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Eastern Mountain Sports Makes Good on Return Policy

EMS Makes Good on Return Policy WESTERN NEW YORK, USA- “This bag will keep you happy for the next ten years, and if you ever don’t like it just keep your receipt and you can return it, no questions asked.” In 2006, A salesman at Eastern Mountain Sports was riding me to purchase a Kelty [...]

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EMS Makes Good on Return Policy

WESTERN NEW YORK, USA- “This bag will keep you happy for the next ten years, and if you ever don’t like it just keep your receipt and you can return it, no questions asked.”

In 2006, A salesman at Eastern Mountain Sports was riding me to purchase a Kelty Redwing backpack. I was concerned that the zipper openings that went clear around the bag would not be able to hold up to the rigors of long term travel.

The salesman sought to ensure me that they would. He told me about EMS’s return policy:

Apparently, if you keep the receipt you can return an item at any time for any reason.

EMS makes good on return policy

“So if I decide I don’t like this bag ten years from now I can return it for any reason at all and get a refund,” I remember countering.

“Yes, if you still have the original receipt,” the salesman confidently boasted.

It is not my impression that the salespeople at EMS work on commission but this guy was trying hard to sell me a backpack. I took him up on his challenge, I bought a Kelty Redwing backpack.

In retrospect, my concerns about the zippers on this bag were unnecessary: they held up completely over the five years that I used this backpack continuously. In fact, the way the zipper opened the bag like a suitcase was clearly one of its best features. I carried this Kelty bag with me through China, North Africa, Central America (twice), Eastern Europe (twice), the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

The backpack held up through the perpetual beatings of around the world travel, but I still remember the salesman’s boast about the return policy. I remembered his words as a challenge. I have grown a fond distaste for salesman talking bullshit to make a sale, and I had an inner urge to vindicate this fellow’s words. I admit, when the salesman made his claims, he appeared to be on safe ground, for what brash variety of anal human would keep the receipt for a backpack that they purchases a half decade ago?

Apparently, I would.

Kelty backpack when it was somewhat new

Returning to my family’s new home near Rochester, New York I easily located the receipt for the Kelty backpack that I planned from the start to return when I bought it in 2006. I had no real complaints about the backpack — it was beat to shit, but I must attest to having been the beater — and it truly had held up well under the circumstances it was put through. The only problem with it was that 2650 cubic inches of interior volume is now too small for family travel. I also took the initial salesman’s balmy boasts as a challenge: I wanted to see if I really could return a five year old backpack for a full refund.

I went over to EMS, laid the busted and beat up backpack down upon the counter of some poor checkout girl and tossed the crispy old receipt down on top of it.

“I have to return this,” I spoke.

She picked up the receipt, which was worn with age to the point that the printing was barely legible. “Wow, this is an old one,” she exclaimed. “Is there anything wrong with the bag?” she asked.

“Yeah, just look at it,” I countered with a cocky air.

She did. The backpack looked like roadkill. She began processing my refund, but soon thought better of it. She called a manager.

Some buckaroo of a service employee stepped up to the deck. He appeared to be one of those odd cats who take a sense of pride and power from their meager positions of authority in the world. He stared at the bag, he stared at me. We sized each other up. He asked me what was wrong with the bag. It was on.

I demonstrated how it had been beaten up.

“Well, how long were you expecting it to last?” the manager replied — perhaps rightfully — with a snarky, somewhat righteous tone. He knew I was scum bagging his domain.

[adsense]”When I bought the bag I was told that it would be good for 10 years, and the salesman also informed me of your return policy,” I spoke as I showed how the harness of the backpack would no longer properly take a heavy load.

“Do you feel as if you could still use it?” the manager countered.

“Yeah, if I wanted to just throw it in a corner of my room to use as a mantle piece.”

I had the fellow stalemated, and I knew it, the rest of our discourse would just be the manager’s passive aggression boiling off in an attempt to maintain face. I did not even need to repeat EMS’s return policy back to him:

Our first priority is your complete satisfaction with your Eastern Mountain Sports purchase. If you are dissatisfied for any reason and have your original store receipt or web invoice, we will exchange or repair the item in question or provide a full refund. -EMS refund policy

“I will do the refund, but just so you know our return policy is not that you can return an item at any time just because you feel like it,” the manager lecture.

