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What is a retrieval?

Sometimes called a "mini chargeback", retrievals are a request for additional information on any given sale, from the customer's issuing bank. Failure to respond to a retrieval will result in a chargeback.

Retrievals are relatively rare - many merchants will process for years and never receive one. But, they do happen, and when they do it requires your action. Essentially, a retrieval is like the "first step" of a chargeback process. Your customer contacted their issuing bank to request additional information about the transaction in question. Typically, this means one of two things:

  1. The customer legitimately doesn't know what the sale was for, and is asking you to tell them. This is common - a wife is reviewing the family's credit card statement, and doesn't know what a charge is from her husband's card. She may initially contest it, and her issuing bank may request more information before moving forward with a formal chargeback.

  2. The customer definitely knows what the sale is for, and is about to initiate a chargeback - but their bank is requiring them to jump through this hoop first. This is common - the issuing bank may not actually want to fight this chargeback, it may not have much merit. But, by issuing a retrieval, now the onus is on the merchant. You at least have to respond to this! And if you don't, then it'll automatically escalate to a lost chargeback. So it's a bit of a gamble by the issuing bank - they "throw a retrieval" at you, hoping you don't respond. If you do respond with proof of a legitimate sale, they can just tell their customer that the sale was valid and they won't fight it with a chargeback.

Ultimately, banks don't like to lose chargebacks, so they'll avoid fighting for their customer if it's an obvious loss. A retrieval gives the bank a little bit of insurance - by sending you a retrieval, it doesn't commit them to fighting a chargeback, but it does allow them to get the same victory if they're lucky enough to get a non-response!

Moral of the story: Respond to all retrieval requests! It will only result in a chargeback if you don't.

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