....nevermind that. They'll be returning them like nobody's business!"
    "Read that return policy carefully...they'll screw you"
    "They're doing it for the numbers"
    "You may be getting a used product"

    Sigh, and then when none of this actually happens, you'll think of something else I'm sure...

    "It's all a consipracy! The numbers are made up. It's like the time the government *says* we went to the moon. Yeah right!"
    • yeh...

      all the people MS paid to wait in line to make media attraction so they can be seen like Apple was a good move... but I think about 9 out of 10 people weren't real customers...
      • Fake

        And there's very high chance that the article you've given here is paid.
      • doh123, Tell us what why that article you linked to

        is not fake? Could it be that Apple does not like the attention the Surface is recieving, and are paying to have articles like that written for them?

        Why would a line of Microsoft employees acting as customers tell the media that is why they are there?

        I could stand in an Apple line, and when interviewed claim "I am only here as Apple is paying me to do so, as are many others here".

        I really have to read that article with a grain of salt, or two.
        John Zern
      • I call bullshit

        Read the article.
        Creative journalism at it's best. LOL
        Here are some highlights:

        "Microsoft is being accused of staging huge lines"
        And I'm accusing Apple of mining personal user data from iDevices to 3rd party companies.
        There, it's been said. Now Apple is being accused of that.

        "No hard information was given"
        Ok, so in other words there's no foundation for truthfulness of the matter in the first place. Please do not waste your time here.

        Yet despite this misinformation, you immediately jumped to the conclusion that not only was it true, but that MSFT is PAYING their employees to stand in line. Wow, nice work on the negative spin there rocket gibraltar.

        Oh, and the finishing touch:
        " but I think about 9 out of 10 people weren't real customers"
        Do you?
        Can you offer actual substantial proof to back your opinion?

        ...or is this nonsensical article your only supporting argument?