Does “Lifetime Warranty” Mean You Have To Keep The Receipt For A Lifetime?

Yesterday, we told you about what an easy time one Consumerist reader had when trying to get a replacement part for his 7-year-old Kohler faucet. Unfortunately, not every company is as generous when it comes to lifetime warranties.

Consumerist reader John says he has both Kohler and Delta fixtures in his home and until recently he’d never had a problem with getting either company to honor the lifetime warranties on their products.

But when he noticed that his Delta shower head, which he’s had for more than a decade, was leaking even when the water was fully turned off, he thought it would just be another quick call to Delta to get the replacement part(s) he needed.

Alas, writes John:

I was told I would have to “prove” I was the original owner of the product before they would send the free part.

I told him I have requested parts for over 10 years for this shower and various sinks in my home and have never had to send in documentation to prove I was the original owner first.

He said those parts were probably sent out “of courtesy” and their policy is for me to send a copy of the original bill of sale of the unit, or a copy of the purchase of my home, or a copy of the work order from the contractor that installed the Delta products.

To make matters worse, he also said I had to take a picture of the shower showing the Delta product and to include that with the other documentation. I told him if he thinks I’m going to go to all that trouble for some ‘O’ rings or housing assembly he was nuts.

A rep for Delta tells Consumerist that the policy has been in place since 1995 and is spelled out on the company website. She adds:

In some instances, a Customer Solutions representative may request a photo of the product if the model number or another form of proof of purchase (such as a receipt) is not available. Ultimately, proof of purchase helps ensure the product in question is, in fact, a Delta product. Furthermore, because many Delta products look alike, proof of purchase helps the Customer Solutions team confirm the model number and ensure the correct replacement part is sent.

“Forcing me to track down documentation from 10 years ago and take pictures for their product guarantee, which they always honored in the past without question, is a new low for such a long established company like Delta,” says John. “It’s nothing but Kohler for me from now on.”

While we don’t understand why no one at Delta has enforced the receipt requirement for John until now, it never hurts to have a file folder with all the receipts from purchases — especially things like water fixtures that can take a beating over the years.

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    Unfortunately, this is the price you have to pay for a lifetime warranty. I would like it if when you sent in your “warranty registration” card, they could keep your name and address in a database and automatically have all the information on file, but things like this would make it too easy to take advantage of warranties (costing them money), hence the need for proof of purchase.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      But if they’re policy is to cover replacement for their products, for life, why does it matter who paid for it, who owns it, or any of that rubbish. How does that change the product itself, or the validity of any problems with the product? It’s just a hurdle for owners specifically for the purpose of avoiding honoring their own stated lifetime warranty.

      If the current owner is not the original owner, they are still creating a positive (or negative) experience that will resonate with the current owner, encouraging (or discouraging) them to buying a future Delta product.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Note: I don’t object to taking a picture and e-mailing it. I think it’s appropriate for a company to want to be sure you actually own the product, and I understand their desire to find a model number for their ease.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          Here is the pertinent paragraph from Delta’s warranty:

          This warranty is extensive in that it covers replacement of all defective parts and even finish, but these are the only two things that are covered. LABOR CHARGES AND/OR DAMAGE INCURRED IN INSTALLATION, REPAIR, OR REPLACEMENT, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER KIND OF LOSS OR DAMAGE ARE EXCLUDED. Proof of purchase (original sales receipt) from the original consumer purchaser must be made available to Delta for all warranty claims. THIS IS THE EXCLUSIVE WARRANTY BY DELTA FAUCET COMPANY, WHICH DOES NOT MAKE ANY OTHER WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING THE IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY.

          http://www.deltafaucet.com/customersupport/warranty.html

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            I never questioned their warranties’ specifics, only their methods.

            This form of warranty is designed to prevent the warranty from ever being evoked. If they really backed their product, this would not be required.

            • stevenpdx says:

              Well, duh. Any smart company will take steps to lower its warranty claims. Some do that by making the process as onerous as possible.

      • seth1066 says:

        Original owners pay for the warranty in the price and most warranties state for the original owner only. Or perhaps they should keep supplying parts 100 years later and go out of business.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Some people live to be 100, so that isn’t out of line at all. And of course they can replace it with a similar model if yours is no longer made; I’m sure their warranty states as such.

