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Consumer Alert

Saving the receipt for patio chairs pays off, 22 years later

By Mitch Lipka
Globe Correspondent / August 14, 2011

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Q. We went to Brookstone to return two broken patio chairs that were bought in 1989, when Brookstone offered a lifetime guarantee. The manager of the store looked at the receipt, which said “Guaranteed for Life,’’ and after a fairly long wait and questioning whether they were actually Brookstone chairs - which of course they were - he agreed to replace them, but only if we gave him the lifetime warranty receipt. That would have voided the lifetime warranty. We would then only have the warranty for one year as currently offered. Of course, because we would not relinquish our “lifetime guarantee,’’ he would not give us the chairs. Can you help with this?

Leonard Rappaport, Jamaica Plain

A. It is an honor to try to help such an exemplary consumer. To hold a receipt since 1989 that carries such a guarantee is truly inspiring, as is your commitment to principle. You have truly captured how the world has changed.

You don’t really see lifetime guarantees anymore, and it’s pretty clear why they have been changed to warranties with short time limits. They don’t make things the way they used to. Cost-cutting rules. Brookstone did guarantee those chairs for life and, well, since you’re still alive, you’ve got them on that one.

Brookstone, as uneasy as they might have been dealing with the return of 22-year-old chairs, did offer to replace them. They just won’t stand behind the new ones for nearly as long.

“Brookstone no longer carries the exact chairs from 1989, and offered a newer style of chairs that have a one-year warranty,’’ company spokeswoman Pauline Collins said. “Dr. Rappaport agreed and arranged shipment to his home, but changed his mind. The chairs shipped in the interim, and Dr. Rappaport is welcome to keep the new chairs.’’

While it would have been truly noble for Brookstone to have guaranteed your next round of chairs, and it would have been great to see, you achieved what very few in America ever will: You traded in your 22-year-old chairs for brand new ones.

Score one for the consumer.

Mitch Lipka is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/MitchLipka. He can be reached at ConsumerNews@Aol.com.