So I've been on stackoverflow for a while just replying question and now, for the first time asked something python-sqlalchemy related. I only got a reply that wasn't helpful so after a few days, I set a bounty that is now about to run out. The 50 reputation were kind of a lot to me and it's sad to see my bounty is about to run out without having attracted any answers. As the faq explains, there won't be a refund. In a case where no single answer is given during the bounty period, I think it would be nice to return the bounty; Not finding any help is frustrating enough.

People repeatedly ask if or how bounties are returned, however, I haven't found any information on why the bounty system is so rigorous.

To clarify: I'm not talking about situations where there's unvoted replies within the bounty period but when there is no reply during the bounty period at all. This reason just doesn't apply in a case like this:

In any case, you will always give up the amount of reputation specified in the bounty, so if you start a bounty, be sure to follow up and award your bounty to the best answer!

When you set a bounty, you can expect someone to drop by and give a reply. If you don't accept it, you still got a new idea. At this point, the bounty should be gone, and this is the usual case, that there will be some reply.

  • The answer there's from one of the co-founders of Stack Overflow.
    – Olorin
    Jan 21, 2019 at 9:04
  • But it's about having unvoted/unaccepted replies, not no replies at all. It's kind of obvious that refunding answered bounties would be a problem because it would motivate the bounty owner to never accept or rate up answers. Jan 21, 2019 at 9:06
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    Why would that affect the answer that Jeff gave? "Why would you have this expectation? If the bounty has no risk, then why would it be worthwhile? Everyone would constantly start bounties on all questions, making them all meaningless." -> makes no mention of answers at all.
    – Olorin
    Jan 21, 2019 at 9:08
  • @hat No it's not a duplicate, this question is not in the faq. Jan 21, 2019 at 9:09
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    @Gamification The linked FAQ explains why under the heading What happens if there's no answer after the bounty period? "If after the end of the bounty period a question has no answers, no bounty will be awarded and the question will no longer be featured. Part of what you're "paying for" with a bounty is for higher question visibility and increased answerer motivation. A bounty does not guarantee a response and is not refunded if none are received." I believe that sufficiently answers your question.
    – hat
    Jan 21, 2019 at 9:12
  • @hat of well I in fact missed that sentence in the faq. My bounty only yielded about 20-30 views. Jan 21, 2019 at 9:21
  • @Gamification that can happen if the title is pretty good (then people can judge quickly from the title whether they can [put in the effort]/[have the know-how] required for solving the problem). Of course, on SO there are more questions in the featured list than are posted in a week on other sites.
    – Olorin
    Jan 21, 2019 at 9:27
  • You’re not going to get your bounty back. Any energy you put into this meta question is wasted.
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 21, 2019 at 9:40
  • @DanBron I know I won't I just believe StackOverflow would be better with reputation refunds in this case. If I wanted my reputation back I would have asked for moderation attention with the rule where it says that I can get my reputation back. However, this rule doesn't exist so I would have given up on that right away. I was really just curious why the system would be designed this way. Jan 21, 2019 at 10:30
  • @DanBron And if I wasn't curious, I wouldn't be on stackoverflow in the first place. I think this is a good question and it hasn't been discussed yet. Jan 21, 2019 at 10:32
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    @DanBron it's even clearly in my question that I know that "there won't be a refund". Why isn't anyone here even considering the pros and cons of refunds vs. no refunds and just get offensive like you are? Jan 21, 2019 at 10:34
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    What's the pro of refunding your reputation? You're pitching it as a given, without actually explaining why doing so is a good thing. I can see it being very open to abuse; refuse to award bounty, and downvote answers that qualify to ensure you would get your reputation back.
    – fbueckert
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:43
  • @fbueckert seems like everyone here is too lazy to actually read my question. Again: "I'm not talking about situations where there's unvoted replies within the bounty period but when there is no reply during the bounty period at all." Jan 21, 2019 at 14:50
  • And again, what is the pro of doing so? You're still not arguing your point.
    – fbueckert
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:50
  • Well, you oviously haven't read my post. Jan 21, 2019 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Think of a bounty as an advertisement in a newspaper or on TV. If nobody buys your product, will the publisher refund you? I don't think so (though some companies undoubtedly offer a kind of service where they do – Stack Exchange just happens to be not one of them).

  • Well, air time and printeries cost money which also the newspapers and stations try to earn. My reputation won't pay the stackexchange servers, neither does Stack Exchange profit from taking away my reputation. This is a comparison, not an explanation. Jan 21, 2019 at 8:57
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    @Gamification The explanation is, SE decided that this was the analogy they wanted to implement in their system and went with it. Jan 21, 2019 at 9:41
  • @SonictheIntrovertedHedgehog 'StackExchange decided to it this way and went with it' is not really reasoning about the system. Do you have source for the claim that the argumentation of StackExchange for this system is that a bounty was supposed to work just like 'an advertisement in a newspaper or on TV'? Jan 21, 2019 at 10:37
  • @Gamification The only analogy that actually works is this one described by Glorfindel. There's no guarantee that your bountied question will, in fact, attract more visitors. The best, and most successful way to gain attention, is hitting the HNQ. Jan 21, 2019 at 11:28
  • I didn't ask for an analogy, I asked for a reasoning. A combination of both would have been relevant but not the former without the latter. Jan 21, 2019 at 12:07
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    @Gamification I'm not sure there's any reason to continue repeating the same reasoning; the system obviously works the way it does, and while you don't have to accept the reasoning, it won't change how the system works. If you don't like it, you can try making a feature request to change it, but doing so will likely be a very heavy lift; do your research, understand the system, and explain what the benefit of doing so would be.
    – fbueckert
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:40

You don't get bounty refunded because Stack Exchange is promoting your question in a special way (separate tab) so it can get more attention.

Why should Stack Exchange do this for free? There are a lot of other questions as well and starting a bounty means system will give more importance to your question than to others - this is a trade, you are getting something special in return and certainly it cannot be free.

Won't it be unfair to other questions that your question rises to the top and stays in the Feature tab for a set duration and even better, you get to keep all you spent?

  • This answer does not convince me. It is quite reasonable to state that SE is getting a lot of things for "free". Free questions. Free answers. Free research. Free moderation duties. Free monitoring of low-quality posts, (free review tasks) Free spam flags. And whose fake "points" are they anyway in the first place? The user's! Jan 21, 2019 at 11:22
  • @Mari-LouA Free questions, free answers and other free things aren't unfair to any users, are they? No! As they all have a level playing field. But being allowed to gain advantage over others without spending anything in return is unfair, isn't it? Jan 21, 2019 at 11:39
  • But if the question doesn't attract views and doesn't attract any answers, who suffers? Why is this "unfair" to the other users who did get answers, and whose bountied question did attract a higher number of views? Any merit lies with the question (it was interesting and useful enough to attract an answer) and any fault (it was seen to be boring and not useful) lies within the question itself. Jan 21, 2019 at 11:45
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    A better argument would be to say if a bounty were refunded each and every time a post did not receive an answer then that same user would probably stick their question in the featured queue for months on end unil someone posted a gibberish answer. People being people will always try to abuse the system in some way. I'd say if your question doesn't attract any answers, that is a good answer. It probably means the question is too localized, or possibly useful to a very restricted niche. Jan 21, 2019 at 11:51

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