No one likes to give a refund.
Why should anyone get to partake in the experience and keep their money?
When a refund is really credit
Every room escape company regularly encounters the “guy whose grandma just died” and cannot make it to his booking. The odds are really good that this guy is just a flake and his grandma has passed away a few dozen times since grade school.
However, all of his friends just showed up and they would really appreciate it if you could refund their friend.
This is a great opportunity for a room escape company. You have a nearly full room (minus one flake) and the chance to create goodwill. Grant this guy credit for his ticket. His friends will feel great about your company before they even start their game and he will feel relieved that he isn’t out his money
An escape room is team game. He will likely have to round up a bunch more friends to use the credit. You’ll earn new customers out of this gesture.
If Mr. Flakey doesn’t use his credit, his cash never left your pocket anyway.
Nothing lost and quite a bit gained.
When things go horribly wrong
In live action entertainment, sometimes things fall apart, literally or figuratively.
If you have a major prop, set-piece, or puzzle fail on a team, be ready with some offer of compensation.
Refund half or all of their money or offer them their next game on the house. Don’t make your players ask.
While it’s no fun to lose some of your ticket revenue, consider your customers’ perspective: They only get to experience your game once. They didn’t get what they paid for and there isn’t any do-over.
Actively protect your players from bad experiences
Some of the worst player experiences are completely foreseeable and avoidable. Train your staff to recognize them and stop them before they happen.
Bad experiences are more likely in public ticketed escape rooms. Consider the following two examples:
Drunks in ticketed games
Drunk or high players will likely cause problems, especially in public ticket games.
Sometimes (frequently in later bookings on weekends) players show up under the influence. These players are more likely to damage your property. They are also more likely to wreck the experience for other players who had the bad luck to buy tickets for the same escape room.
Be mindful that your players only get to experience your game once. Eject the offending players. Your ticket purchasing page should clearly state that, “players are to show up sober.” Enforce the rule. Protect your good customers and protect your property.
As for the ejected players, I’d recommend handling credit on a case-by-case basis.
Children in ticketed games
Mixing families with children in with strangers may cause problems.
Kids can be a ton of fun to escape a room with, but it should be by choice.
A group of adults who may have hired babysitters to look after their own kids so that they can enjoy an escape room should not be randomly forced into a room with someone else’s kids. This can lead to a subpar experience for all involved.
Sell adult and kids tickets. If someone wants to buy kids tickets, then that room should be made into a private game. Don’t risk it.
Occasionally you’re going to encounter some crybabies. These tend to be entitled players who overestimated their abilities and are angry that they lost.
These people get nothing except a smile and an invitation to come back and try again. There’s no crying in room escaping.
Escape rooms are challenging; that’s half the fun. How many experiences are out there where it’s even possible to fail? Don’t intellectually rubberize your room. Don’t reward the whiners. Make it clear up front during the booking process that failure is possible or even probable. This won’t stop the sore losers from doing their thing, but it will make it easier to politely shut them down.
Every room escape company needs to create passionate repeat players. The room escape industry needs lots of repeat players if it’s going to be a viable, longterm form of entertainment.
Screw ups happen. If you make your customers pay for problems outside of their own control, they will be less likely to ever return to any escape room, let alone yours.
Refunds and other forms of compensation are a matter of customer service. You want your customers to have a good time so that they become repeat customers. You want them to have such a good time that they seek out more experiences like those you offer, until you design more for them to come back and enjoy.
Cultivate a love of these games and you will profit.
Sometimes returning money today leads to a more profitable tomorrow.