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Old 02-14-2010, 08:54 PM
nmbrowncom nmbrowncom is offline
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rod warranties-is there a better way

i noticed that OC started a thread about a problem that he encountered with his winston warranty. it got me thinking about the "cost" to the fly rod industry, and eventually us, of the unconditional lifetime warranty offered by virtually all major fly rod manufacturers.

as an attorney, i have worked with a number of fly rod manufacturers and retailers over the past few years, and continue to do so. most of the manufactures are like the fly shops-they barely make it and many are on the ropes big time. i think many could be gone in short order. and the number 1 issue is the cost to the manufacturers of warranty repairs. the number of repairs is staggering, and many owners break their rods multiple times. that said, the overwhelming amount of repairs ore for broken tips.

i've tossed around the idea of eliminating the lifetime unconditional warranty(except for manufacturer defects) for a policy of providing 2 tips per rod and a 1 time only low repair cost.

i'd be curious what others think or if anyone has any other ideas.
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Old 02-15-2010, 04:11 AM
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There are a lot of theories about this but I believe it is all about industry norm and being competitive.

I have heard arguments about initial cost of rod being so high because of the need for warranty.

Not having had the opportunity to look at the accounts or costings of a major manufacturer it is difficult to comment.
However I seriously believe that it is possible to manufacture a fly rod at a fraction of the retail price. That fraction not being a half but more likely a tenth.

This opens up a new can of worms.

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Old 02-15-2010, 06:53 AM
Paxton Paxton is offline
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I agree with Pete...without knowing the actual manufacturing cost...it is difficult to validly comment. For instance, about 6 yrs ago I was in a local flyshop and a Sage rep came in trying to unload never used sample rods that were being replaced. I wound up purchasing one of them for $300 that was originally a $625 rod....the local shop owner got a cut of the deal and I'm sure that Sage still made a profit even at 1/2 cost. I have to assume that the actual cost of the rod to the company was at least 60% less that the retail price......that is a lot of "cushion" to use for the guarantee.
Of course, the alternative could be for companies to sell their $600= rods for $250....not give a warrantee except for manufacturing defects, eliminate shipping costs and most of their repair staff. Not sure however if us FFs would buy a rod that wasn't backed up. Plus....it certainly would hurt employment.
Another alternative...2 yrs ago I purchased a Beulah rod....surprisingly, it came with an extra tip at no charge. Although still warranteed, I'm sure that this company assessed that "giving away' an extra tip was more cost effective than examining/repairing/replacing/return shipping costs.
Then of course....the whole problem is solved if companies find a way to make a rod that can't break
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paxton
. . . Then of course....the whole problem is solved if companies find a way to make a rod that can't break Ron
Maybe Shakespeare should make an Ugly Stik fly rod .

I've had to get warranty replacements a few times for two of my rods. The first replacement for each rod was a different model than the original, but maybe they had discontinued the original model. More troublesome, however, was that all of the replacements didn't seem to be as good as the originals. The cork was not finished as nicely and the rod sections loosen during use, which never happened with either of the original rods. I can't help but wonder if they send out factory seconds for the warranty replacements.

