Nothing lasts forever anymore


It was a commercial on television that got me thinking about it. A few ideas... floating around in my head... and all of a sudden something happened to cause them all to crash together into a true thought.

It was an advertisement for some new flashlight that didn’t use batteries. The concept was based on a something-we’ve-all-experienced moment of dead batteries when you need the flashlight, if you can even find it.

What caught my attention was the lifetime guarantee.

Take a look around these days. A good… hard… look.

Pensions and Social Security… you know, those things that we had been raised for decades to not just believe, but to know would be there for us… things we could count on. Right? Not as safe and secure any more. There are cases where the obligations of a company were wiped clean, and… depending on which version of the story you believe… the government either won’t have the money or certain members of our government want to get rid of the program to benefit their major contributors.

Not too long ago, when I was growing up that gold watch was expected. One employer… one job… work it and retire. Dedicated service. Earn your pension.

Not anymore.

About twenty years ago I was sitting in high school listening to one of my teachers discussing a pen. I have no clue how the tangent started, but he was talking about the reputation of the company that made the pen, and how it came with a lifetime guarantee that he could count on. Pen breaks… new pen.

Did any of you see the stories about how companies are changing their return policies to be more and more stringent? It came up during this recent holiday season… the idea was that stores would be monitoring returns, especially people that tried to return items without receipts. Some stores, as I recall, were even going to go to the extreme of banning patrons from returning items for a specified period of time if they tried to return too many things.

I wonder how often you can return a broken pen?

Back to this flashlight.

Lifetime guarantee. It breaks… send it back… new flashlight.


Having pondered the question of how many returns is too many… there is another issue involved here…

Will the replacement flashlight even be there if I have a problem at some point during my lifetime? Exactly what is a lifetime in a lifetime guarantee?

About a year ago I went to Sears. I had a pair of Craftsman wire cutters that had broken. Craftsman. Good name. Lifetime guarantee. But the sales associate helping me out was having some problems. The company had changed the design on this particular pair of wire cutters. And matching the proper designs to find a replacement wasn’t working out too well because the serial numbers didn’t seem right to him. Eventually, after getting a supervisor involved, I left with new wire clippers.

But even Sears doesn’t put the Craftsman logo and guarantee on all of their tools and equipment. I know someone that had problems returning a hoe with a five-year warranty. Since Sears no longer made that line of garden tools, even with a receipt and being well within five years, they had to make three phone calls before deciding what type of hoe to use to replace his broken one.

Bear in mind… Sears made good in both of these instances. I like Sears. My point is that Sears has been around for long enough that a guarantee on one of their products carries a bit of weight and trust that a lifetime might be possible…. but a couple of model modifications or inventory changes, and suddenly it wasn’t as easy as broken one returned, new one given out.

So this flashlight? Well… you get what you pay for far more often than you don’t in life, and I’m guessing this one won’t be there down the line.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at