Before you head out to start your back to school shopping–or any gift or other shopping for that matter–I believe it’s important to keep in mind the notion of buying products with a lifetime warranty or lifetime guarantee or some sort of policy where the company stands behind its products. Why? Because my frugal beliefs are all about getting the biggest bang for your buck or the most value for your money–not always the cheapest price.
For example, take my allegiance to companies that offer a lifetime warranty on their products. Many of these companies have products with a price tag that might give a cheapskate pause. But I don’t just see the upfront price as being important–I see the long-term spending as being the real key. So if a company offers a lifetime warranty on an item, and I have to spend only once on something which the company might replace for free in the future, if necessary, then over the long run I’ve saved money.
I’ve written before about cashing in on lifetime guarantees and, frankly, many of my readers have given me grief about doing so. That’s fine–we can agree to disagree. But I stand by my belief that if a company is going to offer a lifetime warranty and honor that lifetime guarantee, then I’m going to use that warranty to my bottom line’s advantage. Plus, that lifetime warranty guarantees I’ll be a loyal customer forever.
Below is my review of three companies that offer a lifetime warranty. I’ve laid out the pros, cons, and my thoughts on the three companies with lifetime guarantees with which I’m most familiar–L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, and Jansport. The companies are listed alphabetically.
Following this list are other companies that stand behind their products with a warranty or guarantee and are worth noting. They are All-Clad, Columbia Sportswear, Dr. Martens, Eddie Bauer, FitBit, Hunter Douglas, The North Face, OtterBox, Touchfire, and Zappos.com.
REVIEW JANSPORT’S LIFETIME WARRANTY
Jansport makes backpacks, luggage piece, laptop bags and other packs that help you tote things from one place to another. I first heard about Jansport products and the lifetime guarantee when I was writing an article for Woman’s Day on back-to-school savings. At that time I’d interviewed parents whose children had had Jansport backpacks with zippers that broke, and Jansport replaced the packs for free.
I wrote another article on a related topic for Good Housekeeping a few years ago and found another family who was able to replace busted zippers on a Jansport backpack for free. Interestingly, my first experience taking advantage of Jansport’s lifetime guarantee also involved a backpack’s broken zipper.
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.
The company means it. When my daughter Annie’s Jansport backpack could no longer zip up, I simply went to the Jansport website, downloaded the form to fill out and send back with the pack, and sent it in.
I had to pay for my own shipping to the Jansport warranty center in California. Even though Jansport is sold in national retailers–we got Annie’s Jansport backpack at another store–your only option is to mail it back to Jansport.
On the plus side it didn’t take Jansport very long to acknowledge receipt of Annie’s broken backpack–I got an email a week later letting me know it had arrived. I never heard from Jansport again, until, almost a month to the day, Annie’s brand new backpack arrived on our doorstep.
REVIEW LANDS END’S LIFETIME WARRANTY
Here’s a short list from the Lands’ End website on what the company makes and sells: clothing for men, women, children; swimwear; outerwear; shoes; school uniforms; products for the home; luggage.
I became a Lands’ End customer when I started buying my daughters Lands’ End bathing suits. Of course, when you’re talking kids clothes, they usually outgrew their Lands’ End duds before I could take advantage of the Lands’ End guarantee. So it didn’t surprise me that when I did eventually need to take advantage of the lifetime warranty, it was for something I’d purchased for myself.
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.®
It’s more than a return policy. It’s a promise we’ve kept for over 50 years now, to stand behind every product we make and every service we deliver.
Shipping the broken product back (albeit for free) isn’t the required first step when using Lands’ End’s guarantee–purchasing a new replacement product is. So when I wanted to replace a down vest with a missing snap, I needed to actually pay for the 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, and once Lands’ End received it, they would credit my payment. While the thought of having to spend upfront to get something that is guaranteed for free felt wrong, Lands’ End did as they promised, and credited my Discover card within days of my vest arriving at Lands’ End in Wisconsin. In the end I got a new down vest for free.
REVIEW L.L. BEAN’S LIFETIME WARRANTY
L.L. Bean also makes products for nearly every part of your life. In our house you’ll find the following from L.L. Bean–some purchased for ourselves, other received as gifts: flannel sheets, workout gear, outerwear, bathing suits, backpacks, shoes, lunchboxes and luggage.
When I first wrote on this blog about my taking advantage of L.L. Bean’s lifetime guarantee policy, many readers shared my point of view of supporting a company that is going to stand behind its products via a lifetime warranty. Others felt it was disingenuous and unscrupulous. However, I will stand behind my belief that the reason I have continued to wear an L.L. Bean winter coat is because, though pricey upfront, I knew that L.L. Bean would stand behind its products no matter what.