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Old 02-15-2010, 03:45 PM
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I'll take a shot here on the issue and get blasted for my beliefs but that's OK. First of all I would like to say I'm not crazy about big upper end rod companies that have established themselves over the last 40 years or so and believe me I own dozens of them. I understand why these companies came about as fly fishing became so popular years ago and a large upper end market was created. But what we got is a bunch of look alike, feel alike rods, sort of like the car industry ya can't tell one make from another when driving down the road. If it is true that warranty issues are helping these upper end companies get in financial trouble and the end results is skimping on warranty work and maybe even in the original building of rods then we the buyers have a problem. I'm going to say right now that all my old Winston rods from the early, mid 80's are far better rods than the ones of the late 90's and later. Just better craftmanship all around.
Dating myself when I say that when I was kid I would go up to upper state NY in the early Spring with my uncle and pick up his new cane rods for trout and Atlantic Salmon. Uncle would order them the Fall before, tell the maker what he wanted in a rod and that is what he got a rod that fit his style and it was a very personal part of his fishing experience. So what can I say I would like to see every upper end rod company fail and go out business and then more small regional custom rod companies come about. There would still be plenty of rod companies working out of China at affordable costs for those who have no desire to pay upper end prices. I just think by having enough small mom and pop regional companies making all types of high quality fly rods would make our fly fishing experience a better thing. There is lot to say to know the rod maker personally, I'm sure the beauty of the rod he made for you would have much more meaning every time you cast to a rising trout or what ever type of Fly fishing you do. Yes there are small custom rod makers about but not enough of them to specialize in a certain type of rod. If these big impersonal companies would go under maybe we would see beautifully made rods again made out of all materials. And we here on fly talk could tell some wonderful stories about a personal treasure.
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Old 02-15-2010, 07:00 PM
nmbrowncom nmbrowncom is offline
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it seems like most people have no idea how tiny almost all major american fly rod companies are nor what goes into making a fly rod.
manufacturers like winston,t&t,scott,etc have yearly sales sales of 1m-4m. really tiny companies. sage at around 50m and orvis at about the same are the "giants". tfo is also around that size but their rods are not hand made in the usa.

the retail markup for a rod is between 40 and 50%. in other words the manufacturer gets between 50 and 60% of the sale price, and has to give long payment terms to the retailer. the manufacturing costs are extremely high because each step in the process is done by hand-not machine-and there are many time consuming steps. and marketing costs are extremely high as well. as a result, none of the manufacturers are making any money except perhaps orvis, and only because of other items-clothing etc. while i don't know the exact numbers, based on what i do know, i'd be surprised if there is a margin of much more than 5 or 7% before warranties, non payments,interest charges etc..

yes, it is quite possible to build a reasonable quality rod for much less, but not in the us and not by hand. that's the tfo model. they design and import a good rod and it's cheap, but they're hardly in the class of a sage, or winston, or loomis-never mind a t&t.
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:39 PM
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I tried to help my family finances while putting 3 kids thru college by taking on a fly rod business. WARRANTY costs made it impossible to succeed. Don't fool yourselves - this is killing the rod industry as we know it.

If you're using new inventory to take care of warranty there is no stock left to sell so you spiral twice as fast into the red.
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Old 02-15-2010, 10:34 PM
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Mnb, they may be small companies when you look at corperate America but they are big enough to have to play the game of mass marketing and warranty. They are also big enough that the owners, and builders of the rods do not have a clue who that rod is going to nor do they give a rats ass. Not saying the better companies don't have good quality control because they do but the rods are massed produced even if it is on a small scale and each model is the exact same rod for rod. No wonder they only can afford to make 5 to 7 percent having to compete against each other, advertise nationally and internationally, pay for a building, pay too many employees plus health insurance, etc. etc. just so they can get enough rods out the door to make that 5 to 7% add up as a profit. Would love to see all these companies go belly up or better yet they go back to the family built rods they used to be. I would love to see the life time warranty, almost all warranty for that mater stop, end. I brake an upper end rod I pay to get it fixed, the rod builder does not have to worry about skimping or short cutting or about who is going to pay his time because the rod owner is. Let's start thinking back to the time of Leonard or Paine and the quality of workmen ship. We could have the same in modern materials we have now and a lot of small cottage industry rod builders building you the rod you really want. We all know there are a lot of talented home rod builders out there who would love to quit the grind and build rods for a living but can not compete against the big guys like Winston, Sage, Loomis and rest of them. I dare say there are more talented rod builders today than ever before I just wish they could build our rods like it was done in the past, every rod built had a name and a face on it.
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Old 02-16-2010, 03:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nmbrowncom
yes, it is quite possible to build a reasonable quality rod for much less, but not in the us and not by hand. that's the tfo model. they design and import a good rod and it's cheap, but they're hardly in the class of a sage, or winston, or loomis-never mind a t&t.
Looking at the majority of this post it looks like you are comparing apples and bananas. I will just pick this last point.

However if what you say is approximately correct then the rod building industry is a cottage industry and a badly run industry. What OC says about not having customer contact is correct.



I must confess that I use Winston, Orvis and T&T rods. I believe that Sage quality is not what it used to be. Loomis has been Japanese for a long time now so who knows how their rods are made. T&T is also not as good as 10 years ago.

