November 12, 2016 • By Dennis Beaver
Is there such a thing as a “windproof” umbrella?
That’s what Los Angeles readers, the Harrisons, thought they had purchased before flying from LAX to Seattle on Oct. 13 for a class reunion.
The 13th would validate its bad-luck reputation, for in addition to seeing old friends, this family had a date with a storm, a really bad storm, fueled by remnants of typhoon Songda which blew through western Washington, Oregon and Northern California with damaging winds on Oct. 15.
“On our way to the airport, we bought five umbrellas at a luggage store in Santa Monica which were on a table with a sign that read ‘Umbrellas Close-out, As-Is, No Warranty All Sales Final.’ We paid with our Discover card.
“The sales clerk told us they were windproof up to 60 mph, and that he used one in near hurricane force winds last year and it didn’t turn inside-out,” Chuck Harrison explained.
On Oct. 15 the storm hit.
Leaving their hotel to meet friends, “A gust of wind came up, and all the umbrellas flipped inside out! We were drenched! So much for windproof!
“The wind speed at our location was nowhere near 60 mph. We really feel ripped off, and the luggage store has refused to give us a refund.” Harrison had these questions for us:
1. Does the as-is sale mean that we are out of luck getting our money back from the luggage shop?
2. What about the manufacturer, are they off the hook as well?
3. Will our credit card company help us in any way?
4. Is there such a thing as a “windproof” umbrella that can resist high winds, or is this just an advertising claim with no real substance?
In researching this story we discovered more wild, unsubstantiated claims for “windproof” umbrellas than UCLA Medical Center has white mice in cages. We spoke with one candid umbrella importer whose website cleverly advertises a “Resilient Heavy Duty Windproof Umbrella in severe winds up to 60+ MPH,” and then states, “The canopy is designed to deliberately turn inside out and not break.”
You read correctly. This umbrella is intended to flip inside-out!
Offering an item for sale “as-is” with no warranty is legal. But making what the law calls “material misrepresentations” to achieve a sale is not. That’s fraud. In theory — but it would consume one heck of a lot of time — our readers could sue the luggage store for a refund and punitive damages, in small claims court.
We caution that the only place a courtroom is enjoyable is when you are watching Judge Judy on TV. These are places to avoid your entire life, if possible.
The umbrella manufacturer or importer would potentially be responsible to replace, repair or refund the purchase unless it also had language along the lines of “as-is” disclaiming all warranties. Without seeing accompanying literature, we cannot say for sure.
By far the best bet for our readers is to notify Discovery to place the charge into “dispute.” It should be noted that the better credit card companies will help a cardholder who appears to have been taken for a ride, but some are more diligent than others.
Currently, J.D. Power ranks Discovery, American Express and Capital One as delivering the best customer service.
With a fascinating history going back over 3,000 years, it took science to develop umbrellas that truly are windproof up to about 60 mph, as we learned from New York-based Steve Asman, president of Gustbuster. Consumer Reports credits his company as manufacturing some of the highest rated, patented, “Unflippable” golf and personal umbrellas sold worldwide.
“Wind pressure rips most umbrellas apart,” Asman explained. “Typically, you are walking in the rain, rounding the corner of a large building, when a high speed gust of wind comes at you from an unexpected direction. The umbrella is pulled backwards, turning it inside out. With no place for that air to go, the umbrella’s structure fails.
“But a high quality, vented umbrella allows the air to pass through the canopy, at the same time keeping rain from coming through. It can’t be blown apart, as air passes easily through. My company and a handful of other quality manufacturers have these on the market. Of course, there’s more to a durable umbrella than just a vented design, but that is what your readers need to look for the next time they buy an umbrella,” he advised.
GustBuster has an extremely educational web site that we recommend. Just go www.GustBuster.com.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.