November 7th, 2005

No Guarantee
By James Castwell


So, you own a major fly rod company and you have had it. You are going to originate a 'line' of rods, a whole family of them that have the old coverage, namely, not much. A simple 30 day guarantee on workmanship and materials. Beyond that, you bust it Buster, you pay for it.

The theory is you should be able to sell these rods, let's call them the 'uncovered ones' cheap. Look at all the costs you avoid. Or should anyhow. Let's see first though. It still will cost the same for taxes, lights, heat, insurance, wages, materials, added components, labor, shipping, research and development, advertising and the other normal expenses that are required to be in business.

So, anyhow, let's say with a birth to death guarantee this rod with a normal mark-up should sell, back in the old days for $300.00. Everyone agrees that the cost was based on actually figuring the customer would break it and you would have to give him a free rod. Ok, so this new rod should cost half, right? What about all those other costs I just listed? It is possible to break down the cost of a rod and by including only the actual costs of the parts, come up with a cost? This is false of course as there are many other costs involved. To say a rod only 'costs' $50.00 to make is dead wrong. There may only be $50.00 bucks worth of materials in it, but that in no way is the cost of even one rod.

Let's say my company buys it's guides and we will say they are a buck a guide when they hit my front door. That makes it about $9.00 for guides per rod. Of course that is not 'on' the rod. It takes several other costs to get them applied, wrapped, covered and finished. These all add up. When one adds up all of the parts involved, and there are many when you get to think about it. The idea of being able to sell a rod for half without the full guarantee just does not fly.

It would make it possible for a company to sell one for a lot less though and we wonder why none of them do it. We grumble and complain they are all greedy so and so's etc. Let's play that I do make such a rod. We put it on the market. The 'uncovered' is launched in a whole run of sizes, 3 weight to 12. Excellent materials, fine workmanship, top of the line stuff. I am able to put my rods against the competition and knock their socks off. My rods are as good as their best and sell for 30% less. Wow. I am changing the fly rod world.

Think of my advertising campaign possibilities. Words. Phrases. Claims. All new stuff never used before. An ad man's dream. And then it hits. The word on the street. The innuendo. Letters to editors. Bloggers. Bulletin Boards. Chat-rooms. Give this a few moments to circulate in the old gray matter. It doesn't take long to see what will start up and very soon at that. I can just see comments like these:

"That's not enough off, you should make it half. You're screwing us."

"What is wrong with your rods? You afraid to stand behind them? Other companies do for a year or better. There must be something wrong with the rods or you would at least cover them for a year or more."

"What is wrong that you are not telling us about? You switch to cheap parts? Stuff that looks good but will break soon. Second-grade graphite and scrim stuff in there?

" You know it won't last don't you. Sorry you can't recommend your own products any longer than that. Think we will stay with a rod that is covered against everything. Even at 30% more it looks like a bargain to me. I just couldn't trust a rod that the manufacturer wouldn't stand behind."

I think you get the idea. So, lets take a hypothetical look at where we are now with my make-believe rod company. If I lower my price they will accuse me of using cheap material. If I do not lower the price, keep it right where it is, they will accuse me of ripping them off. If I change the guarantee I am screwing them on the old rods and not covering the new ones. If I charge a shipping and handling fee, that is 'just getting around' the guarantee. Is there no way out? Perhaps, one.

At this time it may be that we, the rod buying populace, may have poisoned the well. The 'apple of evil' has a bite out of it and there is no turning back. Today's customers have, rightfully or not, ended up with an attitude. An attitude that the rod companies are fat hogs, getting rich on them, not backing the guarantees by charging associated fees now, and are over-charging for the rods and taking away American jobs by shipping work "off shore." Deserved or not, the truth is there are some people who do think that way. And it's a shame because it's dead wrong. First let me paint yet one more scenario.

FAOL gets all of the rod manufactures to join our 'Rod Making Guild.' We get all of them to agree, at the same time, to drop their guarantee to 30 days, materials and workmanship. Of course the young guys will scream about that and the old guys will love not having to pay for rod breakage by the young guys. The fights will continue. There is no way any one company can, even by having different guarantees within the company, satisfy everyone.

