Selling with money-back guarantees: The impact on prices, quantities, and retail profitability
In this paper, we consider a retailer adopting a “money-back-guaranteed” (MBG) sales policy, which allows customers to return products that do not meet their expectations to the retailer for a full or partial refund. The retailer either salvages returned products or resells them as open-box items at a discount. We develop a model in which the retailer decides on the quantity to procure, the price for new products, the refund amount, as well as the price of returned products when they are sold as open-box. Our model captures important features of MBG sales including demand uncertainty, consumer valuation uncertainty, consumer returns, the sale of returned products as open-box items, and consumer choice between new and returned products and possibility of exchanges when restocking is considered. We show that selling with MBGs increases retail sales and profit. Furthermore, the second-sale opportunity created by restocking returned products enables the retailer to generate additional revenues. Our analysis identifies the ideal conditions under which this practice is most beneficial to the retailer. Offering an MBG without restocking increases the new product price. We show that if the retailer decides to resell the returned items as open-box, the price of the new product further increases, while open-box items are sold at a discount. On the other hand, customers enjoy more generous refunds along with lower restocking fees. The opportunity to resell returned products also generally decreases the initial stocking levels of the retailer. Our extensive numerical study substantiates the analytical results and sharpens our insights into the drivers of performance of MBG policies and their impact on retail decisions.
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