I thought of countering out of pride, but it was the first part of this statement that interested me — he could say whatever he wanted after this. $87 was soon laid into my palm and I walked out of the store impressed by the exchange: EMS made good on their return policy.

For those who would say that I scammed this store or abused a very personable and liberal exchange policy, I would say that you are correct. But, as any webmaster can attest from scanning this page, I replaced the value of the loss in full.

“When we would do that at LL Bean,” my Maine raised wife concluded as we exited Eastern Mountain Sports, “we would at least break off a zipper first or something.”

Good call for next time.

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Filed under: Travel Gear

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

10 comments… add one

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  • Bob L April 11, 2011, 5:13 pm

    Timberland used to have this policy as well. I asked when I first bought if if they really meant it and they said yes. I replaced my boots 3 times before they finally changed the policy. Felt a bit guilty, but I have bought many more pairs since then and have made up for it.

    A few years back I bought a couple of pairs of boots that had been obsolete for a couple of years at that point. Last year in thailand, i met a guy running an elephant farm who glanced at the toes of my boots and told me which model they were and that they had not made that model for many years. He had worked at the factory as a manager and knew every stitch.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 12, 2011, 8:36 am

      The punchline to this story is that I took the backpack back with the expectation that I would just upgrade it for a larger one. But I could not find an adequate bag at the store, so I left with money in my pocket and no bag. I was set to get on a flight to Maine the next day. The joke was almost on me in that I looked around that night while getting ready to leave and realized that I had no bag to pack all my stuff into haha. I eventually found something that would work, but the potential irony made me the laughingstock of my family for a couple hours.

      I suppose I felt a little guilty for taking advantage of the policy too — although I know that the act was ultimately so insignificant that it would have no true impact unless thousands and thousands of people began doing it. Then I am sure, like Timberland, the return policy would change. But it was the boasts of the initial salesman and the potential for the odd feeling of satisfaction that comes from actually doing what you said you would five years ago (and my need for a new bag) that shifted the balance way over any potential for guilt. I also wanted to test this return policy, and it proved to be legit.

      And plus I found the receipt and was proud of myself that I was actually able to locate it after five years haha.

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  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell April 13, 2011, 2:35 am

    Very funny. A great social experiment. And a victory to you. And the company too, I suppose, for making good on their hype. I imagined you carrying your possessions in a couple of disposable supermarket plastic bags, maybe? Or did you score a shopping trolley?

    the candy trail … a nomad – whose had several backpacks – across the planet, since 1988

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  • craig | travelvice.com April 13, 2011, 11:53 pm

    So… the bigger question is, what’s the brand/model of the new pack?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 14, 2011, 8:51 am

      I was just aiming to get a larger sized Kelty Redwing, but it seems as if they may only go up to 3100 CU, which is just a little larger than what I previously had. Would like to get at least a 5000 CU bag, but I really like the suitcase style zippers of the Keltys. Any suggestions?

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      • craig | travelvice.com April 15, 2011, 10:06 am

        Tatiana’s Lowe Alpine TT Tour 70 (that I selected for her two years ago) has been fantastic.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 15, 2011, 11:11 am

          That looks PERFECT. Thanks. Will go to LL Bean for this (and keep the receipt, of course) hehehe.

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          • craig | travelvice.com April 15, 2011, 1:17 pm

            Yeah, it’s really a great pack. eBags.com has some nicer photos. No need to modify the main zipper lock either, as it was designed for a padlock to run through it.

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            • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 17, 2011, 8:07 am

              Just bought this bag, $159, shipping included. Thanks. The power of a trusted recommendation in a world full of almost infinite shopping avenues is highly valuable. Thanks, I truly did not want to spend a month searching for a backpack.

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  • T August 11, 2013, 11:12 pm

    Great article. I just brought my 13-year old EMS backpack back to the store. The laminate in the bottom of the large compartment was flaking off. I asked if anything could be done (nothing could be done) and if it was covered under the warranty (it wasn’t at this late date). The clerk told me that if I had my receipt he could give a refund. Otherwise, he could give me the current value of my bag. That was $19.99 + tax. I was delighted to get a $21 credit. I used it to buy an EMS Lugit backpack already on sale.

    Thanks for the great tip. I never would have thought I’d get a dime for my old backpack.

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