What does your Lifetime Warranty include? Most are quite ambiguous!
So you've just purchased a brand new suitcase, and the hang tag states 'Lifetime Warrnty'. Well you probably can't do better than that, it's covered for life...right? I recommend reading the fine print, as this topic has been a hot-spot for as long as I've been in this business (more than 30 years). In this article I address the ambiguity and confusion with regard to warranty issues, and most importantly give you tips on what you should look for in a warranty.
What is generally covered in a luggage warranty? This seems like a very stupid simple question, yet the answer is actually no where near as simple and may be quite ambiguous. I would first recommend that you read the printed warranty information that is included with your purchase. If the product does not come with printed warranty brochures or information, I suggest contacting the manufacturer direct. Several years down the road,which is likely when the product may require warranty work, a verbal or implied warranty will provide little consolation and most assuredly no results.
Secondly, you should always read the warranty information very carefully, and please ‘read between the lines’. I am not suggesting that warranty information is deceptive or misleading, however, many brands of luggage have what I like to describe as a ‘limited lifetime warranty’. If in fact the warranty is limited, it really is inconsequential if the warranty is for 5 years, 10 years, or a lifetime. Quite simply, this type of limited warranty has specific exclusions that are generally clearly stated, yet easily overlooked and/or taken for granted. The most common exclusion is against ‘normal wear and tear’, misuse or abuse, or third-party damage such as that caused by a common carrier or airline. In fact, this type of ‘limited warranty’ will somehow state that the warranty only covers the product against defects in workmanship or material.
Considering that most of us will check a suitcase when traveling by airline, there is a strong likelihood that your suitcase will be mishandled or damaged at some time or another. Although, many of the airlines will allow you to file a claim within the specific parameters and timetables that they set forth, the airlines don’t always cover some of the simple damages that are ‘normal occurrences’ and by their definition considered reasonable to expect when traveling. Some of the exclusions I am making reference to include scuffs, abrasions, missing zipper pullers, damaged handles, soil or stains, or damage to extremities such as wheels, grip handles or telescoping handles. If the damage is something quite obvious (such as a large puncture), and the passenger files the claim timely with the final destination airline carrier, perhaps your airline claim will be covered at their expense. However, if you are expecting to take your suitcase back to the store in which it was purchased, you probably should be familiar with the warranty coverage before making an assumption that the repairs will be ‘covered under warranty’.
The question you should be asking yourself is what luggage brands offer more comprehensive warranty support. Is there anything such as an ‘unconditional warranty’ in the luggage industry? Actually, there is now a small group of moderate to upper end luggage vendors who have warranty support that includes carrier related damage. That is certainly, the type of warranty I would recommend if you are a frequent traveler. The manufacturing techniques are improving year by year, so many of the damages that we see actually have nothing to do with defects in workmanship or material. Consequently, the damages we do see with frequency are those caused by carrier related damage. The bottom line is this type of warranty isn’t free, if the product has superior warranty support it is likely a product that has premium grade fabrics, components and most importantly best-in-class workmanship. Although, you can expect to pay more money upon purchase, the warranty generally will more than pay for itself considering the reward you expect with years of product enjoyment.
Congratulations, if you happened to purchase a luggage brand that has an unconditional warranty! However, there may be some nominal expenses that you may still incur. If you purchased your suitcase from a retailer that has an in-house repair center, they might be able to perform all necessary repairs and cover the entire expense under warranty. However, if the necessary repair work requires that the suitcase be returned to the manufacturer for more complicated repair work, than a shipping charge is a reasonable expense that is rarely covered under the terms and conditions of the warranty. Although, some of the manufacturer’s that offer this more comprehensive coverage will cover the expense of the return freight back to the consumer.
My closing comments reference the term ‘lifetime warranty’, which I personally don’t feel is a necessary benefit! Our industry actually has a few luggage companies that have been in existence for 50-100 years or longer, yet this doesn’t apply to most luggage companies in business today. Therefore, you have to ask yourself the question, whose lifetime are we talking about with regard to the warranty? Whom do you go to for warranty support if the luggage manufacturer is no longer in business? Luggage has evolved quite rapidly in the last 20 years, and function and features have improved dramatically within this time frame. Consequently, most traveling customers aren’t actually expecting to buy a suitcase that will last them a lifetime. However, it is reasonable to expect that you can purchase a suitcase that will perform without problems until which time as you find a ‘newer mousetrap’ that offers more function, improved features, or updated fashion. I hope this article will help you in your next luggage purchase, and prevent you from buying a product that doesn’t meet your warranty expectations.