A few years ago Fly Life Magazine.com did a story on the very subject of fly rod warranties and the cost to anglers and rod makers.
As we all know, it was ORVIS that created the mess. By the 1990s, ORVIS found themselves as a fly fishing irrelevant company. Newcomers were flocking to fly fishing because of the book and movie, A River Runs Through It and ORVIS wanted back in the game. Reduced to being thought of as purveyors of doggie beds and clubby garments, not fly fishing, they came up with the warranty idea. It hit the right key, and the “industry” followed, and that has burdened all of us since.
A $900 fly rod, please!
By Kirk Deeter
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very few years the issue of fly rod warranties generates some heated debate among manufacturers, fly shop owners, and consumers, then disappears. This year might be different. David Leinweber, owner of Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs, wrote an open letter to the industry demanding that rod warranties be rethought, and in the last few weeks, I’ve heard more buzz on the topic from more sources than I can remember.
You know the deal. Most high-end rods come with a no-fault warranty. You slam it in the screen door, or your dog eats it, or maybe you even break it while fighting a fish, no problem. Just mail it back, pay a processing fee (they vary by manufacturer) and you get a new rod. Thing is, you’re already paying for the replacement when you buy the $750 rod in the first place. I’ll use basic math and round numbers: Rod makers know that one in three rods get broken eventually, so they tack a third of the price of a new rod onto the original purchase price.
Some anglers love that. Some would love to see the cost of the rods reduced. Some shop owners love the warranty. Some think they sell far fewer rods than they would if people weren’t getting so many “free” replacements. And that volume of rod replacements is more than you might think. One major rod company admitted that they get as many as 500 returns per week during the busy fishing months of summer.
And some of the repair requests are silly. Look at this rod tube being held by Jim West of The Orvis Company, who heads their repairs department. He’s seen it all in over 40 years at Orvis, but this takes the cake. I don’t know if it got flattened by a tank; Jim didn’t ask. But true to their promise, Orvis replaced it.
It kind of bothers me that the price of rods is influenced in part by the cost of fixing things like this.
I was talking to another industry insider last week (few folks want to go on the record regarding this taboo), and he thinks we might see at least one manufacturer launch a new series of rods next year that expressly doesn’t include a warranty. What would now be an $800 rod might be priced at $500 or $600.
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