Monday, June 02, 2008

Standing Behind Their Word

Sometimes when you make a large enough purchase you wonder what would happen if a piece of gear fails. Say you buy a new mountain bike or a new pair of skis. If the frame of the bike cracks within the first month or the skis delaminate before the season ends it would probably be correct to assume that a warranty would protect you.

But what about further down the line – say a few years. I normally assume that gear several years down the road with a significant amount of wear and tear is what it is – old gear that needs to be replaced.

However, a couple of months ago I had a few experiences that really dumbfounded me. These were instances where I lost or broke an item after many years of hard usage.

The first item was my sleeping bag. At least 3-4 years ago I bought a Marmot Angel Fire Sleeping Bag. I can’t even remember where I found the deal on it and purchased it.

Two years ago I moved out of a house I had lived in for a couple of years and lost the stuff sack. For a year I thought about replacing the stuff sack, but I was lazy and continued to shove it into the bottom of my pack without a stuff sack – which was highly inefficient. However, every time a backpacking trip was over, I would forget about it until the next one.

In March I traveled down to Gooseberry Mesa on a mountain bike trip with friends. Once again – no stuff sack. When we got back I went to purchase one, but thought I would give Marmot a call before purchasing because I didn’t know what size to get.

When I called up Marmot I was honest – this was not a “Dog ate my stuff sack” sort of conversation. I openly admitted to losing the stuff sack when I moved, and explained that I was searching for the size of it so that I could purchase a new one. The Marmot Service Agent I spoke with said no problem – I would need a Marmot Small Stuff Sack and if I gave him my shipping address he would put one in the mail for me.

I was quite surprised, and repeated again that I had lost it. He said it didn’t matter – I should see a new one within a couple of weeks. Sure enough, a week later there was a package from Marmot in my Post Office Box – free of charge.

Marmot is smart. I am not sure what a stuff sack costs them – probably less than $10.00, but you can bet someday down the line my next sleeping bag will be a Marmot one.

Since I had such good luck with Marmot, I decided to also give Kelty a call. On that same Gooseberry camping trip one of the poles of my Kelty Vortex two-person backpacking tent had broken off into the end it fits into.

A new tent would cost me $200 and the truth is yes I could afford that if I wanted to, but the biking/backpacking season is young and I would much rather put that cash into new outdoor toys that I currently don’t have.

This tent is way older than my sleeping bag - I’ve had it since I graduated from college so that makes it at the very least 7-8 years old – probably older. This particular tent has not been babied. It’s held its own through many a wind or thunder storm, survived a move from Michigan to Montana to Park City, and has been in at least 10 other states on various camping and backpacking trips.

The kicker is that while it may be slightly heavier than a modern-day tent, there is not one seam torn or any other default outside of the pole.

On the phone with Kelty – I explained to the agent that my tent literally had a broken leg, and was there any way that I could purchase a new leg instead of buying a whole new tent.

Once again I was blown away with the service I received. The Kelty Agent said no problem – here’s a return number – send it back to and they would either repair it for free or give me a new leg. I thought maybe I was imagining this.

“Are you sure – this tent is 7-10 years old,” I replied.

“No problem – just send it back. We’re happy to help,” he said.

Once again, Kelty has turned me into a customer for life, just as Marmot did. I completely understand the thought process here – help a customer and hope that they come back to shop again.

But honestly – in today’s material world to have these outdoor companies stand behind both their word and product is a bit of a pleasant surprise and tells me who to turn to the next time I am in the market for a product they sell.

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Blogger powstash said...

Word! Good to hear these companies are taking care of their own.

6/03/2008 12:51 PM

Anonymous Stephen VA said...

Good topic! I melted the handle off my MSR pot lid over Memorial Day weekend (admittedly abusing it as a makeshift pancake griddle) and called them on Tuesday to buy a replacement. The Small Parts Dept. sent me one (no charge for the handle or postage!) and it's ready to go for this weekend!

6/03/2008 2:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had a similar response from Berghaus, Burton and North Face.
Berghaus - The Zip broke on my 2 year old fleece jacket, I returned it for repair and they sent me a brand new fleece.
Burton - Replacing my broken 08 bindings with brand new 09 ones, also assorted minor things like snapped boot laces, missing base plates etc
North Face - Replaced my 4 month old Boa shoes with brand new ones when the lacing mechanism jammed, the amazing thing about this is I just happened to be walking by the shop and I walked in and they swapped my shoes on the spot

6/04/2008 8:47 AM

Blogger Chasmanian Devil said...

I bent a friend's walking pole crossing an ice field (should have used an axe), took it to REI where he bought and they gave me a new one no questions asked. Also returned worn-out shorts with busted nylon buttons and got credit towards new shorts. Guess where I still go to buy most of my outdoor gear?

6/05/2008 2:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should see if ski pole companies give you the same sort of service, since you seem to break them often enough. Great story!

6/06/2008 1:29 PM


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