          “Original owners pay for the warranty in the price.”
          Very true, and part of that price is then sold to a new owner. So saying that the original owner somehow gets something out the device that a new owner can’t is silly. The warranty may specifiy this stipulation, but in reality the product doesn’t suddenly become inferior when given to someone else.

          • Bsamm09 says:

            “Original owners pay for the warranty in the price.”
            Very true, and part of that price is then sold to a new owner.

            — Not if you negotiate well enough. This is a bigger example than a faucet but I’m in the process of buying a used boat. Warranties very wildly on the hulls and the engines.

            This makes them big bargaining points when you can buy a new 2012 boat with a 10 year warranty versus one that is technically used 2012 with, let’s say 10 hours on the boat but has no warranty now since it applies to the original owner only.

            Granted a faucet is a lot cheaper but I would still bring it up if I was going to buy a used one. They want $50, I say I’ll give them $20. They say it was $100 two years ago and I’d reply you also got a lifetime warranty and ask them if they agree that warranties have value. They’ll say yes and then I say that all that value is lost the second I purchase it from you. That will get them down lower most times.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              You’re taking my comments on a joy ride, well away from the scope I was discussing.

          • penuspenuspenus says:

            I don’t think there are too many people who actually believe second hand goods include the original factory warranty. It’s part of the price you save buying second. You save a bunch of money but if there is an issue you will be stuck dealing with it out of pocket.

            Other than some jewelry warranties, I honestly can’t think of any warranties that transfer on the secondary market (I’m sure there are some but I believe this to be pretty rare).

            • frodolives35 says:

              Thank God Sears does not question my quarterly yard sale trade ins. Those tools make very cheap son in law Christmas gifts:)

      • Blueskylaw says:

        I agree with you that it shouldn’t matter who paid for it, but unfortunately, many companies now put in the fine print that the warranty only applies to the original owner. What the advertising giveth, the fine print taketh away.

        • madanthony says:

          I’m guessing they do this so that people don’t find broken ones in the trash and then get them repaired and resell them.

      • Not Given says:

        For life: the original owner’s life?

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          That’s up the manufacturer. Not all products can truly be made to last forever or for a lifetime. You can easily determine age by using bar codes or item numbers or date stamping it, if you really care about it. My contention is when it depends on who owns it. Changing owners doesn’t suddenly diminish the product.

        • I look at both sides of the story says:

          “For life: the original owner’s life?”

          Or the life of the company. A bought an expensive LED flashlight a few years ago that had a ‘life-time warranty’. When I had a problem with the flashlight I got onto their website only to find they had gone out of business.

      • Difdi says:

        La-Z-Boy does do exactly that. If one of their chairs ever suffers a structural or mechanical failure, they fix it free of charge, no matter how many owners the chair has passed between since the original purchase.

      • BadIdeaSociety says:

        I think the reasons they require a receipt is because “Lifetime Warranty” has differing meanings in different regions of the US. If memory serves me correctly, my state considers a “Lifetime Warranty” to be 7 years.

        Another consideration is that your Proof-of-Purchase is what differentiates you from a shoplifter. I am not suggesting that not having a receipt is the same as theft, but the owner should be able to prove legal ownership if needed. I would also suggest allowing a credit statement or something like that.

      • Costner says:

        The problem is, people tend to abuse these warranties. I’m sure a few plumbers have called up Moen or Delta or Kohler and ordered parts under the guise of a “lifetime warranty” only to install them for a homeowner and charge them retail price for the parts.

        Lifetime warranties almost always apply to the original purchaser, so I don’t think it is too much to expect people to prove they are in fact the original purchaser. By not doing so, people will just find ways to abuse it and ruin it for the honest people out there. I don’t blame the companies that expect evidence… I blame the jackholes who always abuse the system.

        Let me give you a great example of how abuse policies. I worked for a government agency (technically a contractor who was hired by the agency) that provided geographical images and data free of charge to universities, other government agencies, and researchers. All these people needed to do was order the data they wanted, and it was burned to CD and mailed to them. Eventually people started figuring out that an easy way to get free jewel cases was to order massive amounts of data – and then they would simply toss out the CDs when the order arrived. We are talking about dozens or in some cases hundreds of CDs worth of data. Not only was it a massive waste of CDs and shipping costs, but it took manhours to produce all the CDs (this was years ago prior to broadband Internet).

