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I have a question with a bounty that will expire in a few days. It looks like nobody will get the bounty; only one answer was posted during the bounty period, and it has no upvotes. In cases like this, the bounty is thrown away. Why isn't it refunded instead, if no answerer has earned it?

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    You rolls your dices, and takes your chances. Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 15:54
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    I could have sworn this was a dupe, but I can't find it... anyone?
    – Pops
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:06
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    @Popular There have been off-hand "I should get refunded" comments in both actual comments and as asides in posts, but I don't recall seeing an actual one of these as the heart of the question. There are also questions asking if it does get refunded, as opposed to "why isn't it refunded". Possibly meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21609/…, though, but that's a feature request rather than an inquiry.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:10
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    @Grace, thanks for the second opinion; I really thought I had seen an honest-to-goodness question about this, but maybe I am just thinking of one of the off-handed comments you mentioned.
    – Pops
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:13
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    Aside to @fahadsadah: you have over 200 rep at SF. If you manually deassociate and reassociate your Meta account with your SF account, you'll get 100 free rep here. Same goes for SU. Possibly SO and SF too, depending on when those accounts were associated.
    – Pops
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:19
  • To whoever downvoted me: please can you tell me why? Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:35
  • Roll the bones. goear.com/listen/531a1db/roll-the-bones-rush
    – user50049
    Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 16:43
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    @fahadsadah a down-vote (not mine anyway) on meta just means "I don't agree" so for your question I guess it means something like "I'm against refunding bounties" Commented Jul 9, 2010 at 4:39

4 Answers 4

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A bounty is not a guarantee. It's less risky in the new system, but it never has, nor ever will be, a guarantee for the answers you need. It's payment for a bid for an answer, not payment for actual answers themselves.

Remember that although you didn't get an actual answer, you did get 7 days on the Featured tab. If you got refunded, then you could keep your question on the Featured tab forever, which really reduces the benefit that placing a bounty has in the first place.

Basically, consider this like a parking meter - the reputation you spent is good enough for only 7 days. If you need more time, you need to spend more reputation. Of course, it's a parking meter where you can pay however much you want and get the same amount of time, but the extra payment is for the possibility of better quality attention during that same period.

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    Perhaps it should be that you place a bounty on a question, if there are no accepted answers then you are refunded. If you still want answers and are willing to permanently lose the rep you can place a bounty on the question again but all other bounties after the first will not be refunded. I just placed a bounty on someone else's question and shortly after doing that I found a solution so of course I submitted an answer. No other answers anybody posted were good. I want to be refunded for either having the correct answer or the question having no accepted answer. Original asker is inactive.
    – bowlerae
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 12:35
  • @GraceNote "If you got refunded you could keep your question on the Featured tab forever". OK but if you got only partially refunded you would stil be disinclined to abuse in the long run. Maybe there needs to be disincentive but maybe it is reasonable to be more even handed about it and not penalize well-intentioned people and making it a mere casino. Casinos would rather take it from you a little at a time until you're broke and leave with some hope of winning the future.
    – clearlight
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 18:28
  • Yeah, it really does not make sense. Say I pay 50 reputation points, and I get a good answer. The points get awarded to the answer, and advertising was essentially free. Now say I don't get any answers. Advertising was 50 points more then it would have been. I like what GolezTrol suggested, a "no cure, no pay" system.
    – user288670
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 11:49
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    I feel this answer gives context but doesn't justify the decision. I feel it states "there is a problem" and "therefore this solution is right", where other solutions may be better. A simple maximum number of bounties may suffice. Either way, the argument only applies to bountied questions that aren't sufficiently answered, which isn't all of them. BTW there doesn't appear to be a "Featured" tab - perhaps it's been renamed?
    – joel
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 19:06
  • @joel Yes, the "Featured" tab is renamed to "Bountied": see The "Featured" tab is now "Bountied" Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 5:00
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See

Should a bounty be returned if there are NO answers at all

An excerpt from my answer:

Bounties are meant to generate interest and answers. If there are still no answers after offering the bounty, it might be time to consider whether or not the question is too obscure to be answered.