So what to do. How to solve this mis-impression of the rod (and some fly reel) makers. The law of supply and demand is in place and has been for years. It is in control and is working perfectly. Charge too much, not really supplying what you are charging for and you go down the pooper. Do things right and you will survive and flourish. Examine the market, see what they want or need, fill that want or need at a fair and equitable price for value received and you will succeed.

Let me throw in my thoughts on this matter of a guarantee. When I bought my first rods I was too young and stupid. I didn't look to see if there was one. I know I didn't ask the clerk if there was one. He also sold mufflers and tractor tires and I don't think he fished. I selected the rod from the barrel and took it to the counter and paid for it. The truth is, I would no more have even thought about any guarantee with it than if I has just bought a drinking glass or some dishes. It was a cane fishing 'Pole.' The are subject to breakage. Duh! A few years later it did break and guess what? I was not surprised! Lots of things do. On any rod or reel I buy today I can truthfully tell you this. I do not know if, how long and/or for what it may or may not be guaranteed. If there is something mechanically wrong I will point this out to the maker and I will expect him to correct his mistake. If the workmanship is messy? And I didn't see it when I bought it? Tough. My mistake for not paying attention. If it fails in use do to some undetectable problem I will expect the maker to be reasonable, if we can determine it may have been something he had some control over. If not, too bad. My choice for the rod makers is this, although I know it can not happen and it's a darn shame. Go back to the old days when the customer was not always right. When if he busted stuff you tried to be as nice and sympathetic as you could, but "he broke it, he pays for it." Guarantees on fly rods? No thanks. I take care of my stuff.

I want to say this for the rod makers. I know many, heck, most of them, in person. Have for many years. Surprising how many still have a lot of the same folks working there too. Many of these operations are like small families. In fact, they get along better than most small families do. They love what they do. They are there by choice. They weren't drafted or born into it. They applied for and after some scrutiny were accepted into the fold. They work hard to make the money which supports their own family at home, the wife and kids and pets.

They are proud of what they personally do each day. Proud of the products the Company offers. Of the quality of all of it, every single nut, bolt and rod case. When they see, read, or hear some of the comments on here, or anywhere else for that matter, it hurts. It hurts because those comments are wrong. I'm sure you know that almost all of the 'defective rods' were broken by some mis-use of the owner. Stepped on, high-sticking a fish, pulling on a snag, car door and all the others. The rod makers cover them anyhow. I am proud of those who are sponsors on here, darn proud. Do I have personal favorites in Companies and rods? Sure. Kind of like asking me which one of the batch of new puppies do I like the most. Some questions just do not have answers. Different rods for different uses.

These guys are knocking their brains out each and every day to design and re-design rods to make your fishing better, more fun, less work, catch more fish and at a price you can afford, will pay and they can make a living on. It all has to balance out. It just might be the real high priced rod makes it possible for one of the lower ones to sell for what it does and not 15% higher. It might make them a better deal for you while you condemn the Company for making the very high-end rods which are helping subsidize the rod you like and use. Could be. We will never know. But, I have been in business too. It would not surprise me to find such things. No point in making the perfect universal rod which no one can afford.

There are several rod makers who Sponsor FAOL and trust me, none would be on here if we (both LF and I) didn't think the rods were what the makers claimed they were and at a fair cost and by a company which had the integrity to handle the customer properly. There will be more in the future too. This game keeps changing all the time. New things come on the scene, old things get replaced by the new ones. New material is discovered and tried and for a while is the "best thing since sliced bread." You may notice sometimes we will lose a sponsor. He may decide to try another media, move his advertising dollar around, a common practice. When that happens we wish him the best. We want him to make it. Make it, so you have the biggest and best choice of toys to fish with. Sometimes they come back too. We also like that and we try very hard to make them a success so you can have the opportunity of buying what you want. They know it, we know it, and now you do too. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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