Who's absorbing the cost?

The other day I purchased a couple of albums from HMV.

Got them home and discovered that one album (with two discs) was damaged

The damagewas to both discs and looked identical, it was though they had been jammed into a thin slot and had pressure applied to actally bend them.

I returned them to the same HMV store only to be told that I could either
  • Get a gift certificate
  • Get an in store credit
  • Exchange for another album of equal or greater value
  • BUT Refunding my money was against corporate policy
So I contacted HMV and got the same reply.

They also said they had no option because the Record companies refuse to take back damaged goods

However, most other stores I deal with do offer refunds on damaged albums.

My point to HMV - even if I exchanged the album they would still be left with an album they could not sell and would have to write off. So they could actually give me a refund and glean a lot of customer goodwill, but instead chose to alienate me.

Sometimes corporations cannot see the wood for the bottom line.

So who does absorb the cost if not the record company 
  1. The distributor
  2. The retailer
  3. The store
  4. The customer, i.e. built into the price of each album
#4 you say? That's what I believe

Thanks in advance 😩
It is a very common policy among retailers that any opened media (vinyl, CD, DVD, game software, etc.) can only be exchanged. Refunds are only available when it is unopened with factory seals intact. Sorry, no idea where cost of returns is absorbed.
tls49 - With games, DVD's, CD's etc... - i.e.all electronic formats, most stores won't even take them back for exchange once opened - since they can be copied easily via a computer.

But vinyl? most people don't possess the gear to record vinyl these days - except audiophiles of course :-)

So lets treat All products the same? Guess that the easy way out.

We are in a time when corporate policy is decided by a bunch of inexperienced dweebs that have no clue about customer relationship building.

Someone is eating the cost of damaged albums - who is it?

No wonder Costco is growing so fast - don't like it? take it back for a full refund. I'll go back there anytime

Can't wait for them to sell vinyl :-)


Ultimately, in any commercial venture, the customer absorbs all cost.

Just as stores raise their prices to cover shop-lifting, damage costs, transit costs, maintenance costs, etc., ALL costs are passed on to the consumer.
Refunds are only available when it is unopened with factory seals intact.
That’s true, but in the past a customer with a defective record was sometimes given a refund depending on the store’s policy. Defective product was returned to the distributor for credit.

Since the resurgence of vinyl, record labels will not take back an album for any reason. The burden is on the consumer and the individual vendor. Music Direct would not even exchange a defective Zeppelin LP for me, whereas Amazon has no problem doing so.
I agree that the cost is built into the price of each album. Have you noticed the price of new vinyl continues to rise?
Willie, understand what you are saying, but return policies are usually made for categories, not for specific items. Like jmc says, all costs are included in the final selling price to the consumer.

Music Direct took back a defective (dished) Classic Records Zeppelin album from me. It was an exchange for a new one -this was when they first came out. Don't know what their policy is these days.
@dweller ,
Music Direct told me they considered vinyl records as software. So we went back and forth with emails, but they wouldn’t budge.
Now I have a worn out LZ I from the early 70’s and a defective remastered LZ I.

I'll bet they were getting too many returns with defects.
Also agree with @jmcgrogan2 - the customer absorbs the cost.  While recording vinyl is not a "thing" these days, it was back in my college days when I worked at a local record store.  Remember cassettes?  We would only exchange damaged records for the exact same album.  Otherwise you had people buy the album, record it, scratch it and bring it back for a refund.  No idea if the record store (it was a chain) got their money back - we shipped them back to the warehouse.
I asked Barnes and Noble what their policy was. The salesman said an LP can be returned for only the same LP. If that same LP was not in stock, they would order it. So I would say HMV has a decent policy where you could switch to a different LP. I just bought Saucerful of Secrets @ HMV in Canada, so it's good to know I have options. Music Direct and Acoustic Sounds are doing a different thing, which is why I like to give them my business when possible.
In my experience, Acoustic Sounds has been wonderful about exchanging defective vinyl.  I buy a lot from  them, and on the rare occasion that I have a problem, they have been courteous and prompt in rectifying things.
Agreed with JMcGrogan2.  Ultimately the consumer pays for costs as they are passed down.  So perhaps the record store will replace the defective product but will eventually raise prices to cover refunds/exchanges.  Kind of like how politicians like to use smoke and mirrors when they claim they are taxing "big business."  Snicker.

What steps did you take to obtain HMV's return policy before purchase?

I always inquire as to the return policy of any retailer before making a purchase.  There are some retailers in my area with no return policy, as in "all sales final."  In fact, when the owner of one of these retailers told me of this policy he -- unbelievably to me -- actually said that in his experience any record returned by a customer had actually been damaged by the customer, i.e., there is no such thing as a defective record from the manufacturer.  Now, I know that "we" all know that this is "hogwash."  But, because I understand this retailer's policy, if I make any purchases from them, they are minor in terms of dollar amounts.