        So what was done as a service to help researchers and to help educate was abused to the point we no longer could provide free data and we had to start charging for it which meant some legitimate agencies were forced to scale back projects due to budgetary constraints. Sure those who abused it stopped submitting orders, but it just goes to show how people will take advantage of the system at every chance they get.

      • cosby says:

        Short answer is people abuse the system so restrictions are put on it. With stuff like this I’m guessing they started having problems with people taking old product, exchanging it for new ones and reselling them. I could see a plumber making a good profit doing this. Another issue is counterfeiters. People buy counterfeit items second hand or from non-reputable sources then try to warranty them.

  2. Danno23 says:

    Get a scanner and make electronic copies of the receipts from all major purchases. Paper receipts fade, tear, smudge, get lost, etc. You can sometimes even get a scanner for free if someone has one of those all-in-one printer/scanner/fax and the printer stops working. Or, at a minimum take a picture of the receipt.

    • RandomHookup says:

      More and more of the receipts on thermal paper will absolutely disappear after a few months.

      It’s not a bad idea when you get an item with a lengthy warranty to set up an electronic folder to save them … but it’s often more effort than it’s worth.

    • Costner says:

      That is a great idea – although in some cases the warranties require the actual ORIGINAL receipt… so a scanned copy won’t work. Then again, in some cases they probably want you to scan the receipt to email it to them anyway, so they would have no idea it isn’t the original.

      Years ago I needed a receipt for a mail-in rebate but I had lost it. I had the UPC code and the rebate form, but couldn’t find the receipt… so I fired up the old PC and Wordperfect (like I said… this was years ago) and I typed up my own receipt using the same format as a local retailer that I had another receipt from. I printed that bad boy on the dot matrix printer, cut in out to be standard receipt width… and then stuck it in an adding machine print slot to tear the top and bottom of it so it had the serrated edge.

      Worked like a champ! That thing was a thing of beauty and nobody could tell it from an original. I suppose this is harder to do for thermal paper these days… but I’m sure it could still be done since nobody is ever going to look that closely at a receipt and with thousands upon thousands of retailers all using different printers and registers and types of receipts there is no way anyone would think it was a fake.

  3. TD99 says:

    I’ve had to do this for both Delta and Kohler. Sending them a digital photo was all I had to do.

  4. seth1066 says:

    What’s the big deal? Lifetime warranty is for the original owner only. You have to be able to prove that you are, any time they ask. Photo of the product? Why not? They shouldn’t be supplying O rings for your washing machine or other product that uses the exact same seals.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Some companies do offer lifetime warranties regardless of owner.

      Cutco cutlery, for example, requires no receipt, proof of purchase, etc. It could have been your grandmother’s knives from 50 years ago, and they do not care. They will sharpen for free, and replace any knife with pitting, staining, etc. for life. The only thing they do not cover is intentional damage or negligence, such as dropping in a garbage disposal (and are flexible even there). In other words, they truly guarantee that their knives will not fail in their duties, or will replace it if it does. Forever.

      /former Cutco Salesman

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        It used to be that Craftsman would do that also, but I seem to remember recent stories where that wasn’t the case.

        People would go to flea markets or garage sales and buy broken Craftsman tools for pocket change, then go exchange them for new ones.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          I remember a story a while ago when a Sears store refused to exchange a broken tool and said it wasn’t their policy. The OP wrote to corporate which stated that they still indeed exchange broken tools and that the store in question would be “tapped on the nose with a rolled up newspaper”.

          • racermd says:

            Just a reminder – that applies to their non-powered hand-tools only, like box-wrenches, screwdrivers, and socket sets. If it’s got a power cord or a battery, there’s very much a limited warranty.

          • KyBash says:

            Then their policy has changed since the early 1970s — my dad bought a socket set, it broke the first time he used it, the store wouldn’t replace it (claiming sockets don’t break unless you abuse them), and corporate refused to help.

            I have one of their steel tapes that has “lifetime guarantee” stamped into the side. It broke many years ago (end snapped off), they wouldn’t replace it, corporate wouldn’t help. I ended up cutting off a portion, drilling new holes, and resetting the tab.

