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We’re doing a lot of gear minding, repairing, and cleaning these days. Which reminded of this wonderful collection of absurd, courageous, and frankly hilarious warranty claims the folks from REI shared with us. Enjoy. – Ed.

A few years back, REI amended its famously generous return policy and now only accepts returns on purchases up to a year old—no doubt to the dismay of opportunistic folks who took advantage of it and returned items like core-shot climbing ropes and 30-year-old ski jackets. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported the change, drawing a fairly predictable spectrum of online comments and a handful of stories of ethically questionable customer behavior.

Other publications might weigh in on what the move says about our societal values, or opine on a change in behavior since REI’s beginnings as a co-op in Seattle, or report on what REI’s change in policy means for the outdoor industry as a whole.

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We just wanted to hear some stories about ridiculous things customers told warranty departments, or customer service staff at retailers. So we asked. Here’s what we heard from a few folks on the receiving end of those warranty claims.

1. “This shirt and backpack ripped when I was stabbed.”

2. “The bus exploded.”
A customer called and the first thing he said was, “Luckily we were all off the bus when it exploded.” He had been in Central America with his girlfriend and their packs got blown up in the bus. He still had pieces of the melted fabric and shipped them to us in a box that had the word “CAUTION” written on the side of it. We confirmed he in fact had our packs and sent him two replacements.

3. “I have Fleece Model X and it doesn’t fit me very well, and the third time I wore it, I was sitting by a campfire and a stray ember burned a fist-sized hole in it. I would like a refund.”

4. “These river sandals aren’t sexy enough.”

“Well, you see, my tent was in my car, and, uh…” Photo: CC

5. “These boots are leaking.”
Someone called our customer service to complain that our mountaineering boot designed for 8,000-meter expeditions and severely cold temps, were “leaking” and they wanted a refund. Upon further investigation, the person was using them for hiking in Virginia. We were like, “They’re not leaking, you’re sweating.”

6. “EMTs cut my jacket.”
A guy had an accident while wearing our top-of-the-line rain shell. EMTs cut up the sleeve, over the shoulder and through the collar to get an IV started. After recuperation, he returned the coat and we replaced it.

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7. “These don’t fit my kid anymore.”
“The only return we ever refused was a lady trying to return a pair of shoes because her son had outgrown them. We told her the problem wasn’t the shoes, it was her kid, and we didn’t take returns on humans.”

8. “I don’t know what happened.”
“People have this idea that if they didn’t see it happen, or if they don’t know how it happened, it’s okay to return it. Sunglasses with scratched lenses, tents and sleeping bags with holes from burns, anything.”

9. “This snowboard is too slow on the catwalk.”

10. “A bear slashed my tent.”
“This is a pretty common one. Thankfully, people are never in the tent when it happens. I’m not sure why people think that’s a product defect- no tent is bearproof. Cars aren’t even bearproof. Haven’t you seen those videos?”

11. “I bought this basketball at REI.”

12. “This tent failed me.”
“A guy bought a tent from us and said he set it up on a ledge. A windstorm came in and blew him, and his tent, off the ledge, he says. When he landed, he was so tangled up he had to cut himself out of the tent. He brought it into the store and said, ‘This tent failed me.'”

13. “I need to exchange this roof rack because I bought a different car and this rack doesn’t fit the new one.”

14. “The zipper was stuck, so I had to cut the jacket to get out.”
Guy comes into the store with a jacket and says, “I’d like to return this jacket. The zipper doesn’t work.”

“Okay,” I say, “let’s take a look.” He sheepishly hands the jacket over to me. I notice right away that it’s a Gore-Tex jacket and the culprit is likely a newbie with a waterproof zipper, so I grab the jacket and look to turn the front around when I notice the zipper is zipped together. The fabric had been cut the entire length of the jacket just right of the zipper.

So naturally I ask, “Um, sir what happened here?”

“The zipper was stuck.”

“Well, sir how come you cut the jacket?”

“Because the zipper was broken!”

Turns out he got nervous about not being able to get the jacket off – “claustrophobic,” he says, and in a panic he cut the jacket off.

I look at him, look at the jacket, then proceed to unzip the zipper from top to bottom.

He shrugs and I give him a brand-new jacket.

15. “I dried these boots by the fire and the soles melted.”

16. “These have a lifetime warranty.”
I had a guy send in some gaiters that were 11 years old – this was back when we had a code on each pair that said what year they were manufactured. He had climbed Rainier in them seven or eight times, and had crampon slices all over them. He kept repeating that they had a “lifetime warranty,” and I kept telling him that they were just worn-out, that they had reached the end of their lifespan as a product. He kept saying he wanted a brand-new replacement pair, and I told him I could cut him a deal and give him 50 percent off a new pair.

He kept arguing with me, and I finally said, “These are 11 years old. People’s pets don’t last this long.” He got really silent.

He quietly said, “I’ll take you up on that deal.”

“Intended use? Yeah, I think so.” Photo: Wikipedia

17. “This does not fit my muffin top.”
“I’m too damn fat to wear the new harnesses made out of these thin fabrics, I got a muffin top like J Lo and love the way the old Harness X fits my curves. P.S. I am just a man who knows which harness makes his ass look the best on a 5.2 death slab. Word.”

18. “The illustrations are not clear. I can’t tell if the wiener goes just through the loop or through the loop and the waist belt loop. Please send a picture of a more clear diagram.”

19. “I do not like being lied to.”
“Let me first say I do not like being lied to. I was told how safe and durable these headlamps were. I got in the river here – nothing too high, the water barely came over my ankle area. The salesman said how easy it was to walk with this on my head and that I could walk into the ocean and river banks with complete safety; the light would never go out or move. Neither of these claims are true and even worse happened, I slipped on the river banks, slammed my knee, lost my fishing pole and then to add insult to injury, I was left to my friends’ ridicule laughing at me for losing my stuff in the river including that damn light. I will not recommend your gear to anyone else. Thanks for the bruises and the humiliation. I won’t depend on your products again. This was a gift I wish I had never received.”


By the way, we have a semi-updated list, well, very updated if you include the comments, of brands with lifetime guarantees, here.


Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.

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