Ubisoft tripped up my kid, and Microsoft won’t help for an insane reason
Update: There’s been a new development in this story.
Almost nine years in, I finally made the classic gamer parent mistake. I’m training a new puppy and being a full-time dad in addition to my career pursuits. To call me “stretched thin” is surely an understatement. As we brought the dog in from a potty trip outside, I saw an opportunity for a potty trip of my own. We’ve been playing The Crew: Motorfest and really enjoying it (before this week), so when my son asked to drive around for a while in-game, I looked over at the bathroom door which was also calling out to me and told my son, “Sure. Start it up.”
As I finished my business and got ready to head back out, my email tone went off. Three new messages. Three Microsoft purchases made in roughly the course of three minutes. The total: about $75.
I washed my hands for less than the duration suggested by the CDC, ran to the living room, and politely requested my child drop the controller. It looked like he had stopped trying to get to the driving part of the game, but he largely had no idea what else had taken place. Thankfully, the emails stopped, I just had to figure out what to do next.
To my son’s credit, if you start The Crew: Motorfest, and just hit the A button through the series of overloaded screens that pop up at you, you will indeed end up in the store and be faced with features and options that won’t make a lot of sense to kids. To call it predatory looks to me, again, like an understatement. I’m sure Ubisoft would suggest that the menus aren’t designed for kids and they should be navigated by a responsible adult, to which this adult would suggest Ubisoft made a kid-friendly game on a home console and it’s okay to include basic ethics and good faith in your UI design.
As for the pin I’ve always used to protect my account? Well, this new Series S previously lived on or close to my office desk, and my son wasn’t really old enough to be on the Xbox at all until recently. We moved not too long ago, and this Series S became the primary source of entertainment in the living room. It really was the perfect storm of coincidences.
As I’ve been heard saying about other parents, accidents happen, but it’s absolutely my fault. I am 100% responsible. If Ubisoft had offered a $5,000 package, I’m sure that’s what I’d be dealing with right now—and since they offer a $45 package, why bother with any upper limits at all?
I’m not suggesting anyone is obligated to forgive my sins here, but Microsoft has declined to help me for a very stupid reason. Objectively stupid. Hear me out.
Buried in Microsoft.com’s billing and payment history tab, there is indeed a place to request refunds for digital purchases, whatever they may be. In my account history I easily found the three game currency purchases of the apocalypse, then recent legitimate purchases I’ve made for Sonic Superstars and Tetris Effect: Connected. Next to each of these, there is a button I could use to request a refund which needs to be explained and then reviewed by Microsoft. It wasn’t difficult at all to submit requests for our mistaken purchases.
But they were declined that very day. The reason? I’d reached my limit of digital refunds for this year, and I’m not eligible to be considered for any more.
This came as a surprise because I haven’t requested a refund for anything in what I’m sure has been the last five full years. There’s a feature to filter your purchase history and see refunds. Sure enough, I had two entries on my account.
I’m a Game Pass subscriber. I’m a somewhat eclectic gamer, and the Game Pass library’s ever-changing selection really hits the spot for me. I’m so active in the program, I tend to rack up rewards points quickly. If you don’t look at these “Quests” and points, you should because the reward options have real world value. In recent months, I’ve managed to donate to Red Cross disaster relief in addition to redeeming $10 and $5 store credit rewards, all accrued through regular gameplay.
Unfortunately, and for some god forsaken reason, Microsoft counts these credit rewards as refunds on your account. That’s not a big deal until you legitimately need a refund, at which time they’ll apparently count the rewards against you and refuse. So my $15 in rewards have cost me $60 in what should have been readily refunded purchases.
Oh, and the website makes it clear that chat and phone support are not available for digital refund requests.
So, to Twitter I went, which I don’t like to do just to make noise—even less now that I don’t use it for anything else, and I reached out to the @MicrosoftHelps account. I sent the following:
“Hey @MicrosoftHelps: It appears you count Xbox Game Pass rewards as refunds on my account and then use those as grounds to tell me I’ve received too many refunds this year and am not eligible for any when I need one. Do I have that right?”
@MicrosoftHelps invited me to DM for assistance. What they apparently meant was a virtual chat that somehow operates through their DMs. When I asked to speak to a human, the virtual assistant cheerily agreed, and I never heard anything again.
I looped in @XboxSupport, and again, nothing.
Since Microsoft does have a reasonable digital refund policy in place, I have to strongly discourage anyone from redeeming store credit rewards until they fix how this works.
I’ll happily update this article if I manage to get any assistance.
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.