        • frodolives35 says:

          I still do that with no problem. Usually go about twice a year sometimes more depending on what I have to trade in. I have never been asked for a receipt.

      • Kaleey says:

        YES!! I sold Cutco as well a few years back. I own a homemaker+8 set, 8 additional table knives, and 8 flatware sets. I smiled so much when I read your comment.

        Thank you for brightening my day!

  5. Kabusted says:

    Be careful and make sure that you specifically ask what the company means by lifetime.

    I have a Tesoro metal detector. The company offers a lifetime warranty. That’s for as long as you own the product. That doesn’t mean 20 years, or 40 years. And though the warranty isn’t transferable, they’ve been known to warrant it for free for the second or third owner. WOW!

    That said, here in Ohio, contracts written for lifetime warranty can actually mean just 8 years. So please be careful and ask the company what they mean, have them provide it in writing, and if it is tied to a contract you have with them, make sure that it is completely spelled out the length of time of the lifetime commitment, as well as what it covers. If it isn’t in the contract, even though they might have lifetime written everywhere else, they won’t have to engage in any lifetime support.

  6. sparc says:

    no receipt, no warranty. Period.

    if a company gives you some sort of courtesy of waiving the requirement, then that’s fine. However, you should never expect it. The burden is all on you as a consumer to show proof when they request it.

    • sparc says:

      and of course there are some exceptions like Craftsman hand tools, but there are also companies who do the exact opposite like Harbor freight hand tools.

    • RandomHookup says:

      But that also makes a joke of “lifetime warranties” if you have to save a receipt for a hammer for 25 years. It’s like offering a price match guarantee knowing it’s nearly impossible to get it.

      • Kabusted says:

        Lifetime warranties, like those on Craftsman hand tools, is part of the brand. When they remove the lifetime, they’ll alter the brand, and it’ll be no different than Stanley or something from the dollar store. Anymore, I choose Cobalt from Lowe’s since they also include lifetime warranty as part of the brand, and it’s closer than driving to Sears.

        • Costner says:

          Kobalt does make some nice stuff… but that is probably because they are actually made by Danaher which is the same company that makes Matco and Gearwrench.

          I still have a lot of Craftsman, but if I were buying new today I’d probably opt for Gearwrench or Kobalt. For things I use rarely (like an odd size socket or deepwell sockets etc) I buy Tool Shop from Menards. They have a lifetime warranty just like the rest, but the price is so cheap I really wouldn’t care if I had to buy them again a decade from now (and I’ve yet to need their warranty anyway). Tool Shop is basically cheap Chinese stuff made in the same factory as Harbor Freight… but for certain jobs they are just fine.

        • I look at both sides of the story says:

          Sears advertises and promotes the Craftsman hand tool life-time warranty as a reason why their hand tools are better than others.

          My limited experience is that when I bring in a defective Craftsman hand tool like a screwdriver to Sears, I get this “you got this at a yard sale” attitude.

          Yes, some people do abuse the life-time warranty, but how much money does Sears make in the long run because people will preferentially buy the Sears Craftsman hand tools over the cheaper non-Craftsman brands?

          And grocery stores abuse the policy of not labeling the prices on products (saves lots of hand labor) but all too often the cash register rings up the wrong price. Always higher, never lower. Tip: Memorize all the items on sale and compare to what is rung up. If the price is higher, some stores give you the product for free (doesn’t apply to tobacco or alcohol). One store manager despised me because I would find several mis-priced items each time I shopped. Lots of free foods.

          Why is that so many people get so upset when fellow consumers take advantage of stores but are blasé when stores systematically rip off consumers?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Yup, and that’s what these kinds of lifetime warranties are: Gimmicks to get you to buy that the company fully intends to only honor a small fraction of the claims because of loopholes.

  7. crispyduck13 says:

    The OP says the customer service rep requested proof of purchase AND a picture, the other rep is saying they need a picture if proof of purchase or model number is not available. So which is it Delta? If they want a model number fine, if I don’t have a model number and they ask for a pic so they can figure out what I have, fine too – but demanding both plus a receipt on a lifetime warrenty item is bullshit.

