Why Spending a Little More on a Brand Name can Pay Off
I have always been a fan of buying the less expensive generic version of whatever it is I am in the market for. Running shoes, clothing, electronics, prescription drugs, you name it.
And in many cases, the generic version is just as good and saves a ton of money.
There are a few cases that I have discovered, though, in which it pays to spend a little more at the outset.
I owned a pair of brand name running shoes that had a great little feature which was an alternative to laces, and I was loved them.
However after a few months, the lace-alternative mechanism stopped working, and the shoes were rendered all but useless. Since the shoes were well used by that point though, I didn't even consider the fact that it could be covered under warranty. A friend who was visiting and worked in an athletic shop asked me how I liked the shoes. Needless to say I gave him a piece of mind about the company and their crappy shoes!
"Well, just return them," he said.
"I've moved all over the country. I'm thousands of miles away from the store I went to, and I don't have a receipt anyway," I replied hopelessly.
"That's okay," he said. "Just take them into our store. We carry that brand, so we can ship the shoes back to the carrier for you, and they'll replace them for free. You'll just have to pay for the shipping since you didn't buy them at my store originally."
Done! A month later, I was wearing the brand new, next-generation of the shoe for the paltry $12 in shipping.
I'm pretty sure the generic brand version of those shoes wouldn't have held to that level of service. In fact, I might have gone through two to three pairs of the same shoes in the time it took me to wear in the brand name shoes I still own. And when I calculate the cost at the end of the day, I actually saved money with the brand name shoes.
That experience opened the doors for me to a world of brand name warranties. You don't always need to fill out a silly card or register by internet a lot of the time; you simply need to own the product. If it fails, you take it to a store that carries it and politely explain your problem and ask if there is a way they can help you. Alternately, circumvent the store entirely and go straight to the manufacturer. Again for the cost of shipping, you're likely to end up with a brand new replacement.
Most warranties specify that they will only cover manufacturer's defects, which is reasonable. But if you look hard you can even find a few items the manufacturer claims are indestructible, for which even wear & tear is covered. And even if the warranty policy states manufacturer defects only, I would challenge you to spend the small amount of time required to see if you can get a replacement anyway. If it can save you the cost of replacing that item, it`s worth at least asking.
Here are just a few brand names I've had experience with that will honour returns and replace damaged (and even just plain worn) goods:
R.M. Williams - The Australian boot company. If any part of the boot wears for any reason, they will repair or replace the item.
Oakley - For sunglasses. Friends of mine have had luck with getting broken frames replaced without question.
Tilley - Specializes in upscale travel wear, and their real specialty is the Tilley Hat - indestructible. So if any of their items wear, just return them.
North Face - This is the company that replaced my running shoes. Not only that, but a friend of mine had a North Face jacket with a lifetime warranty, and I`ve read stories about others who have received brand new next-generation jackets (to the tune of $500 or more) for the cost of shipping.
Arcteryx - Another outdoor gear outfitter, with extremely high quality (and high cost) items. I don`t personally have any Arcteryx swag, but others who own it say the warranty is honourable.
And for Canadians, items purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op (they ship internationally by the way) are almost always returnable. I have returned punctured water bladders, ripped pants, and defective watches without as much as a blink of an eye from customer service. I don't even need a receipt, since they have my purchasing history in their computer.
All this is not to say I am a brand name junkie. I couldn't care less about designer labels, and you'll never catch me carrying a $500 (or even $100) designer purse. I choose my brands carefully, based on functionality, price, and customer service.
So if you are debating whether or not that brand name item will truly last longer than the generic alternative, consider the warranties available. You may get a lifetime of use out of the initially more expensive item if you play your cards right.