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Hey Buzzards,

Just put up a post about lifetimes warranties with outdoors gear. It's based on some recent experiences I've had, and meant as a reference to get through the fine-print and see how companies (Kokatat, REI, Patagonia, etc.) really handle their lifetime warranty policies - luckily most the results are good!

Give it a read, and I'd love to hear your experiences with these companies & others - post in the comments (Buzz or blog) or email me to have these experiences included in the post!

Enjoy and hope it's useful.

Lifetime Warranties: Personal Stories with Outdoor Gear

- John
 

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I worked as a warranty manager for a major archery manufacture back in the day. We had a no fault warranty. We where selling 200 bows a day! We were considered one of the best at the time. If you mailed back a bow I'd go to the shelf and put a new one back to ya in the mail that day. If I had a bad day, I might try to charge you.

With that said 8 out of 10 bows left the shop defective. It was impossible to get a good tune on the bows and limbs were cracked going out the door. I went round and round with the owner. His reasoning was that 90% of all the ppl that buy our products really have no idea how to use them and owning a"_____" bow was really all they wanted." Customers really could not even shoot a bow in his mind. Also the markup was soooo high that in his words, "I can replace this bow 3 times and still make money."

20 years later this company is still in business and bow hunters are lining up to buy them and he still operates under the same business model.

I think if you get in the back door of many of the outdoor manufacturers, you'll find things run very similar.
 

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I worked as a warranty manager for a major archery manufacture back in the day. We had a no fault warranty. We where selling 200 bows a day! We were considered one of the best at the time. If you mailed back a bow I'd go to the shelf and put a new one back to ya in the mail that day. If I had a bad day, I might try to charge you.

With that said 8 out of 10 bows left the shop defective. It was impossible to get a good tune on the bows and limbs were cracked going out the door. I went round and round with the owner. His reasoning was that 90% of all the ppl that buy our products really have no idea how to use them and owning a"_____" bow was really all they wanted." Customers really could not even shoot a bow in his mind. Also the markup was soooo high that in his words, "I can replace this bow 3 times and still make money."

20 years later this company is still in business and bow hunters are lining up to buy them and he still operates under the same business model.

I think if you get in the back door of many of the outdoor manufacturers, you'll find things run very similar.

Dude you fuckin nailed it. I just can't believe people have not caught on. It is beyond me that this model has been in place so long and the people allow it.

Here is another one. I had a guy tell me that I am in a 10% category and it was more profitable to tell me to get fucked and deny my business than to meet a customer satisfaction need of 10%. Said they make enough money off the other 80% and the last 10% don't buy the product.

80% of the population are buying less quality product in store and I am forced to buy online from the manufacture because no one carries the product that the 10% smart people use.

The thing I need to learn the most is to make peace with the way things are going and to take advantage of a shit product replacement policy like Sears.

Here is one last one for the people. The other night I bought a gangbox on line to pick up in store.

They brought me a damaged one up front to be picked up. When we arrived my wife noticed the dent. I asked to exchange it, they said I had to return it and buy the other one.

While I was waiting for the second one to come down it dawned on me.

They had me return it so they could write off the cost of the box and make the damage the fault of the customer. They new dam well that it never left the store or the cart. They let me pay for it first and return it so they would get full credit for the damage.

I felt like a fool so I canceled my exchange returned the item and left.
 

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Although not a specific story a family member recently showed me their cost on big name brand outdoor gear from clothing to skis etc. Couldn't believe the mark up! Can't imagine what the actual cost is for some of this stuff.

In a way we're all responsible wanting the companies to tell us how each new product is way better than the last.

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I just bought a 2015 Lib tech snowboard skate banana for $99 new off the shelf still in the wrapper last week. I'd like to think that the owner took a hit, but I'll bet he sold the first 2 for $400 and wanted to clear the shelf space.

O, I broke a Burton in half and they sent me a new at no cost.
 

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Yeah, there is a huge markup. But on Cabela's brand gear I have worn out a lot of stuff over the years that they just happily replaced when I took it in. Especially boots/shoes.


And my Swarovski scopes have lifetime warranties and I have sent my scopes in a couple of times for "cleaning" where they go completely through them, replace any scratched glass and send them back, all free of charge.


