Craftsman's "Lifetime Warranty" Depends On Tool Associate's Mood

Brian tried to trade in some old Craftsman tools, the ones that come with a lifetime, no-questions-asked replacement policy. Unfortunately, the Tool Associate at Sears deemed Brian unworthy of the Cratfsman guarantee and refused him. That’s why he’s the Tool Associate.

What’s sad (for Sears/Craftsman) is that once again an overzealous employee has ruined the brand experience for a good customer—someone who actually connects Craftsman to his family history. Check out the letter he sent to Sears after being turned away:

Hello. My name is Brian and I have been an avid proponent of Craftsman tools since my teenage years. My grandfather was a mill worker who used only Craftsman. My father was an electrical engineer who swore by Craftsman. I am an IT professional who prefers Craftsman over any other tool brand. When my grandfather passed away, the one thing I wanted was his Craftsman tools. I have a vast collection of your tools, from sockets to Allen wrenches. Ratchets and wrenches. Screwdrivers and power tools. All said, I own more than 1000 individual Craftsman pieces. There are three reasons for this:

  • It is a family tradition to use Craftsman tools. It was instilled into me at an early age.
  • Craftsman (for the most part) is made in the USA.
  • Craftsman has a lifetime warranty on their hand tools, or so I thought.

My dilemma begins a few months ago when I relocated to San Antonio Texas from Huntsville Alabama. When I moved, I took all of my Craftsman tools, placed them into my Craftsman tool box, and loaded them into my U-Haul. I drove 16 hours straight to San Antonio, and unloaded my U-Haul the day after arriving. During my trip, it rained and the U-Haul leaked. Fast forward to last week. I had a problem with my Jeep Wrangler and decided to take an afternoon and repair it. I found my Craftsman Tool box, pulled it out, opened it up, and found that my tools, mainly the sockets, had rusted. No problem. I simply brought out some rust remover and a wire brush, and set about cleaning my tools.

Through the last 10 years of using Craftsman, I have always had a special box for damaged Craftsman tools. If a socket slips or is rounded, I place it in the box. If a ratchet breaks, I place it in the box. So on and so forth. Now, I kept that box in the Craftsman tool box that I kept my other products in. So when my Craftsman tool box leaked, the damaged tools rusted right along with all the others.

Today I was organizing my tools in preparation for a new project on the Jeep, and ran across my box of damaged Craftsman products. I decided that today was the day I would take them to my closest Sears store and get them replaced. I searched Google and found the closest store, and then also searched to find a copy of the warranty. I couldn’t find a copy of the warranty, but I ran across an article on Consumerist.com about rust and Craftsman tools. I am an avid reader of The Consumerist, and put a lot of credence into what they say. They advised that rust was considered a cosmetic defect, and therefore rust was not grounds to have a tool replaced. Fair enough, as long as the tool works, who cares what it looks like. With that in mind, I went through the entire batch of damaged tools, and pulled out the ones I felt didn’t meet this criteria. I was left with about 9 12pt sockets that were rounded, a screwdriver with a broken tip, and a pair of vice grips that wouldn’t stay gripped. I placed those items into a bag and drove to Sears.

When I approached the counter, I explained to the girl that I had some Craftsman products I needed replaced. She took a look and paged a Tool Associate to the counter. She went and got my replacement screwdriver and we waited for the Tool Associate to show up. When he did, he took a look at my damaged tools and told me that they did not replace sockets because of rust. [This is true. -Ed.] I explained to him that this was fine, as that there were mechanical defects with the sockets. They were rounded and therefore were not usable. He then proceeded to tell me that they could only replace 3 tools per day per customer. That seemed a little odd to me, but once again, I understood. Next he told me that he wouldn’t replace the sockets because it was “obvious” that I “didn’t take care of them”. I felt that came off as borderline offensive. I explained to him that the sockets were in a Craftsman tool box that leaked. He again reiterated that he couldn’t replace the sockets because of rust. Tired of arguing, I said that was fine and asked if I could just get the screwdriver and vice grips replaced. He said yes and went and got the vice grips, rang me out, and sent me on my way.

When I left the store, I noticed that above the entrance, in large letters, was written “Satisfaction Guaranteed or your Money Back!” I had myself a snickering laugh and headed home to write this email. I am writing you to ask what I should do? Does my toolbox qualify for replacement under the lifetime warranty because it leaks? What should I do with the 9 sockets which are rounded and of no use to me?

I am a reasonable man. I’ve worked in retail and I understand the reasons you have your “Rust” policy. But I find it a bit misleading to offer a “Full Unlimited Warranty” or to say “If any Craftsman Hand Tool ever fails to provide complete satisfaction, return it to any Sears store,” if doing just what your package says, only results in a denial and an insult. Is there anyway you can help me with my dilemma? Or if not, can you recommend a company for me to buy my tools from in the future?

We like Brian’s approach: if Sears doesn’t want to treat its customers like, you know, customers, then just tell us where to shop and we’ll go there instead. That way everyone is happy, especially the Gollum-like Tool Associate (“Mine! MINE!”) and his horde of Craftsman products.

Update: Brian was able to speak to three CSRs at Sears and has been told something quite different than what Sears told us regarding Craftsman warranties.

(Photo: Diego Cupolo)