Opinion: Is Open Stock Going Away?


TNT Ace in Waukesha, WI replaced Craftsman offerings.
 A recent change has occurred in some Ace Hardware stores - Craftsman open stock offerings are disappearing completely from shelves.

Though I don't have hard fact on why this is happening, purusing the internet and mumblings among those who are fond of Craftsman like us point towards the Craftsman warranty.

In the case TNT Ace Hardware in Waukesha, WI - this is most definitely the case, as all of the open stock mechanics tools have been replaced with Milwaukee.

At the heart of this issue is Craftsman's warranty statement which, particularly for mechanics tools, reads as such: "Full Lifetime Warranty - If the product fails to perform for any reason, we will replace it. No proof of purchase required. Return damaged product to a stocking Retail Partner or contact Customer Care at (888) 331-4569 or using the form at https://support.craftsman.com/hc/en-us/requests/new for details."

In contrast, Milwaukee Tools policy reads like this: "Every Milwaukee hand tool is warranted to the original purchaser from an authorized Milwaukee distributor only to be free from defects in material and workmanship. Subject to certain exceptions, Milwaukee will repair or replace any hand tool which, after examination, is determined by Milwaukee to be defective in material or workmanship for the lifetime of the tool. Return the hand tool product to a Milwaukee factory Service Center location freight prepaid and insured, is required. A copy of the proof of purchase should be included with the return product. This warranty does not apply to damage that Milwaukee determines to be from, misuse, alterations, abuse, normal wear and tear, lack of maintenance or accidents."

There is also yet another way to consider this dilemma, Ace is a franchise, with each location being locally owned and operated. It can be disastrous to the bottom line to pull sellable product for the sake of honoring a warranty. Even for Lowes, whom also carries open stock, this can be a huge chunk from revenue margins.

Craftsman's warranty is tangled in a long-standing tradition that it has made the brand popular in its own right. Ask many, and they will tell you that they know or consider Craftsman as being a solid brand because it has a lifetime warranty. As someone who is loyal to the brand, I have observed many things in the warranty spectrum pertaining to Craftsman. In the past, such examples being heated, angry verbal exchanges inside Sears at the tool department, and even online in the former Sears/Craftsman Club online community.

While it is not reason alone, this warranty, as glamorous and attractive as it is to consumers, gets severely abused. I have both heard and seen ratchets being exchanged because they were used as hammers, or screwdrivers being used as pliers, and so on. Sears originally eliminated the Craftsman tape measure because of abuse of the warranty policy. When they finally did return to the shelves, they carried a much more limited warranty.

So how does one break free from such a dilemma? Although it would come at enormous cost, in my opinion, the warranty policy must change and be more aligned with the current tool market similar to what other brands specify. Exchanges should only be via Craftsman, and unfortunately not offered in store. To me, this won't eliminate, but rather help suffocate abuse of the warranty, because fraudsters will be less likely to deal with the headache of going through having to wait for a replacement. This also inadvertently forces people to care more for there tools, or at least carry extras on hand if they feel they break to easily.

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