But one would imagine that companies have it figured out via data and statistics that show where their break even point is.


DanCan
 

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Outdoor Reasearch is Awesome!

I bought a new model of one their coats in a close out sale from a gear store. paid maybe 150.00. When zipper broke two years later I called customer service at OR for replacement. My model was no longer in production, so helpful rep. found something sort of comparable. Retailed at 450.00. They sent new coat before I had even sent the broken one back on honor system. I didn't even have a receipt! I'm now a loyal OR customer. If I need bibs, gloves, a coat, etc. I'll continuing buying their stuff.
 

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The good, the bad, and the ugly

Glad someone brought this up. Love to show support for those that get us and those that could care less about my business. Here they are.

Watershed: Those folks are amazing. Wife's old Colorado bag had 3 1/2 of the handles ripped off. She was using a cam strap to haul it around and rig it. Purchased over 6 years ago, on a guide proform. Saw that they would replace straps for $25 each. Sent it to them, prompt call back, "we would like to warranty your bag, we can and will fix it, but we would like to get you a new one as soon as possible. Sorry we don't have the same color." Thank you I will continue to purchase your equipment and even pay full cost in the future.

Sealline: One of their dry zipper bags. Seam on the side of the zipper blew, but bag was getting wet before. Set it back for repairs, got a call with an apology and explanation about how they have changed the design and now are going to cancel the line because they were unhappy with the performance. Got one of the bags in back stock, told if it fails they will exchange it with a roll top and was asked to help provide feed back on future products. Got to try out new products (only about 3 times but cool anyway) and give advice until their design team got big enough to phase me out.

NRS; Couldn't stay out of their scratch and dent room when I lived closer long enough to purchase anything with a warranty. Now have my favorite dry pants that they would replace for the waterproofing problem associated with making dry gear with denim like shells. Don't want to give them up.

Smith Optics; 6 pairs between the wife an I. Styles that are still in stock usually full replacement. Older ones are generally a 35-60% discount on replacement. Trying not to abuse it but brand loyal because of it.

REI: Due to the policy change I only purchase things I know may break (Snowboard boots with BOA system) or REI brand products. The markup is ridiculous there and co-op feeling is declining. Understand why the change was made but I seek more local shops now. Doesn't seem to hurt them with the number of Nalgene water bottles and pink North Face Jackets going out the door.

Palm: NEVER EVER EVER! Purchased stikine, at retail, delam-ed second year. Was told by the US rep that it was a major problem and that if he had my size he would replace it fully BUT, they had canceled his contract and I had to now deal with them in the UK. They could have cared less. Months of back and forth, pictures, others stating same problems... Willing to sell me a new one for 75% retail and I pay shipping. Never again.

Yeti: Purchased used in a boat deal. Outside warranty No longer do they have parts to repair. Sent to a 3rd party that had no idea. Becoming a status symbol, #yetibutts. Think I'll be looking for a more rafting oriented company in the future.

Partner Steel: called with a super odd ball question. Got the secretary and then right to the head guy who gave me great advice, sent me hand drawn diagrams for my propane pluming, and cut and made a 12 foot hose. Really gave me the time of day after I had made my purchase. I wish i could say i'll be back but their product reputation is that I won't need to.

Patagonia; Sent back torn jacket for a fix. Added some king size candy bars. Fixed at reasonable cost, week and a half turn around time, and fully re-waterproofed.

So that's my .02
 

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I'll second the thumbs up to partner steel.

I once lost a piece to one of their stoves. I had borrowed the stove so I was all worried about returning the stove to the owner. I called partner steel and they sent me a new piece. They never charged me even though they took my CC information. I called back a month later just in case they made a mistake and they said. "don't worry about it."

Good ppl for sure.
 

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I'll second the thumbs up to partner steel.

I once lost a piece to one of their stoves. I had borrowed the stove so I was all worried about returning the stove to the owner. I called partner steel and they sent me a new piece. They never charged me even though they took my CC information. I called back a month later just in case they made a mistake and they said. "don't worry about it."

Good ppl for sure.
Way to take care of borrowed gear!

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Maybe I'm a sucker, but I've never gotten any value out of a lifetime warranty policy. The product either fails early or fails due to wear and tear. Companies that provide a repair service is nice, but even then, it's often not worth the cost due to technology advancements or other issues.

