Marching Up and Down Again
Last July, Brian Ameringen sidled up to Alison over a Christmas dinner and asked her to take photos of his shoes. As he was not noted for being a foot fetishist, we were suspicious. When we'd heard the whole story, we asked him to write it up for Plokta:
BACK in April 1997, Caroline pointed out an advert for shoes made by H*wksh*ad (the Cumbrian, outdoors wear company) in the Guardian. The advert showed a particular style and stated "If you wear these shoes out. We'll replace them. With your free 10 year guarantee." In smaller type it stated "if you manage to wear out a pair within 10 years, we will replace them free of charge", "You will be covered against all everyday wear and tear" and "your Lomer shoes will be fully guaranteed for 10 years".
I tend to be 'hard' on shoes, and as a lad recall my Mother discovering the Tuff Shoes Guarantee -- if your child wears out a pair of Tuff Shoes within 6 months, we will replace them (or something like that). After I wore out three pairs in the 6 months Tuff Shoes invalidated their Guarantee for me (of course I really shouldn't have played football with half-a-brick -- but that's boys for you!).
Caroline knows how quickly I wear shoes out and asked me why I didn't buy a pair. I pointed out that, although the uppers were leather (which is good) the soles were artificial and my experience of such soles was that they tended to wear quickly. She reasonably pointed out that from the wording of the advert H*wksh*ad (who project the hard-walking outdoorsy type of goods company) expected the shoes to last between five and ten years... so after discussion, a couple of days later, I phoned them up and ordered a pair. They were light and quite comfortable (they had to be broken in a bit), but easier to adapt than the brogues I'd been wearing.
By early September the shoes were so worn that I couldn't walk in them. So I wrote to H*wksh*ad asking just what their offer covered. They phoned me to say that the shoes had to be returned for inspection but, subject to this, would be replaced for the 10 years covered by the offer. In the post I received a reply-paid sticker and sent the shoes back, taking out a Proof Of Posting certificate, as requested. I was pleased to receive a new pair some 3 weeks later.
Oddly enough, after another three months or so these shoes were so worn as to require returning -- which I did -- and they were replaced. This situation continued, with the shoes being worn and returned every 3-4 months and taking 2-3 weeks to be replaced.
However when there was a 6 week turn-around they were kind enough to send me replacement shoes even though they hadn't inspected the returned pair. I realised that if I continued to wear out these shoes every 3 months, but it took 6 weeks (and a few phone calls) to replace them, rather than having 10 years wear from the shoes, I would only have 6½ years' wear.
On broaching this point with H*wksh*ad staff, I was told I should have bought two pairs of shoes in order to have one pair to wear while the others were being inspected and replaced! As it was too late to do this, I encouraged H*wksh*ad staff to send my replacement shoes before I'd returned the old pair, so that I could more closely approach the 10 years' wear offered in the original advert. They were reluctant to do this, but agreed, after I offered to waive the guarantee if I failed to return the worn shoes.
In April this year they sent me a replacement pair before the old ones had been returned. I'd had to offer to waive the guarantee if I failed to return the worn shoes again, but for once they didn't argue much -- and I thought they had discovered that it was less work that way round...
In June I received a letter asking for the shoes to be returned, and as they weren't completely worn out I phoned H*wksh*ad to ask why? They said that they still hadn't had the pair I sent back in April (and thus, from my offer, the guarantee was void) -- so I dug into my file and gave them the reference numbers and date of the Proof of Posting to show that the shoes had been returned -- and after a little silence they said this was OK.
Nearly two weeks later I received a letter from them advising that as the shoes had been changed six times they could not offer any further exchanges and stated that "Under the terms of the 10 year guarantee 'the guarantee covers any failure due to defective materials or workmanship.'" But as the shoes were not faulty they should not be replaced.
I phoned them and talked to a Manager, pointing out the wording on the original advert (I'd kept) which was what I'd responded to and not the Guarantee they sent me later -- and asking why six replacements were the limit (discovering that I wasn't even the 'record holder') -- and they wrote again a week later enclosing a cheque for the original purchase price stating that this ended the matter.
I phoned again and expressed the view that I wanted what was originally offered which was ten years shoe wear, preferably in one pair, but I was realistic -- I agreed that I walk further than the average which I have been told is some 2 miles a day and tend to walk fast, coming down on the shoe heel. I've assessed the distances walked every day for the last 5 weeks, and the weekly average comes to around 28 miles i.e. coincidentally double the hearsay average. However, this point is irrelevant as the original advert made no mention of making exception for persons walking 'above average' distances.
Also no mention was made in the advert as to a maximum number of pairs that could be exchanged during the 10 year period. So I wrote to them again, returning my existing pair, as requested, and thanking them for the offer of a full refund, but stating that what I wanted was the ten years' wear in terms of replacement pairs, as offered in H*wksh*ad's original advertisement...
After some further letters and phone calls during which I suggested they send me the 31 pairs I would need to fulfil the guarantee (I could send them back when worn out and this would reduce their administration (they declined this suggestion)), or alternatively they substitute a harder-wearing shoe so they would require changing less often, they have sent me a pair of hand-made shoes with specially toughened soles -- just for me!
And with a little prompting, have also agreed that the original guarantee will continue to run (or rather, walk)...