Many products you buy come with some form of warranty — whether it comes as part of the purchase or you pay for an extended warranty at the time of purchase. Take Apple products, for example. Every Apple product comes with a free 90-day guarantee. You can get Apple’s extended warranty by buying AppleCare.
Some companies offer a free lifetime warranty (sometimes called a lifetime guarantee). Because these companies stand behind their products 100 percent, you can “cash in” the warranty at any time to get something new for free.
I have developed an affinity for companies that offer lifetime warranties. Many of these stores’ products have price tags that might give a cheapskate pause. But I don’t see the upfront price as being important — I see the long-term savings as being the real key. If a company offers a lifetime warranty on an item, and I have to spend only once on something, then over the long run I’ve saved money. That’s my brand of frugal.
What got me thinking about lifetime guarantees — something I’ve written about before on my Suddenly Frugal blog — is that recently we received a brand new backpack for free thanks to one company’s lifetime warranty. Here is a comparison of lifetime warranty offers from the three companies I’m most familiar with — L.L. Bean, Lands’ End and Jansport. I’ve laid out the pros, cons and my thoughts on each.
Jansport makes backpacks, luggage, laptop bags and other packs that help you tote things from one place to another. I heard about Jansport products and the lifetime guarantee when I was writing an article for Good Housekeeping and found a family who was able to replace broken zippers on a Jansport backpack for free. My first experience taking advantage of Jansport’s lifetime guarantee also involved a backpack’s broken zipper.
Pros: Jansport’s warranty is simple and straightforward:
JanSport engineers quality, durable and reliable products. So, if your pack ever breaks down, simply return it to our warranty center. We’ll fix it or if we can’t, we’ll replace it or refund it. We stand by our packs for a lifetime and since we’ve been making packs since 1967, that’s a guarantee you can stand by.
When my daughter Annie’s Jansport backpack could no longer zip, I went to the Jansport website, downloaded a form to send back with the pack and sent it in. That was on January 28, 2013.
Cons: I had to pay for shipping to the Jansport warranty center in California. Even though Jansport is sold in national retailers — we got Annie’s backpack at Staples — your only option is to mail the item back to Jansport.
On the plus side, it didn’t take Jansport very long to acknowledge receipt of the backpack: I got an email February 2, 2013, letting me know it had arrived. Annie’s new backpack arrived on our doorstep March 2, 2013.
Lands’ End makes and sells clothing for men, women, children; swimwear; outerwear; shoes; school uniforms; products for the home; and luggage.
I became a Lands’ End customer when I started buying my daughter’s bathing suits there. Of course, kids usually outgrow their duds before you can take advantage of the guarantee. When I eventually used the lifetime warranty, it was for something I’d purchased for myself.
Pros: ”Guaranteed. Period.” That’s the headline on the website’s warranty page:
The Lands’ End guarantee has always been an unconditional one. It reads: “If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.” We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we’ve decided to simplify it further. Guaranteed. Period.®
Because Sears owns Lands’ End, if you want to bring something back, you can visit one of the more than 900 Sears stores nationwide. When I discovered that my Lands’ End down vest was missing a snap and I couldn’t fix it, the folks at Lands’ End told me to bring it to Sears and the store would ship it back for free.
Cons: Shipping the broken product back (albeit for free) isn’t the required first step when using Lands’ End’s guarantee — purchasing a replacement product is. So when I wanted to replace that down vest, I needed to actually pay for a replacement. I had to call Lands’ End, since this isn’t something you an easily do via the website. Then, I had to send the damaged vest back. Once Lands’ End received it, they would credit my payment. It all worked out fine in the end, but having to spend up-front to get something that is guaranteed for free felt wrong. But again, Lands’ End did as it promised and credited my Discover card days later.
L.L. Bean also makes products for nearly element of life. In our house, you’ll find the store’s flannel sheets, workout gear, outerwear, bathing suits, backpacks, shoes, lunchboxes and luggage.
When I first wrote about taking advantage of L.L. Bean’s lifetime guarantee policy, many readers agreed with supporting a company that stands behind its products with a lifetime warranty. Others felt the warranty was disingenuous. However, I stand behind my belief. I have continued to wear an L.L. Bean winter coat because, though pricey upfront, I know that L.L. Bean will stand behind its products no matter what.
Pros: Here is how L.L. Bean describes its warranty:
Our products are guaranteed to give 100 percent satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.
Even returning something via the guarantee is easy — on the returns pages of the website, fill out an exchange form, send the item back to L.L. Bean, and it will replace the item with no questions asked. Another option is to visit one of its stores — there are about 30 nationwide. I took my broken L.L. Bean suitcase to the King of Prussia store last year to get a replacement.
Cons: You’ll need to pay to ship your item back to L.L. Bean if you can’t visit a store. At least with coats, styles seem to change often, so exchanging a coat on warranty has never allowed me to get the same coat twice. This winter I returned a 3-year-old coat. Despite following the washing instructions, the coat would not come clean. L.L. Bean no longer made that style of coat, and the replacement I chose cost $30 more, so I had to pay the difference.
My bottom line is this: Though I’ve presented some “cons” above, I support these companies for standing behind their products. I will continue to reward them with my business.
I’m sure there are other companies with a lifetime guarantee or lifetime warranty policy. If you have had experience with them, please let me know. I would love to consider becoming one of their customers.
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- Major store return policies