The Rod Warranty Circus


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.

7 thoughts on “The Rod Warranty Circus

  1. Rod warranties are generally a facade anyhow. There are 2 routes a rod manufacturer can take when giving warranty options to consumers:

    1. Manufacturer’s defect. The problem with the “manufacturer’s defect” is the ability to staff someone who can make an accurate determination if the break was due to something other than a car door, or being impacted by a streamer. Also, for anyone who knows anything about rod blanks, the existence of a manufacturer’s defect related break is nominal. This holds true especially in the scenario where the rod has many casts on it. A blank doesn’t flex properly from the get-go, and then one day give out because of a twisted fiber. Some manufacturers also flex the individual sections, whether to spine(not likely), or for quality control(more likely, but not always) before the guides are wrapped. In the end, most consumer’s knowledge of rod construction is minimal, and attempting to convince a hard headed nympher that his rod broke due to the split shot impact rather than a manufacturer’s defect can be damaging to the consumer/manufacturer relationship.

    Option 2 tends to be the industry standard. No questions asked warranty. Even at a guides/pro-staff/industry discount, we are covering large margins. Fly rods in particular have the largest margins of any industry product(debatable). This is a reality we need to be willing to face as both a consumer and manufacturer. The average fly rod over $500 easily has the cost of 3(most more) built in. This is by design for the most part for obviously profits, but also to cover no questions asked warranty handling procedures. Take that into account, plus the common charge of $20+ for shipping and processing, the manufacturer is still ordering two appetizers at dinner. The benefits? Most consumers don’t scowl at a $50 bill to replace their $800 rod, and there is no need to argue with a customer on how the failure occurred. Give me a rod, and I will pay your bus ticket for the day, and buy another one in the future because I, like most, enjoy easy. The over use of this method by the consumer is controlled by still requiring the broken section of the rod to be sent in.

    As for fly shops handling warranties, unless you are Bass Pro, this is never going to happen. Like you stated, it needs to be made very clear to the consumer that if any issues arise with the purchase, they will need to correspond with the manufacturer. The ease of the correspondence should be the leading factor in the fly shop’s decision to carry the brand.

  2. Fantastic post, glad to see something about this. I feel like Rod registration is the biggest thing in my opinion. As a shop guy too many people try to play us on buying/finding broken rods then paying next to nothing for an $800 fly rod. I know for a fact companies lose money on repairs so it’s shocking that no one is changing.

  3. don’t quite agree on the original owner thing totally. My suggestion is that if you buy a 2nd hand rod that has a lifetime warranty, it does not say the lifetime of the purchaser but the lifetime of the rod. The 2nd hand rod when sold, should come with the original warranty card ( I have copies of all mine) to be included in the sale, kind like car warranties that transfer to the new owner. No warranty card or copy of one and you are on your own with the used rod. Companies should be able to accept warranty card transfers so they can keep track of who has the rod and where, plus it would give them information for future sales. I know, it makes too much sense in a world of extremists. Tight lines,, By the way, both Orvis and Reddington have been very good to me on repairs/replacements of rods.

  4. I’m very apprecative of the companies that offer no-questions-asked guarantees, but I don’t mind paying a little extra for a repair. A cobbler wouldn’t re-sole a pair of work boots for free, even if they’re $250 red wings. Why do we expect fly rod companies to do the same?

    However, I do not understand why a few unnamed companies charge a 1/3 of the price of a lower end rod when I could just buy a tip section for less if that were the break.

    My local shop has a deal with a great local fly rod company where I can take the rod to them and they can take it to the manufacturer, but that’s an exception. He lives down the road. Why do you expect your shop in the middle of Alabama to be able to warranty your Sage rod? That’s just unrealistic.

    I think a lot of guys whine too much. The important thing for most is to just get back on the water as soon as possible.

  5. I don’t own or manage a fly shop; I tip my hat to those who can make it work and make a living at it. I’ve busted two fly rods in my time, but I didn’t get all whiny and upset when I learned that I’d have to pay a nominal fee to have them repaired. In both cases I did something stupid or wasn’t paying attention. I get it that the latest and greatest graphite stick is expensive as all get out but a lot of fly rodders need to own up to making a mistake. Makes me think of this movie scene,

  6. I think rod warranties are never going to be optional, so customers can decide whether or not to save some money on the purchase price. Mainly because I think it’s just the opposite. Rod Warranty is a way to justify how expensive the rods really are… To make you feel more comfortable when burning that budget into one single rod… Shipping and handling fees sounds indeed quite close to cover the real cost of the spare part being provided to “repair” the rod (since most of the time is not a matter of repairing the rod but just replacing the broken piece for a new one… Usually the tip)

    Good post! A hot topic.

  7. Pingback: The Top Posts of 2016 | Southern Culture On The Fly

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