Broken backpack straps, headlamp that stops working, leaking tent, broken zipper, holes in shoes? It usually happens at the worst time, and that’s why you should always be ready. On the moment, the only thing you can do is to try to save the day with a trick. I did my Salkantay trek with duct tape around my hiking shoes (duck tape will fix almost everything). It was not pretty but it got me to Machu Picchu!
Once the emergency passed, if the product has clearly not performed as good as you expected, there is only one thing to do: complain and file a warranty claim. Here is a maybe very french topic: 8 steps guide on how to complain about the bad quality of your outdoor gear (and negotiate an exchange or refund).
Bad luck with your gear? Say something!
Buying good stuff matters
1. Buy items from a brand, or at least in a specialised shop. Cheap items from supermarket or pound store or perfect for trying out new activity, but there will be no guarantee they will help you on the long run.. and you won’t be able to complain. If you bought it in a supermarket or a pound store, stop reading.
2. Keep the receipt. Scan it and save it online (dropbox, google drive). Make sure that the purchase date and shop are clearly visible. If the disaster has already happen and you don’t have the receipt, it is worth trying anyway, contact the brand directly in this case, not the reseller.
Complaining about gear quality
3. Get evidence. Leaking tent? Torn shoes after only a few weeks of usage? Take pictures, video, official diagnostics!
4. Check warranty policy on the homepage of the brand. Do you need to deal directly with the reseller? Even if it is not mentioned, lots of brands will replace or compensate for product failing prematurely under normal use circumstances.
5. Send a polite but firm claim e-mail (model below). Make sure they have all the information needed such as what compensation you are waiting for (replacement is standard, reimbursement, exceptional).
I am contacting you to complain about the quality of [PRODUCT] purchased [DATE] at [RESELLER / STORE].
I was looking for a product of this type for [EXPLAIN USAGE]. [EXPLAIN WHY YOU DECIDED TO CHOOSE THEM AND HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY AND DURABILITY].
Unfortunately, I am writing to you today because [DESCRIBING WHAT HAPPEN, HOW THE PRODUCT FAILED and WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES WHERE ON YOUR TRIP]. See enclosed pictures.
This is NOT the quality that I was expecting from [BRAND].
I would like to know how we could proceed to a refund or an exchange (if you believe we have been unlucky with the items we bought) [OR QUOTE THEIR PRODUCT WARRANTY]
[ADD ALL ADDITIONAL INFORMATION NEEDED ABOUT THE PRODUCT}
[HOW TO CONTACT YOU]
I am looking forward to your answer,
6. Wait. Most upscale outdoors brands will answer you within 48h business hours. Give them a couple of weeks.
7. Usually you will find a compromise and the story ends there.
8. If you are not getting anywhere: write on their Facebook page “Hi, how long does it take to get an answer from after sales? It has been two weeks and I didn’t get any answer to my warranty claim regarding product X. Or reach them via twitter or any other social media “@(BRAND) quality default on (PRODUCT NAME), 2 weeks wait, no answer from CS, what to do?”
9. If none of these tricks work, figure out the name of the responsible for customer service or product line and e-mail them directly (Google and LinkedIn will be helpful).
Remember… Too many people never complain…
Or more exactly don’t complain to the brand, they complain their friends and other travellers or athletes instead. Don’t be one of them.
Most companies worry about the quality of their products and their reputation and will show good will. Many already have standard process in place. This keeps their customers happy and allow them to get great feedback from the field that will be useful for the development of their next products. So far I complained twice: 100% success rate!
What is the worst thing that can happen? If they don’t… don’t buy from them next time!