Recently I had a cheap zipper repair done at Boulder Mountain Repair and it made me wonder if it's even worth the premium paid for products that provide their own repair services vs. buying something at half the price and having a shop like that repair it.
 

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My wife's North Face snow boot completely came apart the whole rubber bottom half ripped off of the leather upper. These are not warranteed but for a year and she had them way longer than that. I called em up and asked if they have seen that before and they didn't deny that it has happened before and they replaced it with out even being asked. I was pretty stoked.

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for all the input guys!

@dirtbagkayaker - very interesting to hear about that business model. I can totally understand how the markup allows the business to be profitable, but did purchasers ever call the company out on having such a high defect rate from the factory?

@tripple - great info in that list.

Lots of mentions of the premium price for premium gear & whether it's worth it or not. Definitely something to think about. I guess it depends on the type of product and how much the company will stand behind it in the future..

What major whitewater gear companies have lifetime warranties aside from Kokatat and Watershed?
 

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Lifetime warranties are pretty great and I've definitely benefited from them even when it was my own fault (sorry Orvis).

But how much are we paying for these warranties considering how some would abuse the generosity. If the same gear would cost a 1/3rd less if say a 5 year warranty was given vs lifetime would that be a better deal? Can we really expect a coat to last a lifetime or shoes or anything?

The other concern that others have mentioned is that with much of this gear being made overseas their cost is a fraction of retail, how generous are they really being if they are gouging us with the first transaction? Some of this stuff is just crazy stupid expensive, whats it cost to make a $150 ski goggle?

More and more I find my self looking for quality vs hype and warranty, my favorite purchase of recent being a partner steel stove, I would by it again without any warranty. And although the price is a premium so is the build quality, pretty sure they couldn't send me two more under warranty and still be in the black.
 

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I must say, this has been one of the more meaningful, and civilized threads I've ever seen on the buzz.


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Recently I had a cheap zipper repair done at Boulder Mountain Repair and it made me wonder if it's even worth the premium paid for products that provide their own repair services vs. buying something at half the price and having a shop like that repair it.
I mailed BMR a jacket on a Monday for a zipper repair. I had it back at my house in Leadville on Wednesday. Forget warranties, I'll pay for that speed any time!
 

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Thanks for all the input guys!

@dirtbagkayaker - very interesting to hear about that business model. I can totally understand how the markup allows the business to be profitable, but did purchasers ever call the company out on having such a high defect rate from the factory?
No.. It was crazy. Customers would send bows back and complain about things like it was squeeky or the grip cracked. When I got the bows back the limbs would be cracked at the riser, the axels where bent, or there would be a 70lbs limb on one top and 80 lbs limb on the bottom. It was nut ball.

I noticed something like this in the kayaking world. A kayak shop in Portland had a ton of project play boats that had just came in. I drove over and started sitting in boat. No two project 52s fit the same... Some where missing washers on the seat bolts. That when I learned that just because your friends boat fits doesn't mean other models of the same will.
 

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No.. It was crazy. Customers would send bows back and complain about things like it was squeeky or the grip cracked. When I got the bows back the limbs would be cracked at the riser, the axels where bent, or there would be a 70lbs limb on one top and 80 lbs limb on the bottom. It was nut ball.


Sounds dangerous


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Not really, that's kinda the deal with archery back in the day. When cams came along it allowed us to make stiffer limbs and the mechanical advantage of a cam put more stress on the bow. the industry learned to go with hardened steal axles. Then limbs started cracking but no failure. So why not go split limb to avoid the cracking issues, lighten up the bow, and hype up a new look. To this day 95% of a bow hunters run solo cams, fastflight strings, and try to push insane arrow speeds. When its really hard to beat the reliably and consistency of wheels, cables, and low broadhead speeds. Temp, humility, and all the bashing through the woods take there toll on bows.


Sorry, I just went so off topic and could talk about archery all day too. If you like to have an archery talk PM me.. :)
 

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Someone asked how much it costs for manufacturers to make their gear....I know that Arcteryx employee pro deals are 20% of retail cost. Not 20% off, but 20% of retail. So 80% off. But then again, there is a lot of R&D, warranty claims, marketing, etc that must be paid through the cost vs retail price markup.
 
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