The major components of a fly rod are the blanks, the reel seat and the rings. These are components that must be mass produced to achieve a certain consistency. The assembly of those parts is also probably best done by machine.

Some things are better hand made because this process produces a unique one off product. A line of 8wt fly rods should all be the same.

I remember a few years ago a good friend of mine bought a new Aston Martin (that was when it was still independent). He was very proud of his unique machine that made weird noises and everything did not quite fit properly. I was very happy driving my S series mass produced Mercedes.

I have never had a TFO rod in my hand but I think I will examine them in future.

Pete
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Old 02-16-2010, 05:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petevicar
I must confess that I use Winston, Orvis and T&T rods. I believe that Sage quality is not what it used to be. Loomis has been Japanese for a long time now so who knows how their rods are made. T&T is also not as good as 10 years ago.
Individual opinions may vary. My sages are well over 10 years old, so I can only confirm half of this position on them. I won't touch the second statement. I just bought a T&T HII (4-pc) that is by far my favorite bonefish rod, they were too expensive for me 10 yrs ago.

Quote:
The major components of a fly rod are the blanks, the reel seat and the rings. These are components that must be mass produced to achieve a certain consistency. The assembly of those parts is also probably best done by machine.
By today's technology blanks can not be mass produced - unless you can be the first human to come up with an effective and reasonable processing method. I think it's possible, but it has never been done. Consistency is not a function of mass production but quality control. Assembly of most parts of a fly rod can not be achieved by machine as NMB points out.

Quote:
I remember a few years ago a good friend of mine bought a new Aston Martin (that was when it was still independent). He was very proud of his unique machine that made weird noises and everything did not quite fit properly. I was very happy driving my S series mass produced Mercedes.
I bought a first model year toyota tundra and ran it hard for 10 years and 130,000 miles without a single concern. When I traded it in it ran perfectly. Mercedes have been American for years now who knows how they are made

Quote:
I have never had a TFO rod in my hand but I think I will examine them in future.
Pete
TFO is very good low-end rod, if that's what you're into. I hope I never see you with a Charlton Mako on a TFO rod
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Old 02-16-2010, 08:29 AM
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Gary Loomis talked about the pitfalls of the lifetime warranty when they started. Loomis was sold to Shimano a while back but they are still made in the USA. That being said, having a brother who is a fanatical freshwater bass fisherman, Shimano makes a great product where ever they are built.

C'mon, it's business. Only the strong will, and should survive. The industry is evolving just like any other business, if some go under so be it. I have also done some consulting work in the industry. One of the things you have to realize is that some of these folks love flyfishing and rod building and they are great at it, however, they are not always great businessmen and often lack business accumen.

I broke two Sage rods and the lifetime warranty was not free. It was only $40 or $50 which I was fine with paying but still, that is not free. Scott did not charge me anything for one of their rods that I broke. My understanding however is that they have been on and off the ropes for quite a while. Loomis has the Xpedite program which charges $75 for a new rod when the old is broken. They take a CC number and if you don't send the broken rod in they charge you the full price of the rod. Warranties are or at least should be booked as a liability when the rod is sold and is included in the prichase price. What that means is that when the rod is actually fixed, those cost are appllied to an acrual account, not income, so the company should have time to react to market conditions and adjust price as needed.

Lastly, I think you have to look at the fact that the market is and has been contracting. Such is the businesss cycle. Just look at the number of flyshops that have closed down over the years and you quickly realize there was a boom bust cycle in the sport, no surprise there. I know my local shop owner very well and he likes to talk business. He has stated that the hardware days have been over for a long time. No more selling 2-3 high end rods per day. Flies and tippet are his bread and butter these days.

The companies that survive in the futire will likey be more diversified and offer clothing, reels, lines etc. Others will go the way of the dodo bird, but that's just buisness.
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Old 02-16-2010, 02:05 PM
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I've had a Sage Discovery rod since I was 18. That rod has been repalced at least 2 or 3 time by Sage for free. Same thing with a RPL rod. None of the breaks had to do with manufacturers defects. That's got to add up for a company and it makes little business sense. I have no economic incentive to be responsible.

