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August 28, 2007

Limited Lifetime Warranty

I must admit that my view of warranties, and my faith in them, is not the best. When I hear "warranty," what comes up in my mind is not a security blanket or the warm fuzzies associated with knowing that I am covered should anything ever happen to my equipment, whatever it may be. Instead, it's mostly feelings of frustration, sarcasm, and at times anger, the kind consumers experience so often. We've been had. Sure, almost anyone will be able to tell of a wonderful experience of warranty replacement and service, and I have some, too. Not many, unfortunately, and that's the problem right there. But I'll relate those anyway, just to be fair: Far and away the best experience in terms of warranty I've ever had was with CostCo. When an almost brandnew Aiwa projection TV stopped working after a few weeks, they gave me a new one, no questions asked. When the new one also crapped out shortly after that, I got another new one, and that one still works, after several years. You might say CostoCo's action was more replacement policy than warranty. I am pretty sure things would have gone a lot less smoothly had I had to take matters up with Aiwa. In any case, as a result of CostCo's terrific handling of my problems, they have a customer for life.

Car warranties? Hah! They almost always find a way around paying for warranty repairs. Or they get you in some other way. So much so that I never go back to the dealership after I buy a new car. The hassle is just not worth it. Supposedly reputable companies like Best Buy who constantly bleat about their service? Well, they were unwilling and unable to repair a three-year-old TV as "the parts are no longer available." Then some independent quoted an absurd fee to just look at it, and Best Buy helpfully offered to sell me a new one. So I googled and diagnosed the problem, and fixed it myself.

What does all that have to do with Scuba? A lot. The several thousand dollars' worth of Scubapro gear I bought last year has lifetime warranties. That is certainly good to know, though lifetime warranties are always a little suspect. Five-dollar tools have them, but replacement generally means $8.99 or so in shipping and handling.

No, my Scubapro gear did not fail, but it was urgently brought to my attention (not by Scubapro where my gear is registered, btw) that I needed to have my gear serviced or else I'd lose my lifetime warranty. Lose it? How? Well, read the fineprint and conditions of the Scubapro Limited Lifetime Warranty and you find that Scubapro only warrants the product for a lifetime "with reasonable maintenance."

What does "reasonable maintenance" mean? It means "... as a minimum, annual servicing in accordance with recommended Scubapro maintenance procedures or their equivalent and performed by an authorized Scubapro dealer." Should you ever need warranty repair, you need to produce the original Scubapro ID card that comes with the equipment and the name of the authorized Scubapro dealer who performed the last annual service, or no warranty service for you, buster. With those requirements, no car I ever owned would have qualified for warranty repairs. Oh, and if service was ever performed by anyone other than an authorized Scubapro dealer, you're out of luck as well.

Anyway, apparently my Scubapro gear had to be serviced or else I'd forever lose my warranty. Unfortunately, as reported a long time ago, my own Scubapro dealer folded three days after I bought all my equipment from him. My local diveshop here in Folsom had been unable to convince Scubapro to bestow dealership status upon them. And so I had to look elsewhere for proper service. Which I did.

I went to the Dolphin Scuba Center, a 65-mile round trip for me, to drop off my equipment for service. "Drop off?" you may ask. "Why didn't you just schedule an appointment, went in and waited while they checked your regulator?" Well, see, that is not the way it works. You drop your gear off and then it may take a week or ten days, or maybe more until they call you. Could be less, could be more. To be honest, that sure surprised me. And, also to be honest, I don't like it one bit. What if a dive trip opportunity came up during this unspecified period of time? Sure, I could probably get rental gear, but I like mine. Anyway, after much paperwork, and an estimate of US$75 to service my Scubapro regulator and AIR2 backup, my gear was carried off to the service department.

All that said, the Dolphin Scuba Center off Highway 80 on El Camino Avenue in Sacramento is awesome. A very large scuba store with so much equipment that I ended up spending two hours just looking around and buying a few things. A friendly owner who introduced himself and talked to me. All good. And I even understand that something your life may well depend on requires extra-special service. Maybe I am too suspicious and too gun-shy when I see so much legalese. But I still do not like to have to wait ten days or two weeks and having to make two 65-mile round trips just to have a regulator service.

Posted by conradb212 at August 28, 2007 11:18 PM