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Michael Gracie

Fly Rod Warranties: Not Really Open for Discussion

A few weeks back an independent trade magazine for the fly-fishing industry, Angling Trade, published an editorial on fly rod warranties penned by the proprietor of a fly shop. The piece, which you can find via web search using the term “rod warranties anglingtrade”, does not merit linkage1. It is in my opinion muddled diatribe which attempts to foist blame for a struggling business model at the feet of fly rod manufacturers.

That editorial generated a significant amount of commentary, over several days, which as someone interested in the subject I monitored. Opinions were, at the outset, supportive. Then several more saavy consumers, as well as what appeared to be some “industry insiders”, chimed in and the comment thread turned negative. Some retailer/manufacturer economics were exposed; several customer-types even declared outright they simply would not buy a premium fly rod that didn’t have a lifetime warranty.

Uh oh. Disagreement. Discontent. Then the comments were gone. Deleted.

The manufacturer penchant for offering lifetime warranties on fly rods has long been a source of controversy. Some opine that separating warranties from the rods (or eliminating them altogether) would result in lower prices and therefore more sales. Others say that if fly rod warranties go away, so will the finer brands, as the high cost of getting that [inevitably] damaged rod repaired will drive purchasers down to the low-end “disposable” bracket of the market. I’ve yet to see a rigorous analysis, steeped in manufacturer cost structures and supply/demand curves, supporting either point of view. Certainly the above-referenced “editorial” didn’t come close.

(more…)

Say goodbye to the unconditional fly rod warranty?

Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters, a powerhouse of online sales, has introduced a new line of fly rods under their Red Truck brand. Strangely enough, that same brand happens to be their outlet store moniker, but I immediately thought about how premium rod makers would feel having a retailer producing their own rods. Then I saw the warranty…

It’s simple:

– If your Red Truck fly rod breaks due to manufacturer defect, of course we will replace the broken section or make appropriate replacement for the usable lifetime of your rod

– If you break your Red Truck fly rod due to normal fishing, we ask that you pay the reasonable replacement price, comparable to the shipping and handling fees most manufacturers charge, for the section/s of the rod you (or your car door, or your four-legged friend) broke.

In other words…

Most fly rod brands build in an extra “insurance” cost on every fly rod they manufacture, knowing that this will cover the cost of the few who abuse their fly rods. For those who take care of their angling equipment, it’s pure profit for “The Man.”

But what about you? You take great care of your fly rods and might never need a breakage warranty “built-in” to the retail cost of the rod.

At Red Truck, we know that fly rods break, but we believe that you should only pay for what you use.

Fair enough. And an h/t to Moldy Chum.

Meanwhile, Deeter & Company recently broached the issue in the midst of discussing the plethora of tougher product about to hit the streets. Within was this nugget…

One industry insider I talked with (whose company eats about $2 million a year replacing broken rods) said that the rod warranty is still one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the fly rod world. And I’m not sure most consumers even like it.

There you have it folks: one side pushing rods at rock bottom prices without the unconditional warranty, and the other trying to build them better so they’ll never need to be fixed in the first place. Confusing, eh?

Of course, there are other manufacturers out there selling at Leland’s price points that will still replace your stick for no charge, but the shop does one better by saying if the Red Truck isn’t hands down your favorite rod they’ll take it back. They don’t tell you whether you’ll get a refund, but it is certain they’ve got a place to sell it used. You can also be sure that no matter how indestructible a fly rod is engineered, there is an angler who will find a way to break it. However, if even a small percentage of rods come away unscathed as a result of better builds, it looks like a positive. After R&D and other fixed costs are finally absorbed, of course.

Who wins and who loses under these scenarios? Will Leland’s new line become everyone’s rod of choice, or will the eBay rivers wind up running blood Red? Can premium rods with armor plating reinvigorate the sport, or are the price points still too high for the folks struggling with their second mortgage loans?

Even bigger question: How will other rod makers react, and where does the local fly shop fit in to all this?

MG signing off (with nothing but questions)

Stuff you might have missed while searching for your old ‘Thriller’ vinyl – 06/29/09

Technology

  • How Difficult Is It To Post A Bill On The White House Website For Five Days? [Techdirt] – Watch for a new government job listing for, uh, White House Blogger. Primary responsibility: cut and paste.
  • Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out [Wired] – All Google has to do is remove Facebook from their search results, and the fight is over.
  • Indian CEO Says Most US Tech Grads “Unemployable” [Slashdot] – The kingdom of outsourcing may be hedging its bets through the PR channels.
  • Finance

  • Krugman and the Housing Bubble: A Love Story [Reason] – Mr. Krugman is long to get his story straight. Looks like the ‘internet is forever’ mantra is getting the best of him.
  • Goldman Sachs: The Great American Bubble Machine [The Big Picture] – A must read, particularly the final blow on cap-and-trade. I suggest clicking through to the Scribd page and going full screen.
  • Frank Pushes Fannie and Freddie to Take On More Risky Loans [Contrarian Profits] – Along with a plan to refinance homes that are underwater, it looks as though we’ll all soon be in government housing, whether we like it or not.
  • Fly Fishing

  • Is It Time For Rodmakers to Get Out of the Warranty Business? [MidCurrent] – It would certainly force people to rest their rods someplace besides the door jam of their vehicles.
  • Invention Lets Fish Live Without Water [Cutthroat Stalker] – A fly fishing photographer’s dream come true? Heh, nothing can help my photog skills.
  • Elite anglers focused on FKO/IGFA Inshore World Championship [Fishing World] – Coming soon, and on EPSN to boot.
  • Adieu.