thinkmore

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Posted in good design, things we like, tools of the trade by hemmant jha on July 1, 2010

Two rare and beautiful words : Lifetime Warranty. Part One.

There are two words even more beautiful : unconditional guarantee, but more on those another time.

Partially because there are just so few these days, one is intrigued by things that come with a lifetime warranty. I buy whatever I can that carries this little badge of pride, sometimes just to see what makes it special. Special enough that the people who make it have such faith in what they do, and the ability of buyers to acknowledge this feature so special that they’d buy only once, and that they’d buy nothing else.

Is the carriage of a lifetime warranty about something more than good engineering and workmanship – is it the gentlemanly thing to do? Once someone has placed trust in your work and your product, is making them pay again [and again] for the same thing simply crass? Is it impolite to judge  – a clicking tongue, a wagging finger if there’s been user error involved? I’d like to think so – but then, at thinkmore, we’re nothing if not polite, sometimes to a fault.

How silly this must sound in the current landscape of commerce and product. Business plans have rates of failure written into them, and there’s the expectation of a certain percentage of returns and exchanges. Most often, it’s a relief when a product simply works as advertised, let alone work beyond expectation. The norm for consumer products [electronics and potato peeler alike] seems to be about a year of service  [not unconditional, generally] – after which you’re on your own, moving along on a smile and a prayer.

And repair or replacement under warranty is generally at the discretion of the seller, not the buyer. It is politeness alone that prevents me from describing accurately the quality of ‘customer service’ – the irony of which is lost to no one who’s tried to make use of this facility. It matters not what one reads about Apple in sensationalist media – my friends, colleagues and I have had nothing but superlative after-sales and support experience from Apple – in person and over the phone – bless their industrious little hearts.

What’s the difference between a guarantee and a warranty? It’s one thing according to the BBC, but according to well informed legal minds, in practical terms, there is no difference.

Patagonia clothing comes with a lifetime guarantee, as does the Rex peeler from Swiss Tech, Koss headphones [‘no questions asked‘ limited lifetime warranty] and Berndes cookware – all designed for rigorous use, and regularly subjected to heat, wear, stretch, abrasion, punishment. Just within the four names and categories above, we’ve covered a wide swath of consumer products – so why does their worthy competition shy away from offering the same?

In an age when even a one year warranty is not unconditional, and extended warranties are an added suggested purchase, the lifetime warranty is a rare bird. Grab it when you see it.

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