Burning a diehard fly fisherman (and customer) for life

Or…”Early Signs of a Struggling Industry,” whichever title you prefer.

There is a certain amount of pomposity amongst the fly fishing set that I’ve always tried to avoid. It could be a shop you walk into where nobody pays any attention to you because they assume you’re a newbie (despite the fact that is an incredibly stupid business move), or someone who builds a product worth half as much as they’re asking for it because they want you to think it’ll last a lifetime. The bottom line is friendliness and simplicity are my positive drivers, and when it doesn’t exist I turn and run.

Twice this year I’ve been burned by the hoity toity, and it was the last one that spawned this post. I fear the fly fishing industry is headed in the wrong direction if the treatment I experienced is any indication.

No Deposit, No Return

I was gearing up for spring/summer about the time a local shop moved a little closer to home. I probably dropped by three or four times, each visit costing me between $50 and $100. One day I bought a new fly box, along with some foam inserts and a divider. Got it all home, and upon assembly realized the divider didn’t work for me – it was poorly designed and cramped up the box. So I took it back, along with the receipt, the following day.

When I handed it all to the shop clerk, he retorted “It’s opened…I can’t sell that,” and pushed it back across the counter towards me. Mind you, the total bill was almost $90, I was asking for a refund of $16, and the packaging wasn’t ripped to shreds either – he could have easily put a little piece of tape on the product…and sold it. Take a close look at that picture, and tell me what you think. I’ll also point out – he couldn’t have been a bigger prick about it!

The nitwit took the easy route, and he paid for it. Since that time, I’ve bought a new rod, two new reels, enough flies to fill a small pickup bed, and numerous other gadgets, goodies and consumables (think leaders, tippet, indicators, weight – you know, the expensive crap you have to buy all the time after you mortgage the house for the rods and reels). I pass by that shop several times a week – it would be plenty convenient to stop in before each weekend, but that will never happen again. Instead, I frequent a pricier shop, or drive ten miles out of my way to another.

The rod repair is free – but we’ll need a lien on your boat to ship it back to you

Yes, a rod was broken on the last outing. I was partially implicated in the death, and agreed to pay for half the cost of repair. Now, the manufacturer is playing the “sole supplier” game. They are charging a nice little fee for a new blank and the associated labor, and frankly that’s fine with me. But they are gow-gow-gouging on the shipping cost – I suspect they’ve marked it up a couple hundred percent. They’re either the only one with a blank, or they have an obligation to fix it. But, you have to go through them, and they are going to make you pay out the ass one way or another.

The sad part about this is fly rod manufacturers once had pretty decent warranties. Said warranties were lifetime, the cost of their rods were usually reflective of it, and their treatment of the customer in turn mirrored the cost…high end. But this rod originally retailed for less than a couple hundred bucks – and they are charging something over 20% of that price just to ship it back. I’m throwing the bullshit flag here because I own a half-dozen rods from this company (I’m not naming names because bad publicity is usually better than no publicity). I don’t think I paid less than $500 for any of those sticks, and I’m certain of another thing: they just lost my business – I’ll never buy another rod from them again, and I’ll bet I’ve still got a good forty-plus fishing years ahead of me.

End note

The customer isn’t always right, but that doesn’t mean you have to kick them in the groin every chance you get. I for one don’t mind kicking back, even if it is only with my wallet.

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