OTOH.  I also patronize another retailer that offers "100% satisfaction guaranteed."  They get the bulk of my purchases.  In fact, I just placed an order with them today.

So who does absorb the cost if not the record company
  1. The distributor
  2. The retailer
  3. The store
  4. The customer, i.e. built into the price of each album
#4 you say? That's what I believe

My simple answer is -- I don't give a truck.
If not customer than perhaps IRS darn.
This is probably an incomplete answer since I was never involved in the distribution side, but in the old days, the major labels ate the cost of defects and returns and probably pushed back against the pressing plants if there were defective pressings; the inventory was distributed to major chains directly by the big labels and through jobbers and one stops to smaller retailers. My memory is, Casablanca Records crashed and burned, not only because of extravagant spending but because when "disco" music  suddenly died, the label had to eat all the returns. The old style recording artist contracts always had provisions for deductions from royalties for returns, not just defects. The artist didn't get paid if the record company suffered returns.
I suspect with the change in the record industry business model- and particularly vinyl- which is generally viewed as a boutique sideline at best- the inventory is sold on the basis of no returns--often these pressings are more limited in number, they aren't going back for re-pressings, and unless there is some major defect that affects a broad number of copies, the label isn't going to want to hear about it. The retailer will probably eat it as a matter of customer goodwill. 
I don't understand how the (lack of) quality control exists in multiple plants like this will all the defective pressings.
I remember the Old Days. Defective record ; you got a new copy of the same record. Do not ever remember getting refunds. I am a long time customer of Music Direct ( lived 20min. walk- 5min drive ) now they moved, 1/2 hr drive. Never a problem w/anything.
From the retailers named in the comments, I gather that most of the commentators in this thread buy their vinyl at a distance, using the internet or an 800 number.  When a record store is available, it does have one advantage in dodging defective records (or discs):  you can unseal and examine the album in the store in front of the salesperson.  The surface should be pristine.  If there's any question about a defect, a player should be available to test it.

I occasionally bought used CDs at Amoeba in LA.  Because the inventory was used, it was mostly unsealed, and there was no problem with examining the disc before you purchased.  Sometimes Amoeba would reseal albums that it considered to be in very good physical condition.  I wasn't persuaded, so whenever I considered a resealed album, I asked the salesperson to open the album so I could examine it.  I distinctly remember rejecting potential purchases on two occasions.

This is why I support my local record store. I'm rather lucky that here in Columbus, OH we have 5 or so locally owned shops. I'm in them enough that if there is an issue with a record they replace them. If they don't have any more copies they will usually offer me a refund, probably knowing I'm going to purchase something else anyway. 
HMV's policy is irrelevant.  You purchased good playable discs - they did not provide them.

Dispute the charge on your credit card.  If HMV doesn't like it, let them take you to small claims court.  You can also complain to your state attorney general's office of consumer protection.
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My local record store said that their distributor refused to take returns. This is the reason that I only buy new vinyl at Amazon or Elusive Disk now. The manual nature of record pressing increases the changes for blemishes, I'll only deal with a company that stands by their merchandise. 
This is probably an incomplete answer since I was never involved in the distribution side, but in the old days, the major labels ate the cost of defects and returns and probably pushed back against the pressing plants if there were defective pressings;
That's my understanding of how it worked it the golden days of vinyl records. My friend owned a shop and had a bin that contained defective records that were sent back to the distributor.
Another friend worked at Tower, and the same policy applied; defective records were shipped back. (1970's thru 80's).

Refunds were given if defects were found in the same batch of records the store received; e.g., returning a record that had clicks or pops, exchanging it, and finding the replacement had the same problem. These were the shops that would open an LP for you and play it and/or inspect it.
My local record store said that their distributor refused to take returns.
That's what I've been told by several venders. That's why in today's music business model, the consumer always loses.
(Well, the artists also lose, but that's another story).
These were the shops that would open an LP for you and play it and/or inspect it
That must have been way back, when staff actually possessed the knowledge of what to look for.

I think this is one reason companies adopt certain policies and procedures - it eliminates the need train their staff.

From the postings above it would seem that some companies - probably the smaller ones - are prepared to refund on damaged products in order to keep their customers, whereas the large companies, like HMV simply adopt a policy that keeps the money in their coffers.

Corporate greed rears it’s ugly head yet again :-(

Randy-11: disputing the charge is one avenue, but it lacks awareness on HMV’s part. After all, it’s just one of their bean-counters that deals with disputes

The primary reason for the OP was to keep the people that actually buy vinyl informed about their policy and practices.

And just perhaps, someone from HMV will get to read this thread?