Here is how L.L. Bean describes its warranty:
Our products are guaranteed to give 100% 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, all you need to do is fill out an exchange form, send the item back to L.L. Bean, and they will replace it no questions asked. Another option is to visit one of their stores–there are about 30 nationwide. I brought my busted L.L. Bean suitcase to the King of Prussia store in Pennsylvania (when I lived there) to get a replacement. Recently, I returned one of my husband’s L.L. Bean business shirts to the L.L. Bean store at the Freehold Raceway Mall in N.J.
You’ll need to pay to ship your item back to L.L. Bean if you can’t visit a store to take advantage of the lifetime warranty. At least with winter coats, styles seem to change often so exchanging a coat on warranty has never allowed me to get the same coat twice. Just this past winter I returned a coat from three years prior. Despite following the washing instructions to a tee, the coat would not come clean. L.L. Bean no longer made that style of coat, so the replacement I ended up choosing actually cost $30 more.
My bottom line is this: though I’ve presented some “cons” above, overall I support these companies 100 percent for standing behind their products. I will continue to be customers of L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, and Jansport, and reward them with my business because I believe in how they make and guarantee their goods.
OTHER COMPANIES THAT OFFER PRODUCT WARRANTIES
Here are other companies that offer similar lifetime guarantees or warranties. This is good information to have when thinking about spending your hard-earned cash on back-to-school shopping or, in the case of some of these non-clothing brands, Christmas presents, holiday gifts or home furnishing items for your house, condo or apartment. Note: Portions of this article originally appeared on Parade.com.
This upscale cookware brand stands behind its product from the date of purchase, and promises to repair or replace any item found defective in material, construction, or workmanship under normal use and following care instructions. All-Clad even warrants its non-stick coating on pans with a lifetime guarantee.
You’ll find a limited lifetime warranty on Columbia Sportswear products, but its a warranty nonetheless.
When I was in college, Dr. Martens or Doc Martens as we called them, was a wardrobe staple. These shoes aren’t cheap but they last forever. However, if they don’t, you can take advantage of the Dr. Martens For Life warranty. There is a catch, though: you have to register for this lifetime guarantee within 60 days of your purchase, and this warranty applies only to the “For Life” products in its product line, such as the 1460 boots shown here.
Eddie Bauer products are built to last, to be sure. No wonder my husband is still wearing two shirts he purchased from the company some 20 years ago. Even so, this is Eddie Bauer’s take on its lifetime warranty: “Eddie was one of the first retailers to offer an unconditional guarantee in writing-he was that confident and committed to the quality of his products. And after 50 years in business he said, ‘My greatest contribution to the consumer was our 100% unconditional lifetime guarantee. That guarantee was part of what I sold.’ Eddie’s philosophy guides us to this day. Every product we sell is designed to be the best and built to last. If anything you buy falls short of those standards, you’re invited to return it at any time. Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund.”
I had no idea that Fitbit had a guarantee program, until the clip for my Fitbit One (the kind you wear on your bra) broke. While doing a Google search about where to buy a replacement, I came across posts that mentioned Fitbit would replace the clip for free. I logged onto Fitbit’s website, opened a chat with a customer service representative, and within minutes my new Fitbit clip was on its way to me. It arrived a week later.
If you’re giving the gift of window treatments—maybe you just bought a house—take note that Hunter Douglas supports its products with this lifetime warranty.
The North Face
For my teenage daughters, last year’s must-haves included jackets from The North Face, which both girls received. Thankfully, those jackets came with a lifetime guarantee, as explained on The North Face website: “The North Face products are fully warranted to the original owner against defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product. If a product ever fails due to a manufacturing defect, even after extended use, we will repair the product, without charge, or replace it, at our discretion.”
Whenever you get a new smartphone, I hope you’re also getting an Otterbox case. I have the Otterbox Defender Series and it has saved my iPhone from destruction many times over. About six months after I purchased my Otterbox, it broke—and Otterbox replaced it for free. I had to document the damage with photos, and then email the details to the company. But a few days later I got my brand-new case shipped to me for free.
Touchfire makes keyboards that attach to iPads and offers a lifetime warranty. Not surprisingly, the company won’t replace a keyboard that you’ve spilled coffee on, but it did tell me that it sent a new keyboard after hearing from a customer whose baby bit and broke it.
While Zappos.com doesn’t sell products under its own brand, I have found that it will stand behind them nonetheless. For example, I ordered cleats for my daughter to wear during field hockey season. Halfway through the season, the shoe split. Zappos replaced them for free when I called. When it happened again a few months later, Zappos sent another replacement pair and refunded our purchase price. I had the same experience with Ugg Australia boots that did not hold up as expected. Again, there is no official lifetime guarantee on the Zappos.com site, but I do know that Zappos offers some of the best customer service around!