Consider bounties to be paying for advertising. Once you've purchased an ad spot, you can't get your money back just because no one bought your product.

Also Bounties and non-valid answers

If an answer gets more than two votes and is 'wrong' then you could worry about giving the bounty to the wrong person.

In that case, the best option is to engage the person who answered the question, if their answer isn't helpful to you, then add a comment to it explaining why. Also, if it becomes obvious that your question is unclear then you should edit it for clarity. This has the added bonus of popping you to the top of the active list as well, which would generate extra interest.

Bottom Line: The bounty is to generate interest and answers for your question, it does not necessarily guarantee that one of those will be the right answer.

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  • I understand about the time on the Featured list having value - that makes sense. But if a question isn't even drawing additional views because its on less-used technology, maybe a partial (half) refund should be considered.
    – SteveWash
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 10:25
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    If this is what it means, then I severely misunderstood. I was shocked when I lost the reputation points even without an answer. Yes, I see now that the question is too obscure since no one got it even for the bounty. But, if all I am buying is literally just and ad for the question - then I won't ever do that again. I feel it should be renamed "buy an ad" rather than "bounty". Bounties can be withdrawn. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 9:36
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It is not good behavior as it is in that current way.

All bounties are paid for up front and non-refundable under any circumstances.

Some circumstances should be added. What is the value I have to pay for non answered question? In that case, any extra attention equals to zero. It is not gambling or probability theorem here. Additionally, how could we measure the extra attention? The crud increase of views number is not accurate description of the term attention.

Circumstances, such as, questions with more than 1 up vote should be refunded if there is no answer, for example. Or at least a percentage of the reputation should be refunded such as 50%.

I, fairly think, the community management team of the Stack Exchange Network should rethink about the Bounty Refund Policy

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    I agree, if I could I would +1.
    – user1318912
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 3:19
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Was going to answer here but it was closed as a dupe so I am answering here.

Bounties should be refunded if there are NO answers because it would at least provide surety that you will only pay reputation if you get results. This would encourage people to set more bounties. Setting more bounties would encourage more answerers to post more answers, and given that the site is meant to be a shared resource for community knowledge, the more answered questions the better the site.

I have seen arguments such as:

Answer on another question:

Consider bounties to be paying for advertising. Once you've purchased an ad spot, you can't get your money back just because no one bought your product.

What about pay-per-click or pay-per-purchase advertising? Besides, that answer simply explains that the bounty system works a certain way, without explaining why it actually benefits the site or its users to have it that way.

It's payment for a bid for an answer, not payment for actual answers themselves.

In a real auction, at least in one worth participating in, you do not have to pay your losing bid.

If you got refunded, then you could keep your question on the Featured tab forever, which really reduces the benefit that placing a bounty has in the first place.

I do not agree. The only way in which a question could stay there for ever is if no one ever answers it, i.e. the question is hard to answer. Maybe each time a bounty expires the minimum is increased, so you are increasing your bid for hard to answer questions, rewarding the answers to hard to answer questions more.

The sites features should be focused on improving the site and its users experiences, and in no way does arbitrarily insisting that bounties result in a permanent reputation loss even if there are NO answers at all improve the site.

The rule that reputation is never refunded seems an arbitrary requirement that is being blindly adhered to for no apparent reason, whereas refunding reputation if there are NO answers would actually benefit the site and its users the most.

By NO answers I mean NO answers, a single mediocre answer with no upvotes would still invalidate a refund, because at least they got a mediocre answer, which is better than nothing, for their reputation.

The reputation cost should at the very least incur a guarantee of results.

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    If bounties lasted till an answer was provided then there would be far far more active bounties and the chance that when you added a bounty to a question that anything at all would happen would be very very low because your bounty would be immediately lost in the sea of other bounties. And you think that would be better? Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:42
  • @RobertLongson I don't agree. It would just give the bounty hunters all the more questions to try to answer.
    – user1318912
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 3:11

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