Time To Pack Up And Take A Hike, Buddy

, , | Right | February 14, 2020

(I work at an outdoor gear store. Our return policy is extremely lenient; all gear purchased before 2013 has a lifetime product warranty as long as customers have a proof of purchase for the damaged item. They can bring in a physical receipt, or, in most cases, we can look up the item on the purchase history for their account using our computer system. I grew up backpacking with old-style packs with external steel frames, which were cumbersome and extremely heavy. Steel-frame packs are out of production now in favor of packs with internal aluminum framing, but our store does have a couple of old-style packs arranged as display items. As I’m walking through the store, I’m surprised to find an old-style pack lying in the middle of the sales floor, empty and covered in dirt. It’s clear it isn’t one of our packs, but as there’s an associate stationed nearby to watch it, I move the pack to the nearest wall and keep walking. A few minutes later, a middle-aged man steps into the customer service line wearing the old external-frame pack.)

Me: “Hello, sir. What can I do for you today?”

Customer: “I have a return.”

(He shifts the dirty bag off his shoulder, placing it on the counter. Up close, the external frame is warped along one corner.) 

Customer: “This pack is broken.”

(I know immediately that he won’t be able to return it, but I try my hardest to stay professional.)

Me: “Do you have a receipt for that, sir?”

Customer: “It should be on my account.”

(It won’t be. Our computer system was installed in 2000 and only contains records after that date. External-frame packs went out of production 20 years before then.)

Me: “I’ll see if I can find it, sir. But–”

Customer: “My phone number is–”

(I input his information. Just as I expected, I can’t pull up the record he needs.)

Me: “Unfortunately, I’m not able to find a proof of purchase on our system, so I won’t be able to run a return on this pack. Unless you have a physical receipt for the pack, there’s nothing I can do to process a return.”

Customer: “Are you f****** kidding me? This pack is broken. I have a lifetime warranty–”

Me: “With a proof of purchase, you would, sir. But that’s not something I can get for you.”

Customer: “It’s not online?”

Me: “Our online system was installed in 2000, sir. It doesn’t contain any records from before that. So, your pack, which was purchased in… the early 1980s?”

Customer: “1981.”

Me: “Right. That record wouldn’t show up in our system, as it’s too far back.”

Customer: “But it has a lifetime warranty.”

Me: “Yes, in theory. But that’s for the lifetime of the product, sir, not your lifetime. This pack is almost 40 years old. It’s already exceeded the end of its natural lifespan.”

Customer: “This is ridiculous. I don’t even want to return it! It’s just that it’s broken and I need to exchange it. For the same thing. I shouldn’t need a receipt for that.”

Me: *pause* “Sir. We don’t carry any steel-frame packs. Even if I waived the receipt, which I can’t do, you wouldn’t be able to exchange the pack at all.”

Customer: “I don’t believe this. How would you know my pack is out of warranty, anyway? I want to speak to someone in the camping department!”

(A supervisor from the camping department happens to be walking by. I call her over and explain the situation.)

Customer: “My pack can’t be out of warranty! I’ve barely used it. I’ve only taken it out three or four times a year.”

Supervisor: *visibly shocked* “You’ve used this pack 80 times?”

Customer: “Yes, I have. It’s a great pack, and I just want to replace it; is that so much to ask?”

Supervisor: “Sir, with that level of use, the pack would be out of warranty regardless. And… we don’t carry steel-frame packs anymore. At all. The last time we had them was — I don’t even… the ‘80s, maybe?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure the last time they were even in production was 1981. Either way, the pack is out of warranty and you’re giving it to me without a proof of purchase. There’s nothing we can do here, sir.”

Customer: *triumphantly* “But it’s antique! It has to have some kind of antique value, right?”

Me: “Not necessarily, sir. I picked up an intact external-frame pack at the thrift store last week for $6. With the used frame on your pack, I’d offer even less than that. We don’t buy antique packs, so it doesn’t really matter; I still can’t help you. If you really would like to use it as a display item, though, I’d recommend doing so in your own home, and not just leaving it lying around our store.”

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