This is one crazy market. Nowhere else can you buy something that the manufactures will say
"break it for any reason and we'll give you another one and for free".
It really is madness. How on earth could something like this happen, is it a gimmick and does it
really work? Fortunately I am in a position to answer this, being what one might refer to, as a bit
of an expert rod-breaker.
Orvis first introduced the concept with their 25 yr guarantee. Basically how it worked was you
broke an Orvis rod and they repaired it for you free of charge. It was simple enough, and some
Orvis rods are rather nice; I've chucked some of the Tridents around. Back in those days I wasn't
an Orvis man (and I don't like what they are doing to the River Test either btw).
Redington were next, and took things one-step further. Determined to make a market presence in the
US they introduced the "Immediate Replacement Guarantee." Break a Redington rod for any reason and
they'll give you a new one free of charge. This was done both over the counter and via post.
Simply take a hacksaw to the blank and send the bit that says "Redington" back to the manufacturers
and they'll send you a complete rod. Magic.
Then Sage followed. Now there are more lifetime guarantees that you can shake a
stick or flyrod at.
A few years back I was working for Guide Flyfishing, the UK importers for Redington, as their sales
manager (believe it or not) and it was my job to get Redington into the UK shops.
There was massive resistance. Wouldn't people just break their old rods so that they can get new
ones for free? How are we ever going to sell another rod again? And what about when Redington goes
bust: who is going to honour their guarantee then?
And then there was, and is, the very real concern that the quality of rods will be lowered in order
to cope with these guarantees. In some ways this has been the case. Robustness and cheaper
manufacturing costs have replaced quality and finesse.
Anyway the point is this: the guarantees are honoured. There is a small charge to cover postage
costs. But in the case of most manufacturers you get a new section and in the place of Redington a
brand new rod.
The Sage guarantees are handled by Gary Coxon, who with the UK purchases, arranges the free repair, or in the case of US sales sends off to the US and charges
delivery and import duties; because he doesn't like you buying on the cheap either.
The Redington guarantees are honoured by Guide Flyfishing and you get your new rod very quickly.
Loomis do not offer a lifetime guarantee, preferring to market building the best.
This might seem strange, coming from the guy who breaks at least one rod each season, but I do not
like the lifetime guarantee business. I believe that it does indeed lower the standard of flyrod
manufacturing. And I believe that I am seeing the effects of this now.
However, there is no denying that it does make a rod seem very attractive. It's free insurance
cover and with no excess. How do they do it?
Well for a start they incorporate it into the original costs. Redington calculate on a 10% return
rate and get less than 7.5. I'm not supposed to say how much a rod costs to manufacture, but if I
said $17 US for a rod like the Redstart, I'd be quoting from 5 yrs back and you can be sure as hell
these things are cheaper now and not more.
There cannot be much difference between the raw costs of most rods. This doesn't mean that they are
overpriced by the time they get to you btw (!); the retail side of flyfishing is a tough dog-eat-dog
business and we deserve those 1.8 margins, believe me :-)
However there is no question that you'd be mad to but any rod without an
unconditional lifetime guarantee.
But of course you probably already know this.