Enter Zynga

First off – I’m a techno/web-savvy guy. Should I have known about this? How this works? How you can prevent it? Sure, yes, maybe. I’m not really sure I thought through my expectations on the matter. I guess I just assumed that downloading a free game would not allow my kid to spend money on my credit card. I was wrong. It does. I can also confirm that most iPhone owning parents I know don’t understand this either.

In the end it’s my fault for not paying attention to the entire process. Ignorance is no excuse. Still, given that 100% of the parents in the admittedly small sample that I’ve spoken too don’t know this either I would say we’ve got a problem that is going to continue.

I’ve seen a few other posts on this around the web with your typical hate-spewing anonymous commenters scolding parents for letting their “kids” “play” with an expensive electronic device. My guess – they don’t have kids.

The real issue for me right now is simply this:

I want my money back and FarmVille/Zynga doesn’t want to give it to me.

Here is the first email I sent them (knowing what I know – that I would have to publish all this – I would have tried to be wittier and more forceful etc etc etc). Of course, I thought a refund would be easy

10:00 AM EST – July 28th (quickly followed by another email with another receipt

My six year old just bought two purchases of Farmville cash on his own. I think his older brother figured out the password.

I would like the account canceled and the money refunded.

There are two purchases in question.
1) 39.99
2) 49.99

Screeenshots attached. We will not be playing the game until we see the refunds.

Response: July 31st at 3:00 AM

Hello Douglas,

Thank you for contacting Zynga.

While I understand the concern regarding charges incurred through the unauthorized use of your card, unfortunately since our records indicate that this person is known to you these charges do not meet the level of credit card fraud we would require to initiate a reversal of charges.

With your permission however, I will go ahead and put a block on the account that was used in the unauthorized transactions. This may not protect you against usage of this kind with other vendors, but it should give you some peace of mind by ensuring that the account will not be used again at Zynga.

Please respond with your approval to take this action on your behalf with the first six and last four digits of the card that was used.
Thank you for your patience.

Kind regards,
Anthony A
Zynga Customer Support

Summary: No, no money back. But we’ll be happy to make sure you don’t spend any more

My Response:

This is not acceptable.

This is a transaction that by a six year old that was unapproved by his parents.
The money is spent on goods that, although virtual, will not be used. Clearly there is no stated “No Refunds” policy anywhere in the purchase process.

I have taken steps to insure that the account will not be used – now I need you to return the money for unused goods just like any other commercial establishment.

Discover Card:
First six : xxxxxx
Last Four: xxxx
Thank you for your prompt attention to the matter.
Sincerely,
My Name

Zynga Response : August 2nd 1AM

Hello Douglas,

Thank you for contacting Zynga.

This is Anthony. I understand your frustration regarding these charges. Unfortunately, as I stated since our records indicate that this person is known to you these charges do not meet the level of credit card fraud we would require to initiate a reversal of charges.
I have provided our terms of purchase for you to look over. It states inside how all purchases are final.
Answer Title: What are Zynga’s Terms of Purchase?
Answer Link: http://zynga.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/35

I have gone ahead and escalated this issue to our higher billing department to protect against card usage.
Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Kind regards,
Anthony A
Zynga Customer Support

Ah, I see. I should have known about the terms of service that are not visible in the purchase process. I’m sure my six year old could make sense of that.

Now, I understand the difficulties with digital purchases and refunds. If I buy an MP3 or rent a movie the assumption would be that I’ve consumed the goods and it would be unwise business practice to refund them.

In this case though we have goods that, though virtual, can be returned if Zynga would allow that to happen.

Apparently, they will not allow this to happen. Perhaps this is the dirty secret of FarmVille growth?

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