    I have a big KitchenAid mixer. 1 year after I bought it I finally broke out the dough hook attachment that came with it, and noticed a couple hairline cracks on it. I called up KitchenAid and after getting the serial number of my unit they shipped me a brand new hook at no charge and didn’t even ask for the old one back. I was out of warrenty and hadn’t even registered the thing. Now that is a company standing behind their product.

    • sprybuzzard says:

      I’ve heard great things about kitchenaid mixes. My mother in law has a kitchenaid stand mixer that is over 30 years old, still going strong and used at least once a month or more. I’m pleased to own one too, and hope it lasts that long.

      • I look at both sides of the story says:

        “I’ve heard great things about kitchenaid mixes. My mother in law has a kitchenaid stand mixer that is over 30 years old, still going strong and used at least once a month or more. I’m pleased to own one too, and hope it lasts that long.”

        The one I have is made by Hobart in Troy, Ohio. It’s at least 40 years old. Never a problem. But cosmetically, it looks like crap. The porcelain is far from shiny. It’s been used a lot in its life.

        The KitchenAid mixers are currently made in Asia, I think China.

  8. JohnDeere says:

    he should have bought it from walmart. they honor lifetime warranties on everything no reciept required.

  9. do-it-myself says:

    Back when Chrysler was desperate (aka facing near bankruptcy) they offered a Lifetime Powertrain warranty for their vehicles. Chrysler’s definition of “lifetime” was 80 years….from 2007 to 2087.

    I would hold onto those for dear life. I’m curious as to how they would replace a transmission in 2086. However, this only applies to the original owner of the vehicle and not their great grandchildren.

    Although this Q&A page says “lifetime=lifetime” I remember the commercials saying 2087 in the fine print. http://www.chrysler.com/en/lifetime_powertrain_warranty/faq.html

    They have since switched to the new bottom of the barrel 5 year – 100,000 Powertrain Warranty. So much for becoming the new standard!

  10. anime_runs_my_life says:

    Delta is not the only company that does this, but I won’t buy Delta products any longer. I was given a hand shower as a housewarming gift. The mount broke 3 days after I installed it. They demanded that I send the whole unit back so they could inspect it. Meanwhile, I have no shower head since the one I’d taken off had literally fallen apart. The CSR didn’t seem to care and said that it was either send it back or deal with a broken handshower mount.

    I just tossed the handshower in the hall closet and bought an inexpensive handshower (different brand) that has lasted far longer than the Delta did.

  11. 2 Replies says:

    Just take a picture of said documentation and save the digital file.
    If they need a copy, send them it. Digital files don’t fade and can easily be backed up.

    Doing this for EVERY receipt id obviously ridiculous, but for big ticket items an/or lifetime items…. you’ve got a camera on pretty much everything now a days… probably even disposable tissues! So just whip out that tissue-box-camera and get snapping!

    • RandomHookup says:

      Most of the lifetime warranties are for items that are, in relative terms, not very expensive … tools, plumbing fixtures… They count on you not thinking it’s worth the effort to record the info. For most people, paying extra for a lifetime warranty isn’t worth it (like buying an item with a rebate when you won’t send it in).

  12. dullard says:

    The telephone number for Delta Corporate, which in Tennessee, is (731) 427-8228. In looking at Delta warranties they extend to the original owner. I can understand Delta wanting to be sure that replacement under the warranty is being properly claimed, but it would seem that they could look up his history since it would appear that he has made warranty claims in the past. That should satisfy them that he qualifies for replacement parts.

    I would call corporate and speak with someone at the executive level.

  13. stig111 says:

    Those lifetime warranties are pretty worthless when you have a sink full of dishes and an unusable faucet. I had an expensive fashionable Kohler faucet that was about 10 years old. They did replace some cosmetic parts free of charge when I couldn’t find a store that stocked them. But when the faucet starting leaking profusely I had no choice but to go buy a replacement at one of the big box stores. I didn’t have the time to figure out what needed replacement and even if I knew, I couldn’t wait several days for a replacement part.

  14. crb042 says:

    How, exactly, does one prove original ownership if the receipt is for cash? There’s nothing to connect the item to an owner. Related, what if I buy a gift for my mother, the receipt has the last digits of my credit card number on it, but she’s the original owner. Seems this is too much of a burden on the consumer to maintain proof to a company’s vague standards.