Now I use the TFO rods for travel fishing and the sage rods for local fishing. So far the travel rods haven't given me any problem so I can't comment on what the TFO repairs are like.

Personally, I'd be willing to pay a lot less for a higher end rod and get a spare tip and one "low cost" repair. I wonder how much money and time the companies spend on providing warranty repair?
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:32 PM
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I'd be willing to buy high end rod at a much lower price and purchase a separate extended warranty to cover breakage similar what the auto industry is doing. That way, at least I know what the warranty is actually costing me.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:36 PM
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Does anyone think the high end companies we have mentioned so far would make better rods if they got rid of the warranty and offered insurance for around 150 dollars? Or does this warranty issue have much at all with the poor quality of high end rods today?
There is one very small high end fly rod company here in the NW that make far superior rods than any of my Winstons or T&T's. One can walk into the shop talk with the owner and discuss what type of rod you are looking for and they will build it for you, anyway they did 3 years ago and you pay for them that's for sure. They have no warranty for breakage but you know if it was an imperfection on their part they would fix or replace it for free and only charge you a real shipping fee. Every rod company knows how a rod broke and if it was their fault or not. I love the guy who breaks a rod in a car door sends it in to the company and says it broke while casting a size 22 dun on 7x tippet. But now a days you don't even have to lie just send it in. I broke an expensive rod tip off once during a small hail storm. Left the rod on hood of truck while I sat inside and watched the hail fall. Caught in the corner of my eye the tip of the rod vibrate most likely from a hail pellet. I wondered what the chances of another hail pellet hitting the tip of the rod again so I sat there and watched, mind you I had only smoked one joint earlier so I'm sure I could see strait. Within seconds another hail pellet hit the tip and the tip about 2 inches from the top guide broke off as cleanly as if I took a saw to it. There was no warranty in those days so I expected to pay, but the story they loved so there was no charge and they gave me my old rod back in perfect condition and another rod for the heck of it. true story,
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:58 PM
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There's certainly no mass production going on with the major rod companies. Try this little experiment... Put ten of the same rod in a bundle, place the butts on the floor and look up at the tips.... yep, you guessed it, ten different lengths. Not by much but you will see a difference. That's exactly why the manufacturers need the whole rod to repair a section. Each rod is unique and different. They even cast differently in the same weights.

As to the question at hand: Good luck to any rod manufacturer that does not offer a full warranty. They are simply too fragile and rigorously used to pay top dollar for unless they can be easily repaired/replaced.

Manufacturers clearly know this. Without the warranty demand would fall off dramatically.

The two tip idea doesn't hold water for me. It would diminish the rod's value in secondary markets. If I have a rod that came with two tips and I've broken one then selling the rod becomes a challenge. An educated buyer would know that I'm delivering only 2/3rds of a product and the price would be adjusted accordingly. All things being equal I'd rather own a rod with one tip and the warranty.

I like it the way it is now. If manufacturers want to help themselves the first thing they should do is collude and all adopt point of sale registering of all rods. This would help their bottom line dramatically. If the rod is registered to the original owner it is void as soon as he sells the rod. No more blank paper warranty cards following a rod from owner to owner to owner until the rod finally breaks and needs to be registered. Right now consumers can buy "good as new" rods on ebay for 2/3rds the price of a new rod. Eliminate the ability to transfer that warranty and consumers have to go back to the manufacturer to get a fully warrantied rod. Attrition becomes the rod makers best friend. Think of all those rods that are bought for one trip and then sold on ebay. Right away those rods are no longer covered under warranty. Right now that same one trip guy puts his warranty card in a safe place, fishes, sells the rod with warranty card and the rod remains a liability for the manufacturer. The percentage of repaired rods to total rods sold has to be incredibly high due to transferrable warranties. Another bi-product would be less ebay inventory as more broken rods land in the trash heap instead of on the manufacturers front door.

Out of my fifteen rods and dozens of breaks only one remains broken. Which one? The one that I bought without a warranty card. Problem solved for T&T on that one (Ironically their repair cost is reasonable at $88). Obviously I think that all existing rods should be left as is if this were to happen..... I have a pile of Sage warranty cards an inch thick .
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