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.
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.
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 Microsoft.com, 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.
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.