Most of you may find this immensely shocking, but I was able to trick a somewhat reputable institution into granting me a graduate degree in economics about five years ago. Perhaps the most important lesson I took away was this. It isn’t gold or greenbacks or banks that make markets work. It’s information, and it truly is that simple. For a market to be considered efficient (that it, a market that maximizes the utility of all parties involved), information must be accurate, thorough, and readily available.
Now, I recognize that I am far from the first to address the ongoing debate regarding the future of fly rod warranties, but I’m beginning to grow tired of this persistent conversation where everyone complains and nothing changes. So, I figure that it everyone else is complaining, I might as well do the same. And I recognize that nothing will change as a result of my complaining, but I’ll do it anyway.
So, we know that information is important. The problem is that our industry is one in which information is not widely available. We, and by that I mean both consumers and shop guys, cannot possibly have a complete picture of what’s going on. We can’t know how many rods each company sells, what the failure rate of each brand is, the true cost of the warranty component of each brand’s rod price, and a hundred other questions. To a certain extent, then, it makes sense that we demand lifetime warranties for every rod we buy. And from the manufacturer’s standpoint, any company deciding not to offer a substantial warranty would simply be handing sales to their competitors.
In the absence of full information, I think there are a few options available. The first, and maybe the least likely, is that consumers demand more options; I don’t see this happening. I just don’t think enough people are going to write letters to Sage and Orvis asking that warranties be made an option available for an additional cost at the time of purchase.
Another option, perhaps, is that through enough backroom meetings at IFTD and other events, the manufacturers simply change the standard practices together. This seems more likely to me, but I’m still not convinced. Just as consumers do not have access to the information we need to make truly informed decisions, I’m not convinced that the manufacturers see the value in acquiring and analyzing the information that is readily available to them. You might be surprised how far just being on time and not hungover will get you in this business.
I might as well throw in my recommendations at this point. You’ve paid good money for them, so I might as well give you what you’ve paid for.
First, I want to see rod warranty cards required to be filled out at the time of purchase. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone mention how they found broken rod on eBay or on the side of road next to a popular river only to have a manufacturer fix it at either no cost or for a nominal fee. We claim that warranties are limited to the original purchaser, but in many cases this isn’t verifiable information. I would love to see serial numbers on every rod or RFID tags placed in them so the original purchaser can actually be identified. Or, the manufacturer’s just don’t care. This drives up warranty servicing costs, and rod prices follow. We aren’t paying for a rod; we’re paying for three of them.
Second, fly shops need to be honest and upfront about how warranties work. There are way too many people expecting their shops to swap their broken rods for new ones off the shelf. That’t not how it works. We don’t have rod winding machines in the stockroom, and we aren’t in the business of giving away new rods every time someone slams a rod in a door and walks in telling us it broke on that studly stocker they caught that very same morning.
Finally, I want to see some action from the manufacturers. I either want a press release that says that warranties are not going to be changed and we all need to quit bitching or that they are truly going to take a look at the readily available information and figure out a model that works for all parties involved. I just hope it happens before yet another person gets pissed off at me because they stepped on their rod and I won’t just give them a new one off the wall.