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Waking the Energizer Bunny

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Maglites are truly excellent flashlights, and there are dozens of them lurking about the place. In that we’re pretty deep in the sticks, where the power company is only reliable during an election year, the flashlights get considerable use.

It’s rare to find a Maglite refusing to work, and when one of ours failed unexpectedly, it turned out to have died of catastrophic battery failure. Its batteries had leaked.

This is an unusual occurrence – back in the dark ages, batteries spewed their internal chemistry all over whatever they were plugged into with alarming frequency. Contemporary batteries, especially the more up-market ones that don’t come in boxes of 144 with a lot of non-English text on the side, are all but leak-proof.

In fairness, the Maglite in question had seen some nasty environments, working outside through much of the winter. Its batteries had been sorely tried.

The down side to Maglites, when they’re confronted with leaking batteries, is that they’re so precisely machined as to allow very little expansion room for whatever’s inside them. The leaking batteries turned out to have swelled slightly, wedging themselves forever more inside the flashlight.

Cheap plastic flashlights usually find themselves in the land fill when this sort of thing happens – surrounded by a noisome flock of scolding environmentalists, no doubt – but Maglites are both relatively expensive and so nicely made as to render the thought of trashing them somewhat disquieting.

The Maglite in question had been powered with Energizer batteries prior to its demise, and these things come with a singular guarantee – “We will repair or replace, at our option, any device damaged by these Energizer® batteries. Guarantee void if batteries are charged by user or device.” What’s singular is that the foregoing constitutes the entire guarantee – there are no clauses, sub-clauses, exclusions, caveats, restrictions, limitations or sneaky fees and charges that would make claiming on the guarantee more expensive than replacing whatever got damaged.

Thus it was that we sent the dead Maglite to the Energizer people. A few weeks later, a bubble pack arrived bearing a drawing of the familiar mechanical rabbit with a package of four lithium batteries – to compensate for the cost of mailing the flashlight – and the regrets of the bunny’s owners. The leaked batteries had plugged the Maglite beyond repair. The letter went on to state that if we bought another Maglite and sent them the receipt, they’d cover the replacement cost.

A check showed up two weeks after that.

Guarantees that actually work like this are rare to the point of myth. The general lack of hoops to jump through in exercising this one was noteworthy. Allowing for the retail value of the four batteries Energizer sent us, our out of pocket cost for the damaged Maglite was effectively zero.

If the promises made by the holders of public office were anywhere near as reliable as the guarantee that comes with Energizer batteries, our economy wouldn’t be melting down, tax freedom day would occur prior to the appearance of “only 180 shopping days ‘til christmas” signs… oh, and the power would be sufficiently reliable to call for substantially fewer flashlights.

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