A man from Missouri is suing the Show-Me State’s largest retail fishing company over what he calls a “hollow promise” about a certain brand of socks and that brand’s alleged lifetime warranty.
Kent Slaughter has, for years, and from “time-to-time” purchased and returned “Redhead Lifetime Guarantee All-Purpose Wool Socks” from Bass Pro Shops, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed earlier this month. Those socks, the filing says, have been sold with an advertised lifetime guarantee “meaning that a purchaser can return the Socks when they wear down” and “Bass Pro will always replace them with a new pair of Socks.”
The guarantee in question, the lawsuit says, has long been associated with the particular brand of socks – and has been “a key selling point” by the multimillion dollar corporation for quite some time:
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. Print and online advertisements boast statements such as “[t]hese socks are backed by our Lifetime Guarantee” and “[i]f ever they wear out, just return them for a FREE replacement!” Among many other false and misleading public statements/advertisements, a store manager at Defendant Bass Pro’s Nashville, Tennessee store promoted the Product’s Lifetime Warranty on Defendant’s behalf with the following public statement: “what makes it [the Product] 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 says he took advantage of this advertised guarantee for several years beginning in 2015. Around that time, he began exchanging his socks, “typically 2-4 pair at a time,” at the Bass Pro Shops superstore location in Springfield.
“On multiple occasions during this time period, when [Slaughter] presented the Socks that he wished to return, [Bass Prop Shops] provided [Slaughter] with replacement Socks at no charge, which Socks came with the same Lifetime Warranty as the Socks that [Slaughter] returned,” the lawsuit explains. “The last such exchange occurred in approximately early 2020.”
The policy allegedly changed soon thereafter.
In January 2021, Slaughter says in the original petition, he tried to return another four pairs of socks. This time, however, he met resistance from a store clerk who allegedly said they “could not assist with the exchange” while directing him “to visit the customer service department at the other end of the store.”
That extra trip down the aisles didn’t do Slaughter any good.
“Customer service ultimately told [Slaughter]—over his objections and demands that [Bass Pro Shops] continue to honor the Lifetime Warranty—that he could no longer return the Socks pursuant to the Lifetime Warranty. Instead of honoring the Lifetime Warranty, [Bass Prop Shops] would only provide [Slaughter] with a different product: the distinctively-marked 60-Day Socks.”
The filing goes into detail about the new socks on offer:
According to Defendant’s current practices, when a purchaser returns the Socks pursuant to the purported Lifetime Warranty, Defendant merely replaces the Socks with a new, different pair of socks that only comes with a limited 60-day warranty (the “60-Day Socks”). Defendant has changed the design of the 60-Day Socks in order to differentiate them from the Socks—by adding a distinctive stripe pattern to them— presumably so that its store employees know that no warranty will be honored for those 60- Day Socks beyond the limited warranty period. …
Indeed, the Lifetime Warranty Guarantee is a hollow promise because when a consumer returns the Socks pursuant to the Lifetime Warranty, Defendant Bass Pro replaces the Socks with a new pair of different socks (the 60-Day Socks).
Darned by the drastic change in how Redhead socks are dealt with by the national outdoor recreation giant, Slaughter says he sought to test the viability of the Lifetime Warranty anew with a purchase well after the rejection inside the superstore. He says that ended up in packaging being changed after the fact.
Again the filing, at length:
On or about June 29, 2022, Plaintiff became aware of an advertisement by Defendant offering to sell the Socks, with coverage by the Lifetime Warranty. Plaintiff placed an online order for the Socks on that date, paying $11.99 for one pair of the Socks. Bass Pro filled the order and, on or about July 6, 2022, Plaintiff received the Socks. Despite Defendant’s knowledge that it had intentionally advertised the Socks to be accompanied by a Lifetime Warranty, Defendant removed any packaging from the Socks delivered to Plaintiff on or about July 6 reflecting the applicability of a Lifetime Warranty in connection with those Socks. Defendant did so because—despite its intentionally false and deceptive advertising— Defendant knows that it will not honor any Lifetime Warranty for those Socks.
Slaughter is suing the outdoor store for breach of warranty, fraud, unjust enrichment, an alleged violation of Missouri consumer protection law, and for allegedly violating a federal law that seeks to enforce warranties for products sold with them. By filing as a class action member, he also aims to vindicate the legal rights of any other sock-purchasers who might be similarly situated to him with regard to the allegedly-abandoned warranty.
“This lawsuit is about one simple principle: a corporation’s obligation to tell consumers the truth.” Slaughter’s attorney Andrew Bluth said in a statement provided to Law&Crime.
“Bass Pro made a promise to its customers when it offered its RedHead socks with a lifetime guarantee,” the attorney went on. “Those words should mean something. Especially today when consumers are facing skyrocketing prices on even the most basic of necessities, it is critical that businesses act with integrity. On behalf of Mr. Slaughter and thousands of Bass Pro customers nationwide, we look forward to holding Bass Pro accountable through the judicial process.”
A representative for Bass Pro Shops told Law&Crime the company does not comment on any pending litigation.
The full lawsuit is available here:
[image via Bass Pro Shops/YouTube/screengrab]
Editor’s note: this story has been amended post-publication to include a statement from the plaintiff’s attorney.
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