That's the title of an article in the May/June issue
of the Fishing Tackle Retailer, by Tom Meade.
I asked permission to reprint the article, and was
told "it's against our policy" - so I'll paraphrase
it to the best of my ability.
For a little background on this story, you should read
an article I wrote back in 1997:
Missed The Turn. It is about the Bullet-Proof Guarantee.
I was against it then, and still am. The reasons stated
in that prior article are as true today as they were then.
Now some of the rod manufacturers have figured out the
guarantees don't work. Duh.
According to the Fishing Tackle Retailer article,
"The dream has become a nightmare, free of accountability
and rife with abuse." The author quotes retailer Lance
Kaufmann, (of Kaufmann's mail-order and three retail
stores) saying they receive between 245 and 275 rods
back for full replacement per YEAR with a retail value
between $135,000 and $190,000.
"It's become an animal for our industry," according
to Jeff Schluter of St. Croix.
Everyone wanted to jump on the band wagon when Orvis
announced its unconditional warranty, (which was later
changed to a 25 year warranty.) But no other fly rod
manufacturer was set up to sell retail at that time
like Orvis was. The playing field was never level.
In the end, who paid for the warranty? You and I did.
Sure it cost the manufacturers, but the price of rods
rose to cover the rod replacements. Worse, abuse of
the system by the scam artists in the fly fishing world
sky rocketed. Why be careful, or take care of a rod.
'They' will replace it. The big one? The sale of rods
slowed down. (Except on Ebay where a lot
of "new" or slightly used rods went up dramatically.)
Quoting Lance Kaufmann again, "Every rod maker I talk
to says he wants to get rid of the unconditional warranties,
but they don't talk to each other about it because that
would be collusion. If one of them goes, the others will
follow, but no one wants to be the first to jump in the pit."
According to one of my industry friends, a couple of major
rod companies are really struggling to stay afloat. One
of them, (according to the Fishing Tackle Retailer article)
St. Criox's Schluter says, "but we're going to do it. It may
be this year, or maybe next year. Unconditional warranties
are bad for our business. They're bad for our dealers
business. With the economy tightening, dealers need
every rod sale they can get."
That's not the end of the story. Think it through.
You bought a rod with an unconditional warranty - now
the company drops it. Do you get a refund? Will the
company honor guarantees on rods purchased before a specific date?
And how will they/you know when the rod was purchased?
Some companies have numbered their rods, so they would
know when it was made or sold. (And that little additional
step cost too - plus keeping the records.)
And what happens to those companies who drop the warrantee
if the rest don't? Or the company who tries to hold out
a little too long? Will the retail store end up being
the rod police? That would be great fun wouldn't it?
Tick off most of your customers?
"Hey Buddy, sorry about this, but the warrantee is no longer
good on this rod. Really sorry you broke it."
A friend who is a professional business consultant told
me once when negotiating a contract, make sure you also
have a way out. Think it through.
Those manufacturers who fell for the perceived increased
sales with the warrantee didn't think it
through. Many of them were of our generation when people
took care of their stuff and valued their fishing gear.
They never expected the kind of returns they got - nor
the abuse. And, perhaps worse, they were willing to go
for the warrantee because they felt they could not compete
in the marketplace without it. That's blackmail!
Here we are at what may be a cross-road for rod manufacturers.
Maybe this time they won't Miss The Turn! ~ The LadyFisher
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