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Warranties That Work

September 8th, 2012 No comments

Once in a while I give some credit to systems that actually work. Lately I’ve had three companies step up and honor their warranties with no hassles and no questions asked.

The North Face

About 13 or 14 years ago I bought a pair of winter pants from the North Face. I used them a lot over the years – here’s a picture of me snowshoeing them back in 2000. As one would expect from good quality gear, they’ve held up pretty well through numerous hiking adventures, skiing trips, days sledding, and playing in the snow with my daughter.

Then came the NHL Winter Classic of 2010. Or actually the alumni game on New Year’s Day. My wife and I drove to a Green Line (subway) station that would take us to Fenway Park in Boston. Out of the car I went to put on my pants and the leg zipper completely blew apart. This was unacceptable since I was wearing only jeans and it was snowing all day. I was so pissed I crumpled them up and threw them in a puddle under the car. Luckily there is an REI at the Landmark Center, which shares a parking lot with the Fenway Green Line stop near Fenway Park, so I called a friend we were meeting at the game and asked him to go to the store and find a new pair of pants in my size. He did, I got off the train, paid for them, and we were off to the game.

But the cool part is that I grabbed my pants when we got back to the car (and I had calmed down) and washed them when I got home. I went to the North Face webpage and got their warranty information. The warranty begins:

The North Face® products are fully warranted to the original owner against defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product. If a product ever fails due to a manufacturing defect, even after extended use, we will repair the product, without charge, or replace it, at our discretion.

So I boxed it up and shipped it back. About a week later I received a postcard in the mail acknowledging that they received the package and were evaluating it. Then about 4 weeks after that a box from the North Face appeared. A inside were my pants with a brand new zipper, repaired for free. Awesome.

Thanks North Face – at least someone still makes quality stuff and stands behind it. These things were more than  10 years old and the North Face stepped up for the repair.

Totes Travel Umbrella

I work in the city – in Boston – and I always carry a compact travel umbrella (basically the older model of this umbrella) in my laptop bag (which is currently a Timbuk 2 Command messenger bag). For several years I have carried a Totes flat travel umbrella in case I get caught in an unexpected shower.

Last year I was walking on a wet windy day and a gust of wind collapsed my umbrella. Not the kind of wind that turns it inside out mind you. Rather, I was walking into the wind and a gust so strong came that it literally snapped two of the ribs while pushing the umbrella shut. After I arrived unhappy and wet at work, I went to the Totes/Isotoner web page and found their warranty information. Following the instructions I popped the broken umbrella into a box, included a $5 money order, and mailed it to Ohio (my office shares a building with a Post Office so mailing it and getting a money order meant I didn’t even have to go back outside in the rain).

About 3 weeks later a box arrived at my house with a brand new umbrella in it. Amazing. Thanks Totes for stepping up and backing your product.

Mountain Hardwear Synchro

The Mountain Hardwear Synchro soft shell jacket

Mountain Hardwear Synchro Soft Shell Jacket

My normal commute to work involves waiting on an uncovered train platform in Central Massachusetts for between 5 and 50 minutes (mostly due to the unreliable service from the MBTA Commuter Rail). Then I ride a train for 90 minutes, followed by a 1.5 mile walk from South Station to my office across Boston. In the winter this can mean a variety of temperatures and conditions, from sub 10 degrees on the train platform, to the train cars where the heat has only two possible settings: “off” and “blast furnace.” My walk is usually warmer, since Boston averages 5 to 10 degrees warmer in winter than the town where I live, and I arrive there later in the morning. Add in the seasonal temperatures and my point is that I need an effective layering system to remain comfortable throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. So in 2009 I bought a Mountain Hardwear Synchro soft-shell jacket to wear as my daily outer layer. (It has since been discontinued, more or less replaced by the G50 jacket.)

I really love this jacket, and for the last two and a half years I’ve probably worn it 100 to 120 days a year. It gets crumpled up and draped over my bag in the floor of trains, and stuffed into overhead racks. I’ve worn it in the rain and the snow and the wind, and carried backpacks or messenger bags every day. And it has performed absolutely fabulously. Washed once or twice a season, and refreshed with Nikwax, it seemed nearly indestructible. It’s my second favorite jacket in the world, behind only my North Face Mountain Guide shell that I bought back in 2000 and reviewed on Hike-NH.com (in fact I am wearing the Mountain Guide shell in the snowshoeing picture above).

But towards the end of last winter the right lower pocket zipper started separating from the jacket. Not at the end, but right in the middle. This jacket was built a bit odd – the zippers are covered with a rubberized membrane for waterproofing, so the zippers don’t seem to be stitched in the normal manner. I kind of forgot about it until now, but I decided I should get it fixed. So I followed the instructions on the Mountain Hardwear page and called for an RA number. A nice lady took my information and I dropped the jacket off at UPS. Mountain Hardwear’s warranty says:

 Mountain Hardwear also provides a limited lifetime warranty, to the original owner, on all products against defects in materials or workmanship. All defective or damaged products should be returned to us for evaluation and will be repaired or replaced at our discretion. Rips, burns, tears, and damages due to accident, normal wear and tear, improper care, mis-use or the natural breakdown of colors and materials over time are not covered by warranty, but can be repaired for a nominal fee at Mountain Hardwear’s discretion.

I just hope they follow it. Given the way that the North Face and Totes stepped up, they have a couple of great examples to live up to. I’ll keep this post updated.

In fact, Mountain Hardwear stepped up quickly. 20 days after I mailed this, an envelope was waiting by my side door with a Mountain Hardwear logo on it. And sure enough, my freshly repaired jacket was inside, good as new, done at no charge.

So there you have it…

Three companies who stood up for their products and fixed them no questions asked. I didn’t expect that in this day and age. Maybe I should have.

Thank you to:

You’ve earned my respect.

Categories: Rants Tags: , , ,