Leatherman’s 25-Year Warranty: Still Pretty Great, But Not If You Loved A Discontinued Tool

Prune carefully.

Prune carefully.

Last week, we published an “above and beyond” story with a reader’s delight that Leatherman replaced a non-functioning tool with a brand-new replacement under their 25-year warranty. Another reader, Steve, wrote in to let us know that the warranty is not as ironclad and fantabulous as tipster Chad’s experience. He sent in a gardening tool that broke while gardening, and learned something interesting about the warranty. Yes, they’ll replace a broken tool with one of the same value, but they mean “value” in a strictly financial sense: not a tool that does the same thing as the one that you broke.

A few years ago I purchased a Leatherman Hybrid gardening/pruning tool. About a year after I purchased it one of the blades snapped off while doing some light pruning of a flowering shrub. I dutifully contacted Leatherman about the broken tool and was told, no problem, they can fix it. (It is important to note here that I specifically told them it was a Hybrid tool.) I filled out Leatherman’s repair form and sent it in for repair.

Eventually I got an email response from Leatherman telling me that they could not repair the tool because the tool had been discontinued and they no longer have any service parts for it. They offered to replace the tool with one of a number of other tools they had available, and gave me a few options.

Here’s where it gets sticky. According to Leatherman’s stated 25 year warranty, they will repair or replace the tool with one of equivalent value. The problem is, Leatherman defines “value” in a strictly monetary sense. They do not define “value” by what the tool can accomplish, which I find to be extraordinarily ironic. Because Leatherman was no longer making garden tools, the replacement options they offered weren’t gardening tools, they were for their regular multitools. They considered this to be “equivalent value” because the cost was the same. The fact that one tool could adjust a sprinkler head, prune shrubs, and saw through small branches while the other one could not was irrelevant to them.

I tried explaining this to them but I think it fell largely on deaf ears. Eventually I declined their offer as I already owned three Leatherman multitools. I didn’t need a fourth multitool, I needed a gardening tool. Shortly afterwards I got another email from Leatherman. Someone over there had found a Leatherman Vista gardening multitool – very similar to the Hybrid I had, though not identical – and offered to send it to me. I accepted and I still use that tool today.

So, for me there was something of a happy ending, but Leatherman really needs to reevaluate its policies. What of the next customer who has a broken Hybrid or Vista? What of the next 20? Leatherman hasn’t offered anything even remotely similar to the Hybrid or Vista in years so unless they’ve figured out how to prune branches with pliers, all those people with broken gardening tools are pretty much screwed.

Leatherman needs to understand that “value” means more than the monetary cost. I understand if they wanted to get out of the gardening tool business but that should NOT give them the right to discontinue parts manufacture for the tools that were already sold. If they are offering a 25 year warranty they should be able to either repair the tool for the next 25 years, or offer a product *of comparable performance*. Failing that, Leatherman should have a buy-back program where they offer full refunds of the original MSRP for any given tool if they cannot repair or replace it with one comparable *practical* value. Anything less is an insult to their customers, a prank developed by their marketing people, and renders their 25 year warranty useless.

We’d argue that the person at Leatherman who found that gardening tool escalates this story to “Above and Beyond” status, but also see Steve’s point.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.