We all live in hope:-)


That must have been way back, when staff actually possessed the knowledge of what to look for.
That's right. These were people who loved and lived vinyl.
I honestly don't recall returning that many records due to defects back in the day- I'm sure they existed and I'm sure I returned some. I had "serious" gear starting in 1973 or so, and I'm confident that if a record didn't play or track well, I wouldn't have been happy. But, I also think a couple things have happened- the quality of the mainstream pressings went down, as the market was near zero for a while, and the "audiophile" labels filled the gap for many of us, or classical or jazz collectibles. At that point, we (or at least I) was buying used for the most part- so the standards changed in what to look for and expect. I also think our expectations are higher- folks who stuck with vinyl as a medium got more knowledgeable, and I suspect those who came back to it had greater expectations for quiet, gremlin free playback. I also bought a lot more vinyl after The Death of Vinyl (tm) than I did when it was in its heyday - so, in addition to used, old or cut-out copies as a factor, I'm simply seeing more copies come through with whatever degree of warts they suffer from. 
I've also had few problems with returns etc in current times (e.g. the last ten years). I buy far fewer brand new records than old ones, but when there is a defect in a new record, i return it. From a private seller, there is almost always a refund- eBay or Discogs. From the "usual" suspects, e.g. Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds, they have been pretty accommodating  in the instances where I have had an issue. I don't really have a problem taking a credit rather than a refund since it is likely that I'll wind up buying another record along the way. 
I assume the policy of credit rather than refund is simple economics for the business. Assuming they can't return the defective pressing in most cases, the retailer "eats" it, but wants to retain the profit from the sale to the extent the remedy they offer is a replacement or a credit for a different record. That costs them less (since they are paying a wholesale or lower price) than the full retail price of the record. 
I'm not suggesting a defeatist attitude, or "that's the way things are"- but I don't get that twisted about any of this- I go through a lot of records. My main concern is the pricey rare stuff. If that isn't up to snuff, grade wise, I will be disappointed, but that's rarely happened. It isn't just luck. I engage the seller before I buy in communications via their website or the aggregation platform, get a sense of their knowledge and how critical they are- for an expensive record, I'll often want play grading, but even that is subjective. Yeah, I've had some M- records that weren't really close to mint, but I've also had VG+ or EX that are superb. And every once in a while, I will get a rare pressing, and one that appears to have never been played. So, it all evens out for me in the end. 

Very true about there being few defects in the "golden era" of vinyl records. I only remember problems when they were manufacturing those ultra-thin LPs that could warp, or music would bleed thru grooves. There was also a period of using inferior quality vinyl, (1980’s, I think).

As for new vinyl, look at the many threads regarding defects.
Low- oil crisis stuff was pretty bad in the U.S., but most of them still played. I have an original SOS label pressing of Lynyrd Skynyrd "Pronounced" with paper flecks embedded into the vinyl from regrind, but it still plays nicely. Go figure. (I did discover that a ubiquitous MCA later pressing, with no discernible "secret" code actually sounded better than the Sounds of the South labelled one, but the SOS is cool, just for what it was). Al Kooper ’n s---. :)
I have experienced more defects in "so called" audiophile grade pressings, i.e. 150-180 gram vinyl, than I ever did in the regular thickness pressings, including...
- serious warps
- metal shards embedded in the grooves
- groove defects that cause skipping
- serious scratches due to improper handling

The only "defect" I had from the much lighter pressings from yester-year were...
- slight warps - not really worth returning
- and a couple of albums that were scratched and returned

My vinyl from the 70’s-80’s still play extremely well - bar a few clicks and pops

Guys - Isn’t this going in the wrong direction?

With newer technology we should be getting fewer errors not more.

Just Sayin :-(

Willie- the problem is, at least on the pressing side, it isn't newer technology. Most of the presses are old- many were resuscitated after years of being offline. Yes, folks like Chad have, in the process, added some computer assisted monitoring for temperature, but the equipment itself had already been through a long working life. Then add the following additional factors- how many people are around who know how to work on and maintain these presses? And further, how many of the folks today working in the plants have long experience pressing records? I'm sure there are a few, who are helping manage the operation, but there's something to be said for familiarity with the process learned over years of doing it. (I'm aware that there are some new presses coming on line- is it GZ?--but most audiophiles don't seem to like the GZ pressings or the ones that come from the old CBS plant in the Netherlands. Not because of pressing quality itself, but because a lot of the records they make are sourced from digital files due to the choice of the label/producer). 
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Always pay by credit card.  If the seller refuses to provide assistance when an item is proven to be defxtive, then immediately contact your cc company and begin a chargeback.

HMV policy seems reasonable to me.   You have the option of exchanging for another copy.    You purchased the record because you wanted it.....why would an offer to replace a defective copy be insufficient compensation ?