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Lifetime Warranty Fraud
There are a couple of issues that I have encountered with companies who claim to offer a "lifetime warranty". The reason I say "claim" is because the reality is that it is a fraud. It is often difficult to get details of the lifetime warranty, plus it is hard to know how the company will deal with any issues.
The worst that I have encountered is with Lowe Alpine. I originally bought a Sierra Designs jacket from A-16. I had it for many years and then when I washed it (I avoid washing jackets too much and I think this was either the first or second time that I washed it), the coating came off the jacket. I went back to A-16 and they contacted Sierra Designed. Sierra Designs no longer made such a jacket, so they gave me a credit at A-16 to buy another jacket. The only jacket that was close to what I had, in both features and price, was a Lowe Alpine Triple Point Ceramic jacket. Unfortunately, the close A-16 did not have the jacket in my size, so I had to go to the Los Angeles store. For many years I was a happy camper, but then this jacket had the coating to flake off.
I stopped by A-16, but it seems that things have changed. They did not want to do much. While the jacket was several years old, it had not been used much. I was offered a small credit toward other expensive A-16 items. I asked to talk to the manager, who was basically useless as well. I contact Lowe Alpine and it was clear that they did not want to do anything. I ended up talking to the President of Lowe Alpine, who is a real clown. He claimed that A-16 never sold that jacket, which is a complete lie. He also claims that the lifetime warranty is based on the lifetime of the item. This means that when there is a problem, the warranty is over. He stated that the coatings only last 5-10 years, but they fail to mention this when you purchase the product. I would personally consider Lowe Alpine's customer service to be anti-customer. After being told that they would not do anything, even with sending them detailed pictures, I was told that I could send it in and they would look at it. I wanted some assurance that if I spent the money to ship it to them that they would do something, but they refused. I need to post the phone messages that were left on my answering machine as those clearly show that the company is one to avoid.
Their warranty seems to have been updated:
Lowe Alpine guarantees all of its products against defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product (not the owner's lifetime.) And while normal maintanence will help extend the life of the product, it's important to understand and expect that the materials will wear out over the course of common use and time.
If you product fails prematurely, please return it to the dealer you purchased it from or contact Lowe Alpine for an RA# (return authorization.) If the product is deemed defective, Lowe Alpine will repair or replace the product at its option. Your statutory rights are not affected by this warranty.
This warranty policy does not cover damage caused by accidents or misuse, nor does it cover the natural breakdown of materials which will occur over extended use and time - e.g. zipper failure, fabric and stitching abrasion. In addition, product seconds, overages, SMUs (special make-ups), and non-authorized retailer purchases are not covered.
Recently I contacted ExOfficio regarding a problem with shorts. I have three pair and all three had problems with the waist button coming loose or falling off. Since ExOfficio no longer repairs their products, it would be a waste to send them back in even though the customer service representative said that I could and they would replace them. The problem was that on one pair the zipper also broke. Since I could not repair this myself, I had to send them in. After quite some time of not hearing anything, I called and was told that they had no record of my returning anything. I gave the person the tracking number, the date and time delivered and the person who signed for it. I received a call back saying that the warehouse had received them and would be shipping out a replacement after Christmas. I did not hear anything until after New Year's Day. I was told that they no longer made the same product, although their webpage shows a product with the same name. The reviews show that perhaps I will have a problem since the quality seems to have gone down.
The person said that the lifetime warranty was based on the lifetime of the item and that since it was many years old, that the warranty was over. I explained that I had not used the shorts much, as could be determined by looking at them. I was told that they would give me a credit for any other item. The person offered to look at their webpage to see if they had anything similiar, which a pair of shorts with the same name were found. Fortunately the price was the same as the credit that they had given me.
I have yet to receive them, which is not surprising since there has not been enough time, plus they had to call me back to get a shipping address.
I tried to find what exactly the ExOfficio warranty was, but I could not find any details. I found a website which just states that their products have a lifetime warranty, which is really useless when the company claims that it is the life of the product and refuse to tell you what the expected liftime is.
Quite some time ago I bought a Sierra Designs Half Moon tent. I have several tents, so I use each tent for different purposes. I recently used the Sierra Designs Half Moon and when I pulled it out the rainfly was sticking to itself. I have never had such a problem before and none of my other tents have had this problem. I called Sierra Designs and was told to send in the tent. I was also told that they had quite a few rainflys in stock, which was a sign that there was not a common problem with the tent. So, I packed it up and sent it off. I was suprised when I received it back so quickly. At first, I was not sure that they had even opened the box. Inside was the rainfly with some paperwork saying that it is "normal wear and tear" and is not covered under their "lifetime" warranty. I called up to see if I could order a new rainfly. At first, the person could not find that the computer showed any in stock, but that was because she was looking at the part for the whole tent. She then found the rainfly part number and it showed that they have 7 in stock, but she said that she did not believe it and had to check the actual inventory. She came back and said that they did not actually have any. The Sierra Designs warranty says that they will repair items which are not covered under the warranty, but in this case they won't do anything. I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to about this and was transferred to voice mail of the person. I left a message with my name and phone number, but no one has bothered to call me back. This is also a sign of poor customer service.
Sierra Designs, like other companies, have a hidden concept of what the lifetime of a item is. They refuse to tell you this when they want you to buy their items though. In this case, they can use low quality coatings that fail sooner than other tents and then they claim that it is normal wear and tear and refuse to cover it under the warranty. I have tents older than this tent, some much older, and none of them have had this problem and the other tents have been used more than this Sierra Designs tent. I have also seen others report the same problem that I am having. This tells me that Sierra Designs is using lower quality materials to make their tents since they can get out of fixing anything by just saying that the lifetime of the tent is over.
It seems to me that you are better off buying items without any fraudulent lifetime warranties as often those items are less expensive.
I called REI to ask about getting the rainfly repaired and they gave me the contact information for a company, but that company will not repair it. REI did say that they would exchange the tent, so at least they stand behind their lifetime warranty and are not part of the fraud. Unfortunately, I would like to keep this tent as it is a nice size, easy to setup and it has also been to many places with me. If I am not successful in trying to re-coat the rainfly I might have to take REI up on their offer. Clearly, you can not count on the company who makes the product, but you can count on the company who you buy it from.
It appears that Kelty bought Sierra Designs. The addresses used when the rainfly was returned was Kelty. The funny thing about this is that one of my older tents is a Kelty and it does not have this problem, so perhaps Kelty used to use better products to make their tents.
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