Kent Slaughter of Springfield, Mo. alleges in his complaint that the company fraudulently advertises a “lifetime guarantee” warranty suggesting that a buyer of the RedHead-branded socks can return them when they wear down and always replace them with a new pair.
In a description still listed online, Bass Pro Shops says: “Lifetime guarantee—if they wear out, they get replaced!”
The Springfield, Mo.-based chain sells the product with the following tagline displayed on the package: “The last sock you’ll ever need to buy.”
These distinctions are included in the online descriptions and packaging of the RedHead wool socks despite the company’s implementation of a policy change at some point between early 2020 and January 2021, in which Bass Pro Shops confirmed to Slaughter that it would no longer honor the lifetime warranty.
Under the current policy, Slaughter said he was given socks that only carried a 60-day warranty, instead of ones that carried the original lifetime warranty. The suit states that Bass Pro has now added a stripe design to the 60-day socks so that employees know that no warranty will be honored for those socks beyond the limited warranty period.
Bass Pro Shops, which also owns outdoor retail chain Cabela’s, told Sourcing Journal that it does not comment on pending litigation.
The plaintiff alleges that since it began selling the socks, Bass Pro has misrepresented to consumers in its marketing and advertising, including every product tag and label, that the product comes with a lifetime warranty.
“To say the lifetime warranty was and currently is a key selling point for the socks would be an understatement. The lifetime warranty was, and still is, promoted with a nationally-integrated TV, print, and internet advertising campaign,” the complaint said. “Print and online advertisements boast statements such as “these socks are backed by our lifetime guarantee” and “if ever they wear out, just return them for a FREE replacement!”
Additionally, the plaintiff alleges that a store manager at Bass Pro’s Nashville, Tenn. store promoted the product’s warranty on the company’s behalf with the following public statement: “what makes it really unique, is it truly is a lifetime sock. If anything ever happens, if a dryer steals one of them on you, you bring the other one in, and we give you a brand-new pair of socks for life. Just an outstanding stock. Number one seller in our company and number one seller at our store, come check it out.”
Slaughter’s complaint also pointed out that Bass Pro Shops has sold and continues to sell thousands of the wool socks by providing this warranty assurance to consumers. None of the advertisements disclose that the lifetime warranty is, in reality, only a limited warranty, he argued.
The complaint indicated that the purported warranty was a material part of Slaughter’s decision to purchase the socks.
Between 2014 and 2021, Slaughter purchased approximately 12 different pairs of socks from the Springfield, Mo. Bass Pro superstore. Beginning in 2015, Slaughter visited the same store to return the socks, typically two-to-four pairs at a time. On multiple occasions during this time period, when the plaintiff presented the socks that he wanted to return, the store provided him with replacement socks at no charge. The last such exchange occurred in early 2020.
The point of contention in the suit occurred in January 2021, when Slaughter attempted to return four pairs in accordance with the warranty in place. In this instance, the store associate could not help with the exchange, directing him to visit the customer service department instead.
Finally, last month, Slaughter became aware of a Bass Pro Shops advertisement stating that the socks were still covered by the warranty.
“If anything ever happens, if the dryer steals one of them, you bring the other one in, and we give you a brand new pair of socks for life,” the ad states.
But when he bought the socks online online, Slaughter discovered that the retailer removed any packaging that mentioned the lifetime warranty.
The complaint accuses the retailer of doing so because “despite its intentionally false and deceptive advertising—[the] defendant knows that it will not honor any lifetime warranty for those socks.”
The class action suit covers not just Missouri, but the entire United States, enabling anyone in the country who purchased the RedHead wool socks to jump into the lawsuit in pursuit of compensation.
Slaughter filed the suit on five counts: violating the Missouri Merchandising Protection Act; breaching express warranty; violating the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Products Liability Act; unjust enrichment; and fraud.
Bass Pro suit sheds light on return policy problems
Returns have been a massive debate among retailers, amounting to more than $761 billion in merchandise sold in 2021, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and returns management software Appriss Retail.
For those in apparel and footwear, the returns problem gets even murkier as the rise of online shopping has led to more occurrences of buying poor-fitting clothes and even bracketing. Major fast-fashion sellers such as Boohoo, Zara and Uniqlo have added return fees in 2022, to the chagrin of some shoppers who have made their opinions known on social media.
But while that may not be popular with any of those outspoken consumers or Slaughter, one recent survey from Narvar indicates that some consumers are still trying to either actively game the system or take advantage of return policy loopholes.
Only 35 percent of 2,100 U.S. and U.K. adult shoppers said they abide by return guidelines set by retailers. Meanwhile, 60 percent admitted to bending the rules out of convenience, such as not reporting that they received an extra item or shipment or designating an untrue reason for a return.