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A Missouri man is suing Bass Pro over ‘lifetime guarantee’ for socks

Kent Slaughter alleges the outdoor retailer is luring shoppers with a ‘hollow promise’

(Nati Harnik/AP)
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Lured by a lifetime guarantee, Kent Slaughter bought about a dozen pairs of socks from Bass Pro Shops over the better part of a decade.

Slaughter took advantage. Over the years, he took multiple pairs of threadbare RedHead Lifetime Guarantee All-Purpose Wool Socks back to the Bass Pro store in Springfield, Mo., where he’d bought them, according to a new lawsuit. Each time, employees honored the promise, swapping the worn-out socks for new ones.

Then, one day last year, they refused, the suit says. Instead, Bass Pro allegedly offered to trade his “lifetime warranty” socks — which sell for $11.99 — for some with a 60-day warranty.

Now, Slaughter is suing Bass Pro Shops, claiming the Missouri-based outdoor retail giant is duping customers with a “hollow promise” that no longer lasts a lifetime. Earlier this month, he filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. He’s asking for a jury trial and is seeking $5 million in damages for himself and anyone who joins his suit.

“This lawsuit is about one simple principle: a corporation’s obligation to tell consumers the truth. Bass Pro Shop made a promise to its customers when it offered its RedHead socks with a lifetime guarantee. Those words should mean something,” according to a statement that Singleton Schreiber, the California-based law firm representing Slaughter, sent to The Washington Post.

Bass Pro Shops declined to comment on the allegations.

Grappling with higher costs and abuse, other retailers — including L.L. Bean, REI and Costco — have curtailed their lifetime guarantees and generous return policies in recent years, USA Today reported in 2018. In a world where people often buy a replacement after trashing what they’ve broken or worn out, lifetime guarantees “are a dying breed,” Edgar Dworsky, founder and editor of Consumer World, told the news outlet at the time.

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But Bass Pro continues to sell its RedHead Brand Co. socks by offering a lifetime guarantee, Slaughter’s lawsuit claims. Advertising allegedly includes language saying that the socks — dubbed “THE LAST SOCK YOU’LL EVER NEED TO BUY” — are “backed by our Lifetime Guarantee” and that customers can “return them for a FREE replacement” if they become worn out.

The lawsuit references a YouTube video in which a Bass Pro store manager in Nashville held up the “RedHead lifetime sock.” After lauding it as “the greatest hunting/hiking sock you can buy,” the manager highlighted “what makes it really unique.”

“It truly is a lifetime sock,” he said in the video. “If anything ever happens — if the dryer steals one of them on you — you bring the other one in, and we give you a brand new pair of socks.”

For years, Bass Pro made good on those promises, according to the suit. Slaughter estimated he bought about 12 pairs of the socks between 2014 and 2021. In 2015, he began returning two to four pairs at a time. Bass Pro gave him new pairs for each, the last such exchange happening in early 2020.

“To say the Lifetime Warranty was and currently is a key selling point for the Socks would be an understatement,” Slaughter said in the suit.

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But when Slaughter tried to replace his socks in January 2021, a clerk declined to do so and referred him to the customer service department, the suit says. Employees there allegedly told Slaughter they would no longer trade his wool RedHead socks for fresh ones. Instead, they offered socks that came with a 60-day warranty — ones that had been “distinctively-marked” with a stripe pattern, “presumably so that its store employees know that no warranty will be honored for those 60-Day Socks beyond the limited warranty period,” the suit alleges.

Late last month, Slaughter learned that Bass Pro was still advertising the RedHeads as coming with a lifetime warranty, according to the suit. He ordered a pair online, and on July 6, the socks arrived. Despite what he’d been promised online, the socks’ packaging allegedly bore no mention of a lifetime warranty or guarantee.

Bass Pro “did so because — despite its intentionally false and deceptive advertising — Defendant knows that it will not honor any Lifetime Warranty for those Socks,” the suit alleges.

Chris Rodriguez, another lawyer representing Slaughter, told The Post that he knows his client’s handful of purchases over the years aren’t “a high-dollar issue,” but that’s the reason they’re inviting other Bass Pro customers to join the class-action suit.

“That’s the purpose of class litigation … to protect consumers,” Rodriguez said, “and that’s what we’re doing.”