Keith Bontrager is credited as a pioneer of the modern mountain bike. He coined this phrase:
Strong. Light. Cheap. – Pick two.
If a bike is strong and light, it’s not going to be cheap. If it’s light and cheap, it’s not going to be strong,
The principle rings true for outdoorsy apparel too.
When it comes to technical clothing, of course I want kit that fends off hypothermia if a shitstorm hits. But then, there are other important boxes to tick such as: Is it flattering? Can I wear to to the pub? And does it come in aubergine? I mean, who wants to look like a roadworker while breaking bread with nomadic folk in the wilderness? – Not me.
But as Keith’s “pick two” test reminds us, that kinda clobber doesn’t come cheap.
So when handing over a thousand dollars for two waterproof shell jackets for myself and my partner, I distracted myself from the pain with the thought that the good people at Arc’teryx threw in a lifetime warranty for ‘free.’
At the time, I remember probing the shop guy – “how exactly do lifetime warranties work?”
“Details are on their website,” he explained.
“Oh great, I’ll check that out.”
And then I promptly forgot about it.
Fast-forward three years. We’d just finished circumnavigating the Mont Blanc massif on our mountain bikes when I noticed that the hems on both Jackets had simultaneously come undone and frayed.
I popped on to the Arc’teryx website to check out the definition of their lifetime warranty.
Arc’teryx proudly guarantees the quality and performance of all our products. Items with defects in materials or workmanship during the practical lifetime of the product will be replaced or repaired at the discretion of Arc’teryx.
Ahhhh. The smudgy gray area of practical lifetime. More wriggle room than Donald Trump’s underpants.
When I got back to Australia, I filled out a claims form on the Arc’teryx website. They replied by email the following day with instructions to call their Australian agent.
I prepared myself for a barrage of fob-offs, vague explanations, references to small print and being put on hold to annoying tunes intercepted with “your call is important to us” announcements. At which point, I’d probably give up on my first-world problem because stabbing myself in the eye would be less painful.
After four rings, a guy called Mark picked up the phone. Refreshingly, Mark didn’t want to know the ins and outs of a dogs bottom before we got down to the nitty-gritty of the warranty. He explained the process and answered all my questions in roughly two minutes. We had bona fide banter. He even gave me his mobile number …just in case I had any more questions.
The painless process required emailing a few more detailed photos of the damage to Mark. One week later, Arc’teryx sent me a link to pick a new Jacket from several available colours.
Good ol’ customer service, an unscripted chitchat and a company fully following through on its promise – more refreshing than fermented mare’s milk in Central Asian snowstorm.
I returned the damaged jackets and received the new ones in the post a few days later.
And in my case it came in a lovely shade of Aubergine.